You have been in school for the last 13 years. Your parents have always footed every bill from the time you were in nursery school. Now, you are above 18 — a grown up. Should your mzee still be struggling to pay your fees?
12 years ago .
Should parents pay fees for university students?
You have been in school for the last 13 years. Your parents have always footed every bill from the time you were in nursery school. Now, you are above 18 — a grown up. Should your mzee still be struggling to pay your fees?
By Moses Odongo

You have been in school for the last 13 years. Your parents have always footed every bill from the time you were in nursery school. Now, you are above 18 — a grown up. Should your mzee still be struggling to pay your fees?

The cost of university education has proved expensive for many. With fees for some courses as high as sh1.5m per semester, there is anxiety among students and parents, just as analysts insist that parents are doing too much for their children.

Gerald Omaitum, a father of three university students, does several side jobs beside his main one, but also has to deal with re-paying loans.

“It is our responsibility to pay for our children, but at university level, it becomes a burden,” he laments. University education is not a one-off payment. For instance, a student who is doing a sh900,000 law course at Makerere University also has to meet other functional fees, which go up to sh200,000 and accommodation fees which are about sh340,000 per semester.

Aside from that, the student needs money for coursework, research and other expenses that come with living independently. But educationists feel there should be a limit to how far parents should go. Fagil Mandy, an education consultant, says it is time to end the traditional norm of parents paying school fees at all levels of education.

“Education is endless. At one point the child should be able to take on some costs,” he says. “A student at university should be able to do work that will generate income and meet some or all the cost of tuition.”

He explains that if parents utilised the vacations to train the children, it would prepare them to be responsible and able to support themselves by the time they joined university.

“The vacations at the end of the primary, O’ and A’levels are meant for parents to mentor their children into the spirit of work.The Senior Six vacation is almost a year long. If the parent plans well, this can enable the child work and save for the university expenditures,” he says, adding that the instinct to work is not taught at school, but by the parents and guardians.

The dean of students at Makerere University, John Ekudu, agrees with Mandy. “If they realise they will be paying for their own schooling, students will work harder to get academic scholarships,” he says. “You are teaching them how to live. There is no better teacher than responsibility. So, by making them watch their expenses, live within a budget and make wise money decisions, you are laying the groundwork for their future financial life.”

Winnie Bagumire, a development and financial consultant, concurs. “If your parents pay all your fees, sometimes this can be looked upon as an entitlement; free money to be spent as you like. I knew a lot of rich children at school who were just there for the booze, drugs and parties. They were not paying for it, so what did they care?” she says.

“Paying your own fees gives one a better work ethic: Having to work while going to school can be hard, but it can also teach you the value of a hard day’s work, which is not a bad thing.”

Ekudu notes that some of the students who get Government scholarships become lazy. “They have no time to renew their identity cards, register with the university or to do course works,” he says.

“University education is expensive yet vital, so parents who are able to meet the costs should endeavour to do so and the children being catered for have to think beyond their sights to end the dependency on parents,” Ekudu says.

Alexandra and her husband Bob know the prohibitive costs of university fees all too well. Their daughter is in second year at university, and has three younger siblings in high school. The couple has devised a way to cope with the costs of their children’s education.

Their family business helps all four children save for university. They pay the children to work in their restaurant and merchandise shop. The youngest has been cleaning tables since she was nine and occasionally spends time researching scholarships. The couple gave their eldest a photocopying machine from which she earns money at Makerere University.

“It’s not that I don’t want to be good to my kids, they all have dreams, but we are working with them to achieve those dreams,” Alexandra says.

The Government recently announced that the 2008 A’ level leavers would become the first recipients of education loans. Under the initiative, the Government will pay the fees rather than give cash to students. While this is a good initiative, the challenge is for the Government to create jobs such that students are able to work and repay the loans.

Tips on financing your education:
Do petty jobs available at various university campuses. For instance, Ekudu says although it is a public university, at Makerere, there is a small budget that caters for students who qualify for admission and demonstrate their desire and determination to study.

Sports persons should try their luck at various universities which offer scholarships to sports men and women in return for their services. For instance, Victor Amodoi, an athlete, was offered a scholarship at Kampala International University for his outstanding performance in sports.

Be on the look out for fellowships and scholarships. Some companies and embassies sometimes have financial assistance for students who would like to pursue higher education. Scholarships are, in most cases, based on academic merit.

Try out bursaries. Some charities go beyond your performance in class and consider things like leadership skills, and needs such as those of orphans, single mothers or children with disability.

Consider looking for a part-time job that allows you to work on weekends. For instance, a front desk job at companies that work through the weekend. Also, manual jobs like carpentry are a good option. Some people have become what they are because they took on manual jobs such as brick laying. Do not despise a job as long as it can add something to your finances.

Internships, especially during the holiday. Some companies have some budgets set aside for student interns and volunteers.