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Uproar over Government plan to raise varsity fees

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU and RAWLINGS OTIENO

Kenya: The chairman of the powerful Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly now wants the Jubilee administration to stop the planned fee increase for university students.

Mr Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i) said the new amount will make university education the privilege of students from rich families.

The PAC chairman said it was wrong for the Cabinet Secretary of Education, Prof Jacob Kaimenyi, to “wake up one morning and decide that the fees have to be increased, because the last time the fees was revised was a long time ago”.

Kaimenyi, a week ago, was quoted saying he was planning to form a team to review the fees for university students.

“Fees is a major problem. It is a big burden to parents, guardians and students.

“If you say you want to increase, so many of the bright students in our public university will not be able to get university education,” Namwamba told The Standard yesterday.

The PAC chairman queried the Jubilee administration’s pledge to improve access to education, given that there was a team already reviewing the fee structure for secondary schools, with indications showing that an increase in the fees is inevitable, given the rise in the cost of living over the years.

SPENDING HABITS

“We run the risk of leaving higher education to the rich,” said Namwamba, a key player in the opposition coalition, CORD.

The MP, whose team has been auditing the country’s budget, and who is privy to first-hand reports of the Auditor General about the spending habits of all ministries, said there was sufficient money in Government to allow the State to fund higher education.

“If this Government is serious about access to education, they have two options: They either set aside sufficient funds to make university education free, or they should make it purely loan-based as it is in the United States,” he said.

Namwamba queried why the Government was keen on paying Sh1.4 billion to Anglo-Leasing firms, instead of pumping the money to higher education.

Already, there is an MP, Irungu Kang’ata (Kiharu), who is preparing a Bill to increase the capacity of HELB, to have all university students get loans to study.

Yesterday, university student leaders asked Kaimenyi to form a task force to seek opinion before the planned review of school fees that has elicited an uproar among learners.

The leaders warned Kaimenyi that if the task force is not formed in the next 14 days, they will be left with no option other than to stage peaceful demonstrations across the country to force his resignation.

Led by Kenya Universities Students Organisation (Kuso) President Babu Owino, the leaders said they were irked by lack of consultation as the main stakeholders, should Kaimenyi make his threat real.

“Prof Kaimenyi has not only declared war on university students but has shown that the Government has no vision to uplift the majority poor who toil everyday.

“He must institute a task force within 14 days, failure to which we will evict him from office,” said Owino.

The leaders, drawn from the 31 universities and constituent colleges, demanded that the fees be reviewed downwards by at least 50 per cent.

“You cannot increase fees yet loan offered by HELB is not enough. Even if they increase the HELB loan, it’s still students who will pay,” he said.

Currently, HELB issues a minimum of Sh35,000 and a maximum of Sh60,000 per student per year.

 


 

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