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Unions oppose new university funding model, housing levy

 KUSU Secretary, Mombasa Branch, John Ogwang, during a press briefing on May 23, 2023. [Robert Menza, Standard]

University unions yesterday termed the new funding formulae for higher education as discriminative, punitive, and non-rewarding to hardworking students.

The unions said the funding formula would strain many parents and turn universities into clubs for a few privileged students.

Speaking in Mombasa, Kenya University Staff Union (Kusu), University Academic Staff Union (Uasu), and Kenya Union of Domestic Hotels Educational Institutions Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) said the model is a recipe for low enrolment, high dropout rates, deplorable living conditions of students due to non-funding of their upkeep.

Uasu Coast Chapter Secretary Josiah Odalo said the criteria for selecting needy students as proposed in the new formula was undefined.

Odalo said the funding model for the vulnerable, extremely needy, and less needy doesn’t provide automatic support as the limits are not guaranteed. He noted that the public universities have already gone ahead to pronounce higher fees, which are not harmonised in the range of Sh114,000 to Sh720,000.

While citing examples, Odalo said engineering courses cost Sh396,000, pharmacy Sh504,000 with the so-called household component getting to an unusual high of Sh50,400 from the usual Sh16,000 per academic year.

“The government scholarship for the vulnerable, extremely needy, needy and less needy at 82, 70, 53 and 38 per cent respectively, Higher Education Loans Board loan at 18, 30, 40 and 55 per cent and household component at seven per cent for only needy and less needy doesn’t provide for automatic support as the limits are not guaranteed,” said Odalo.

Odalo said there is a need for productive public participation involving university students, employees, and management to be constituted.

He said they want a situation where the universities are assured of base funding, the fees are harmonised, and students’ upkeep support is guaranteed. “It is our take that the so-called student funding model is a clever way of reintroducing the unsuccessful merger of public universities through a forced collapse of higher institutions of learning. The model should be put to hold,” said Odalo.

Kusu Secretary John Ogwang said the major funding models that have been tested and registered success stories across the globe are performance-based.

Retrench staff

Ogwang said universities are bleeding with some being forced to retrench staff because they do not have enough money. The unions also opposed the proposed housing levy in the Finance Bill 2023 terming it unrealistic. They asked the National Assembly to reject it.

Ogwang said the proposed deduction was punitive, and will strain their chocked pay slips.

“Homes and houses built by our members to their preferences and interests are already in various stages of development. Our members would be compelled to stop or default paying their present loans and mortgages if the proposal were put into effect,” said Ogwang.

He noted that with Pay as You Earn of between 30 per cent to 35 per cent, the National Social Security Fund at six per cent, the National Health Insurance Fund at 2.5 per cent, pension at 10 per cent and 16 per cent of value added tax, the pay slips are bleeding.

Kusu chair Kassim Zaro questioned why they should force its members into a scheme whose architecture is only known to the government.

“Who will build those houses, how will the houses be allocated, of what shape will they be and how will they be spread in the country?” Zaro questioned. He said one would need to contribute Sh5,000 monthly for 40 years to acquire a basic unit that costs Sh2.4 million. 

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