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Pain of students seeking to apply for varsity, college courses

Education
 KUCCPS Chief Executive Officer Dr Mercy Wahome. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

Students applying for university and college slots have continued to experience pain and frustration following persistent delays and system hiccups that are now threatening the selection of dream courses of thousands of last year’s KCSE candidates.

The Standard has established that even after Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu gave an assurance to resolve the glitches, many students are still unable to successfully submit their applications.

In some cases, students and parents said payment of the Sh1,500 application fees was not verifiable while in other cases they had made double payments.

By last evening, only a few interviewed students had successfully made payment or prompted validation through the alternative code unveiled by Machogu.

“Applicants whose payments are experiencing unusual delays are encouraged to use the USSD code *222# to confirm their payments and/or trigger validation,” Machogu said on Monday.

A spot-check on the website, however, indicated non-responsiveness as the portal delayed to load to the application page.

The chaos has thrown the admissions process into disarray, leaving students frustrated.

Some parents who had incurred double payments also questioned whether there would be refunds.

On Monday, Machogu directed the Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS) to extend the application by an extra week to allow those who are yet to apply.

Sources told The Standard that the chaos in the application has been largely occasioned by the operations of e-Citizen, frustrating payments and verification of the same.

Interviews with dozens of parents and students trying to gain access of the KUCCPS portal registered frustration and long wait.

In some instances, students have not been able to complete the application process despite making payments as far back as three weeks ago.

Machogu yesterday said that a total of 121,391 candidates who obtained C+ (plus) and above in the 2023 KCSE had applied for various courses. 

“This accounts for 60.8 per cent of the 199,695 Kenyan citizens who scored a mean grade of C+(plus) and above in the examination,” Machogu said in a statement.

One of the students making an application said that he had tried the application process for the last three weeks in vain.

“I have been waking up at 3am to log in to the system and apply but each time the portal just doesn’t respond,” he said.

In another instance, a parent opted to seek admission in a private university, citing frustration in the KUCCPS portal.

“We decided to apply to USIU after we unsuccessfully made applications in the KUCCPS portal. My son is now waiting for the entry examination,” a parent in Nairobi said.

Other students interviewed confided that they were about to give up due to frustrations after numerous failed attempts. 

Careen Musimbi, a student from Vihiga, said she has been struggling to make payment through e-Citizen to complete her application. 

The former student at Chandumba Secondary School has been camping in a cybercafe at Chavakali Trading Centre, hoping things will work out for her. 

A spot check by The Standard at Mbale, Kakamega, Bungoma, Busia, and other major towns in Western revealed that tens of students were forced to spend many hours in cyber cafes, hoping the system would be restored.

Derrick Shikanga, who runs a cyber cafe in Kakamega town, said he had encountered such challenges where the money paid through e-Citizen did not reflect in the portal and the course applied for. 

Juma Yaa, a resident of Ganze, has been camping at Huduma Centre in Kilifi town for three days, trying to apply for his daughter who wants to join Moi University for a degree in English and Literature. 

He paid Sh1,500 through e-Citizen last Friday at a cyber café but the KUCCPS system notified him there could have been an error. 

Yaa fears his daughter’s dream could go up in smoke due to KUCCPS application hitches. 

The situation is worse in rural areas of Taita Taveta and Kilifi counties due to poor network coverage. This has forced most parents and students to dig deeper into their pockets to seek services in Huduma Centres in Kilifi town. 

James Kingori, a cybercafé operator in Kilifi, reported booming business, saying he operates until late hours. 

“Students and parents are desperate. Some pay us extra money to stay late into the night. It is good business for us, but it is also very bad to subject students to this kind of suffering,” said Kingori. 

Wilson Mwasi Mwilo, who was visibly frustrated, said he was depending on his parents to give him money for the internet.

“My parents are telling me to abandon the exercise since it has become expensive. They gave me Sh1,500, which I paid to e-Citizen but did not receive notification for a complete transaction. They have told me that they cannot afford it again,” he told The Standard yesterday. 

Long queues were witnessed at the Nakuru Huduma Centre after the KUCCPS extended the application deadline following an uproar among applicants, teachers and parents. 

Elisha Kibet, a cyber-operator in Baringo County, said he has experienced challenges accessing the website. 

Across Central Kenya, hundreds of cybercafes did brisk business as students tried to access the KUCCPS portal with little success. 

Simon Mwaura from Narumoru, waiting to join a medical school, complained that since last Tuesday, he has been trying to fill out the forms online, but all in vain. 

A cybercafe attendant uptown in Nyeri, Timothy Kariuki, said that the system is not opening. 

Mercy Mueni from Kamahuha in Murang’a fears that system hiccups could dim her hopes of pursuing a nursing course. 

[Report by Lewis Nyaundi, Brian Kisanji, Mumo Munuve, Purity Mwangi, Boniface Gikandi, Renson Mnyamwezi, Marion Kithi, Nikko Tanui and Yvonne Chepkwony]

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