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Students threaten to strike over hiked fees

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor and Kirsten Kanja | December 8th 2020
Universities Presidents Council of Kenya members protest outside the Helb offices in Anniversary Towers, Nairobi, yesterday. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

University student leaders yesterday rejected a proposal to increase fees to Sh48,000 and have threatened to call a strike.

The student leaders drawn from public universities have called for enhanced support from the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).

This as it emerged that the government would require Sh10 billion to support all university students if fees is increased as proposed.

Helb Chief Executive Officer Charles Ringera said any fees increment would mean an additional allocation per student to support their education.

Helb sends directly to universities half of the Sh16,000 fees currently paid by students to cater for their tuition.

“We send Sh8,000 directly to public universities and this means that if fees is increased by whatever amount, we shall still require financial support to pay half of that fees directly to the universities,” said Mr Ringera.

He said with Sh48,000 fees increment, Helb would have to send Sh24,000 directly to universities to cater for tuition.

“This will translate to some Sh10 billion, which we shall require to support the students,” said Ringera.

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Ringera spoke as it emerged that a team was being formed to spearhead the fees revision in public universities.

MPs last week asked the Ministry of Education to coordinate establishment of a team to plan a retreat for education sector players to discuss financial challenges in higher education.

Part of this discussion will be increase of fees, which universities managers said would help reduce their huge deficits.

University Education PS Simon Nabukwesi said the increment would take effect during next intake of students.

This means the first students to pay the revised fees would be those to be admitted in September next year.

Yesterday student leaders mobilised a number of students to march to Helb offices to protest the plans to revise the fees.

The student leaders from public universities assembled at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park and marched to Anniversary Towers, as they waved placards.

Mbogo Mukami, the deputy chair of the Universities Presidents Council of Kenya (UPC) and Multimedia University of Kenya chair, called for proper funding of the Helb.

“The money being spent on BBI should be taken towards our school fees. Education is our right and you are taking it away from us,” said Mr Mukami.

UPC treasurer and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology student president Abdulahi Somo said most students depend on Helb funding and fee increment would affect them.

Better support

“The government should protect the interests of learners by consulting with their leaders and allow them to be part of the conversation. They should be tripling Helb loan qualification to give us better access to education financing,” said Somo.

He said most of the students were straining financially as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and that the implementation of any fee increment would completely push them out of school.

A survey conducted by Helb shows that under the present economic situation, a student requires approximately Sh200,000 annually for university education.

Presently, all government-sponsored students are funded at a flat rate of Sh120,000 per year based on a formula developed in 1989.

Of this, Sh86,000 is tuition fees, while Sh34,000 caters for a student’s personal expenses, including accommodation, food and books.

The government pays Sh70,000 of the tuition money, with students left to pay Sh16,000.

Helb however says a student needs Sh69,000 annually to cater for meals.

Accommodation needs are rated at Sh14,000, transport Sh11,500, clothing Sh12,500 and grooming Sh11,500.

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