20 February 2013

Uganda: Makerere Tuition Policy - Students Lose Struggle

Photo: Newvision
Striking Makerere students at Wandegeya Police Station.

Makerere University students have resumed lectures amid heavy presence of anti-riot police.

A survey by the New Vision revealed that most lecture rooms were filled to capacity as the university recovered from Monday's and last week's strike against the 60% tuition policy that had crippled business at Makerere and her surroundings.

The university has stuck to its guns and set March 8 as this semester's deadline for students to obey the policy that requires privately sponsored students to pay at least 60% of their tuition by the sixth week of the semester successively triggering numerous strikes by students.

The university library; main building; the senate building; banks; internet cafes; secretarial bureaus; university bookshop, guild and staff canteens have resumed normal operations.

Some students were engrossed in group discussions under trees and in classrooms over their fate as they awaited lectures while others aimlessly strode around campus. Places of worship also resumed daily prayers.

"The situation at Makerere is back to normal, lectures are on-going and students and lecturers are back in class for business," confirmed the deputy Makerere University public relations officer Marion Alina.

Student's Guild presidential campaigns were also launched Tuesday evening at University Hall. Nine candidates are tussling-it-out to lead the students' governing body for the next one year.

However, some students continued to shun lectures for fear of spontaneous violence outbreaks.

However, the university council, the institution's supreme governing body has declined to scrap the policy saying it's aimed at improving the quality of service delivery at Makerere.

The 60% tuition fees amounts to about sh600, 000 per student on average for most of courses which is way below the amount required by other universities across the country by the sixth week of the semester.

For example, Uganda Christian University (UCU) requires her students to pay at least 50% (about sh850, 000 on average for most courses) of their tuition fees in the first two weeks of the semester.

St. Lawrence and Ndejje universities also require their students to pay at least 50% (about sh400, 000 on average for most courses) in the first month of the semester or risk missing test.

Unlike Makerere that allows students who have completed 60% of their tuition to sit for end of semester papers, UCU, St. Lawrence and Ndejje forbid them from sitting final exams before completing 100% tuition.

Despite the differences in tuition collection methods, Makerere remains the highest ranked university in Uganda and Africa outside South Africa.

Meanwhile DP president Nobert Mao Tuesday made impromptu visits to the 19 Makerere University students who are being detained at Wandegeya, Kira road and Kawempe police stations.

The nineteen were arrested on Monday together with Makerere University LC5 councillor, Bernard Luyiga as Makerere students resumed strike protesting the tuition policy.

They included Javira Kugenyi, Jacob Eyeru, Peter Lowestein, Paul Kiggundu, Peter Sensalo, Lionel Muhwezi, Clinton Kanyali, Gloria Katushabe, Emmanuel Nyiro, Samuel Kanamuwanje, and Gordon Lule.

The others were the students' guild president Ivan Kata, Henry Kizito, Jack Obonyi, Kenneth Obuwro, Ronald Kawoya, Charles Waluganda, Gilbert Turyazibwe and Hassan Wasswa.

Mao addressed the detainees at all three stations, asking them to be strong and brave the dreadful conditions in the cells as DP and other concerned parties mount pressure on police to release them.

"I know a good number of you are being held innocently, which is the reason why you don't deserve to be here," Mao would say, often leaving some students in tears.

Efforts of the DP president to talk police into releasing the students proved fruitless as the Kampala metropolitan operations boss Sam Omala said the students will be prosecuted in courts of law on the charge of inciting violence.

Omala said the police had forwarded the files of the students to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for legal advice and sanctioning.

He further stated that police intelligence had established that the strikes at Makerere had a political tinge.

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