MPs oppose new plans to establish Open University

Higher Education and Research PS Beatrice Inyangala responds to queries when she appeared before the National Assembly Education Committee on February 27, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Members of Parliament are opposed to the establishment of an Open National University. Instead, they urge the government to give priority to the pending cash crunch in universities.

The legislators say, there is no need for the government to invest in other projects when universities are reeling under huge debts.

Speaking when he met the Committee on Education in Nairobi, Higher Education PS Beatrice Inyangala, urged MPs to allow the government to establish the institution saying it is not a new project. ''The Open University is a stalled project, it has been on our books since it was conceptualised in 2010. It had an allocation of Sh20 million that has been unused for the past four years,'' Dr Inyangala said.

The PS was responding to a question from Nyamira MP, Jerusha Momanyi who sought to know why the government wants to invest more money in projects when they owe the state universities. ''The estimated stalled project is Sh3.4 billion and then you have a new university called Open University. I'm wondering why it is a priority to have this during the supplementary budget when you don't have the funds. Is it that we are getting our priorities wrong?'' Momanyi wondered.

Lugari MP Nabii Nabwera urged the ministry to use the money to cushion students. ''Don't you think you will add value to the ministry by looking for money to fund the data management system and money to bridge the funding gap other than looking for money for the new university,'' Nabwera said.

University fees

The PS clarified that the Open University of Kenya will provide opportunities for higher education to Kenyans who did not have a chance to get a university education, including those who dropped out of school.

The committee also blamed the government for the challenges that face universities, saying underfunding institutions has forced vice-chancellors to look for ways of keeping the institutions afloat by raising fees.

Malava MP Malulu Injendi wondered why the government was planning to increase the school fees in universities and at the same time demanding enhancement to the allocation.

''I can see you want us to review school fees from Sh16,000 to Sh48,000. What you are asking for also is Sh1.8 billion for Open University, is this in good faith?'' Injendi asked.

''If this Sh8 billion will be given to you will that amount be final or you will come back to ask for more money in future.''

However, Dr Inyangala said the Open University will only be required to be jump-started before it picks and fund itself. ''We will require some more money as we develop the programme for the first three years but after that, the Open University will be self-sustaining.'

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