MAKERERE University admits students with disabilities under a special programme. Unfortunately, many parents or guardians of such students are not aware of the affirmative action programme.
Steven Ekaku, the former head of Makerere University Disabled Students Association (2000-2003), who was admitted through the programme says few students apply for the programme.
In 2000, Makerere admitted only 27 students and the number keeps on decreasing every year.
He says it is hard for one to get admitted under the programme. The process involves serious medical examination at the University Hospital to ascertain whether or not the applicant can be able to handle studies. Failure to pass the medical test leads to cancellation of oneâ€™s application.
Admission of students with disabilities also comes last as the registrarâ€™s priority is always the government-sponsored students and students on self-sponsorship scheme.
Students under the affirmative action programme therefore get into Makerere when good accommodation and other facilities have already been taken.
Students with wheelchairs and crutches cannot easily go to rooms upstairs.
â€œThe competition for seats in the lecture rooms is high. I cannot walk faster to get a good place. Sometimes I don't get a computer because I cannot move as fast as the able-bodies students,â€ says Annia Ampumuza, who has a disability.
The physically handicapped also face a problem of washing clothes, bathing and helping themselves in the toilets, where since some just crawl barefoot.
â€œSometimes the toilets are so dirty and the sinks are higher than my height. The bathrooms are slippery, causing accidents there,â€ says Moses of Nsibirwa hall who has a disability.
They are also stigmatised by some able-bodied students who do not want to associate with them especially the opposite sex.
The blind students also say the Perkins Brailler machines they use for writing notes are expensive. The machines are imported from the US, South Africa and Britain.
One machine costs sh1.5m and they are not available in Uganda. â€œSince the machines are noisy, my coursemates do not want to sit near me because I inconvenience them. The machines are also slow, making if difficult to cope up with the speed of other students especially during exams,â€ said Hamya Julius, a blind third year student.
The university gives allowances to the special students, although they claim the money is not enough to meet their needs.
The money they get decreases as they advance in their years of study. The university assumes that their problems decrease as they get to the next level.
Ekaku says the students are given sh200,000 in first year, 100,000 in second year and sh50,000 in the third year.
In the main library, a reading room with internet has been reserved for them. Even students in wheelchairs can enter the room with ease.
In the dinning room, they do not line up for food as the process is long. The people working in the dinning hall help to get for them food although they say that some workers make them wait for long before serving them.
They want extra time to do their assignments and course work since most of them cannot beat the deadline. They also want the National Union for Disabled Persons of Uganda and other organisations to give them financial assistance.
Tough times for Makerereâ€™s students with disabilities