By Clare Muhindo and Innocent Anguyo
THOUSANDS of Makerere University students today demonstrated against the institution’s decision to hike tuition fees by 10%.
The university’s earlier stance to give sh4,000 daily to each government sponsored student for feeding was another reason cited for the demonstration.
The students wanted the university’s decision on feeding and tuition increment revoked, on grounds that it is unfair.
Ivan Bwowe, the students’ guild president said the sh4,000 a day was not enough for meals and the tuition increment would bar poor students from receiving education from Makerere.
The six-hour demonstration which began at 8:00am saw the students led by the guild executive bring business at the 90-year old institution to a standstill.
Although the demonstration was not violent, many businesses and university buildings temporarily closed as the irate students traversed the campus.
At 10:00am, the students convened at the main gate, blocking motorists from entering and leaving Makerere. They subsequently locked the main gate, chanting the “University will remain closed until our problems are solved.”
This prompted the police to intervene.
However, efforts by Samuel Omara, the Operations Commander of Kampala North Police to convince the students to disperse proved futile as the students vowed to sit at the main gate until the university Vice Chancellor Prof John Ddumda Ssentamu addressed them.
Thereafter, at about 11:45 am, Andrew Felix Kaweesi, the Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander succeeded in convincing the students to move to the freedom square, where they would purportedly be addressed by Ddumba.
Kaweesi, accompanied by Bwowe and two other guild officials subsequently met Ddumba who asked the students to write to the University Council, requesting the 10% tuition increment to be revoked.
The angry students marched from the Freedom Square to the university’s main gate and shut it. Photos by Juliet Kasirye
Ddumba also said the university would no longer give students sh4,000 per day for meals. As an alternative, he said Makerere would pay catering firms to supply food for the students. The news prompted students to disperse.
Voices of students
Angela Katusiime, a second year student of Information Technology (IT) said: “The VC is a dictator, he never involves students. I have never seen him since I joined Makerere. Meanwhile where does he expect us to eat from after he closed down all the cheap eating places around campus?”
Catherine Faidah, another IT student said: “They always give us that money in the middle of the semester. What do they expect us to feed on before we receive it. And besides when I receive that money all at once, I will spend it in one week and it will not help.”
Musa Mwiine, the president of Makerere Engineering Students’ Society said: “The 10% increment is too much and our brothers and sisters will not afford it. The quantity and quality of food must improve.”
Timothy Tumwesigye, Chairman of the Council of hall chairpersons said: “For the last two years Ddumba has been hiding from students. In fact, I have not even seen him since this year began. If he can’t handle the job, he should resign.”
David Baala said: “If the decision of feeding is not revised, the girls will become prostitutes and boys will join homosexuality to make money to survive on campus.”
How Makerere raised fees
Makerere University has hiked tuition fees by 10%, for both international and local students who will join the institution under the private sponsorship scheme in the 2014/2015 academic year.
For instance, under the new Makerere University fees structure, the tuition for Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery will increase from sh1, 344, 000 to sh1, 478, 400 per semester for Ugandan and sh2,240,000 to sh2,464,000 for foreigners.
Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof. Dduma Ssentamu flanked by Kampala Metropolitan police commander Andrew Felix Kaweesi addresses the irate students. Photo by Juliet Kasirye
The tuition increment will affect both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.
Ritah Namisango, the Makerere University senior publicist, however said the tuition increment will not affect continuing students. She said the increment is aimed at covering the spiralling costs of running the institution.
“Makerere University last increased fees in 2006, but since then the costs of operation have considerably increased. In fact, the increment would have been higher but after consulting parents and other stakeholders, the university settled for 10%,” said Namisango.
“The increment will help us to deliver high quality services, in tandem with the growing expectations of the public of a university of Makerere’s calibre. With the increment in taxes, especially on computers, there is need to raise tuition to meet operation costs.”
The Makerere University Council, the institution’s supreme decision making body approved the tuition increment on February 19, 2014.
The Makerere University staff have opposed the tuition increment, saying Uganda’s most populous institution of higher education is already taking a lot in form of fees from parents.
“Fees increment is a sign of poor planning. You cannot continue increasing fees, as a source of finance for a university like Makerere that can generate money using many other means,” argued Dr Muhammad Kiggundu Musoke, the chairman of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA).
Kiggundu urged the university administration to consider entering into Public-Private-Partnerships, as a means of covering some of its operational costs, rather than incessantly increasing fees burden on poor Ugandans.
Ivan Bwowe, the Makerere University students’ guild president said the increment is unreasonable, especially at a time when the economy is doing badly. The students’ guild wants the increment reversed.
The tuition increment makes Makerere the most expensive public University in Uganda, for students admitted under the private sponsorship scheme.
For example, as the new tuition fees for Business Administration of Makerere University is sh1, 265,000, Kyambogo University charges a tuition fees of sh910,000 for the same course.
The tuition of Business Administration is also lower in Mbarara University of Science and Technology (sh930,000) and Gulu (sh650,000 ).
The new tuition structure also makes Makerere more expensive than several private institutions of higher learning.
The tuition fees for Business Administration at Uganda Christian University is sh1,060,000 per semester. Kampala International University (KIU) charges tuition of sh840,000 for the same course.
Nevertheless, Makerere remains the cheapest among the leading institutions of higher education in the East African region.
For instance, factoring the increment, Makerere University will charge sh2,772,000 per year for Bachelor of Laws while Der-es-salaam charges sh4,530,000 per year for the same course.
The University of Nairobi charges sh5, 170,278 per year, as tuition for the Bachelor of Laws programme.
In a recent interview, Charles Ssentongo, the Makerere University deputy registrar, undergraduate admission said the institution would admit over 20,000 students under the private sponsorship scheme in the next academic year.
How Makerere stopped cooking in halls
Makerere University had also suspended cooking for government sponsored students in the halls of residences. There are 7,000 government sponsored students at Makerere.
Namisango had said the university resolved to cancel feeding to focus on core function of teaching and research. Subsequently, private firms were invited to provide food for students.
Additional reporting by Cissy Namugerwa and Jacob Mukasa