Makerere student leaders recommend 15% tuition increment

Tuesday, 3 July 2018
Written by URN

Makerere University student leaders have recommended a 15 per cent yearly tuition fees increment across all courses offered at the institution for the next five years.

The student leaders in their recommendation said such an incremental increment instead of the University Council's approved 41-91 per cent wholesome increment would not only be affordable but would also generate the needed revenues for the institution. If adopted, the increment will start with the 2018/19 academic year incoming students

This recommendation follows a benchmarking exercise by a team of seven students leaders appointed to study the causes of recent students riots and protests. The issues for the strikes include among others tuition increment, scrapping of students' meals for the government-sponsored students.

The student leaders present their report to Makerere University management 

The committee headed by Polly Bandola, a 4th year Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery, who is also the chairperson of Mitchell Hall visited the University of Nairobi in Kenya, University of Rwanda, and local universities such as Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), Gulu University and Uganda Christian University - Mukono to compare notes with Makerere.  

According to Bandola, the committee chairperson, student leaders reached a consensus after reviewing a number of university financial documents in addition to reviewing the visitation committee recommendations on the fees issues.  

"We have made a recommendation to the University council that instead of increasing tuition by 91% and 50% as earlier proposed, there should be a uniform and more moderate 15% increase in tuition across all programmes," he said. 

The committee noted that Makerere had not increased its fees for majority of the programs in the last five years despite the rising inflation in the country. Additionally, the students' leaders discovered that other institutions in the region like University of Nairobi were charging higher tuition fees than Makerere.

According to the students' fees increment report, a comparison made between similar courses at both Makerere and other universities in the region found that majority of the courses were incomparable because Makerere was charging way lower fees.  

In some of the selected programs, the report notes that a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery and Bachelor of Dental Surgery at Nairobi University was Shs 17 million,  while in Uganda it was at just Shs 2.6 million.  

Bachelor of Laws was at Shs 6.5 million at University of Nairobi and Shs 2.5 million at Makerere. Bachelor of Agriculture at University of Nairobi currently costs Shs 5.8 million while the same course for Shs 2.6 million at Makerere.  

In April this year, several Makerere students including the guild president were arrested following a strike in protest of what they called 'unfair administrative policies'. 

The student's unrest was after council increased tuition for some selected programs for the 2018/19 academic year including Bachelor of Journalism and Communication, Bachelor of Pharmacy, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

Students claimed they had not been consulted at the time when the increment was announced. According to Bandola, students want more representation on the university committee that often makes policies that affect students.

Marion Kirabo, the guild representative councillor (GRC) of the School of Law, however, put to task the university management on ensuring good services to students including stocking the university library and improving on the teaching environment. 

"Let us work together to ensure that this [Makerere] university stands and develops. We can do it together because all of us have an average IQ. We all have a sober mind. We just have to listen to each other. That is all we’re asking for. Even as we speak right now; students are uncomfortable with this meeting. The students think we’re selling them out. The incoming law student would pay Shs 189,000 plus [increment]. That is sizeable instead of going wholesale and he pays Shs 5 million. I can explain Shs 189,000 to the students." said Kirabo. 

Marion Kirabo (L) makes her submissions before the university management 

Makerere vice chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe described the development as a positive gesture by students arguing that it is a landmark in the development of students' leadership.  

He says students have been reasonable in their recommendations since previously students had been opposed to any increment at all.

"They have recommended an increment that is not anywhere near what council wanted, but they at least said we’re not against the increment but consider the conditions of our parents. I think council can consider this. I cannot talk for council now, but I want to hope that they find it favourable. The proposal according to the students is that the ones coming in this academic year there will be an increment of 15%. And those ones continue paying that figure until they finish. The next year then we add another 15%. Those again continue paying that until they finish. And like that for the next five years. 

Asked whether students won't rise up against the tuition fees increment, Salim Papa Were, the students' guild president says they have tasked management to ensure value for money if the university is to avoid confrontation with students.

"The university administration and management has in a way always let us down and that in a way; has reduced the confidence and trust the students have in the university management. That’s why we’re putting a precaution this time round. We’ve first of all increased from a very high increase to at least this manageable one." Were said.

"But what is the guarantee that we’re going to have the increment reciprocated in service delivery? We have priority areas of renovation of halls of residence, bettering our teaching facilities, improving the wi-fi. Those three should at least be key areas at least in this first year of increment to see that they are addressed," added Were. 

Eng Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem, the chairperson of Makerere University council, the supreme governing body of the institution said he was to summon the council to an emergency meeting to consider the students' recommendations, which is expected before the end of this week.

He, however, cautioned students leaders against going against collective responsibilities on decisions that usually made on issues that touch students.  

"I have heard your plea that perhaps you weren’t given adequate consultations…Now we have a problem of the issue of [student] numbers and the sensitivity of issues at hand and also the proximity of Makerere when you guys [students] rise up in arms and hold everyone hostage. This must stop. This has to stop. We’re going to find it difficult when council makes decisions and decisions are not honoured." said Wana-Etyem.