21 February 2013

Uganda: Looting Students Are an Embarrassment


Last week we wrote in this very space that while we felt the Makerere University administration had a point in demanding that students pay 60% of the tuition fees by the sixth week of a new semester, the poorest students were justified to demand that the status quo remains because of the difficulty they have raising fees.

We concluded that a lasting solution could be found in the government expediting the long promised students' loan scheme, notwithstanding challenges associated with it.

We have been forced to return to this subject because of the direction the students' strike against the move has taken, with rogue students rioting and looting all manner of goodies from shops in the campus' neighbourhood.

This was a very shameful turn of events. The traders who lost their goods in the looting are themselves ordinary Ugandans trying to eke a living in a difficult economic environment. They and the students' plights are intertwined. Failing to recognise this, the students shot themselves in the foot by alienating would-be allies. Besides, now the debate has moved on from the students' otherwise reasonable demand that the university maintain a flexible tuition payment system, to the wild conduct of the rotten apples among them.

The thieving students must have forgotten that the shops they were stealing from are likely to be sources of tuition fees for some of their colleagues. Unfortunately, the students' behaviour is a microcosm of the society we live in today, where theft is made to appear normal and is sometimes glorified. If we are to reverse this dangerous trend, our homes, schools and universities must be a good place to start. Punishment for such acts should be swift and deterrent.

A student who callously loots from an innocent shop owner is very likely to loot from the taxpayers when he or she gets a job in government or from any other employer in the private sector. Youth like to say they are leaders of tomorrow but they must show it today in their conduct to justify this claim. The looters of Makerere University failed this test. Shame upon them!

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