State under pressure over university funding


Pressure is mounting on the government to release capitation funds for new students to avert a crisis in public universities.

University heads are reporting a possible crisis over the delay in disbursement of government funding to new students admitted in September.

Vice Chancellors, representing various universities spoke to The Standard, highlighting the dire situation they are currently in.

They said they admitted thousands of students without the financial backing they were expecting, leaving their institutions struggling to maintain day-to-day operations.

The severity of the issue was demonstrated when teaching and non-teaching staff at the Technical University of Kenya staged a demonstration, demanding delayed salaries.

The University and Academic Staff Union (UASU) voiced their concerns, emphasizing that staff had not received their full September salaries.

UASU Secretary General Constantine Wasonga said: “Look at what is happening at TUK, it’s already the end of October and they are yet to receive their full amount of September salary; this is part of the problem and funding failure.”

Kenyatta University Vice Chancellor Prof Paul Wainaina said the crisis was significantly affecting their daily activities. He said universities like Kenyatta have been relying on the funds allocated for continuing students to keep their operations running.

However, he warns if this situation persists, it could lead to serious problems. “It is chaos… The only reason we are able to continue running operations is the little funds sent to universities for continuing students, but if it goes beyond this month we are going to have serious problems,” Wainaina told The Standard in an interview on October 4.

Lack options

He further said the situation is dire for smaller universities established recently. The institutions, he said, lack alternative options in sourcing for funding, hence they are in a more precarious situation.

“And it is worse for small universities because they lack income-generating activities, like the older, more established institutions,” Wainaina indicated.

The situation is not any different at the University of Nairobi where VC Stephen Kiama indicates that the delays in the disbursement of funding are not only hurting operations but also student welfare.

Needy students, who depend on loans provided by the Higher Education Loans Board, are struggling to meet their basic needs, including food and accommodation.

This was backed by Kenyatta University Students Council Chairperson Teddy Odhiambo who has called on the government to release student loans.

“The new students are struggling and suffering. Some do not have any money for food, others are struggling with accommodation because they expect to use Helb loans to pay for the accommodation. We are asking the government to release the funds promptly,” Odhiambo said.

Prof Kiama pointed out that the funding delay is affecting their ability to buy necessary equipment, testing agents, and materials required for technical subjects.

Dr Wasonga also criticised the new university funding model as unrealistic. He expressed concerns that the proposed changes could have adverse effects on students from very needy backgrounds, who may now be required to pay a percentage of their fees.

Daniel Mugendi, the Vice Chancellors Committee chairperson, shed light on the universities’ desperate situation.

He noted that many institutions are tapping into funds allocated for continuing students to support the budgets of first-year students, whose expected financial support is yet to materialise.

This crisis has resulted in payment delays for part-time teaching and non-teaching staff, he indicated. The University Funding Board disclosed in August that the government had allocated approximately Sh15 billion for scholarships for new students.

However, Mugendi said the funds sent to the institutions for continuing students are not enough to cover all expenses in the institutions.

“Universities have stretched what they have received for continuing students, it is simply not enough to cater for all operations,” Mugendi said.

On Wednesday, Dr Wasonga said: “When I was reading the newspaper I saw that the government intends to change the funding model again so that every student pays fees, that is conmanship.”

He added: “Students who were not to pay anything because they were considered to be from very needy backgrounds, will now pay five to 10 per cent. Where will these parents get the funds?”

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