Azimio MPs want state to halt new university funding model

Embakasi East MP Babu Owino. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A section of opposition lawmakers want the new university funding model halted, arguing that it is unsustainable as it disenfranchises students from poor backgrounds.

Addressing a press briefing at Parliament's media centre, the legislators said that there is already a crisis resulting from the model, through which students are awarded scholarships depending on need.

Embakasi East MP Babu Owino questioned the criteria through which the government would establish the need for students and called for a return to the funding model under the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).

"What is the yardstick for neediness? A teacher with five children has a salary, but is qualified to be needy as they would be unable to educate all their children," said Babu, who argued that more than 800,000 students could miss out on higher education owing to rising costs.

"President William Ruto is where he is because of education. He benefited from the boom during President Daniel Moi's era, which was more of a grant. President Mwai Kibaki brought free primary education, while President Uhuru Kenyatta ensured Helb was efficient," he added.

Present were MPs Anthony Oluoch (Mathare), Mark Mwenje (Embakasi West), Jared Okello (Nyando) and Renee Mayaka (Nominated).

The Helb proposal is part of a memorandum presented to the National Dialogue Committee co-chaired by Wiper Leader Kalonzo Musyoka and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah that also proposes far-reaching law changes.

Among the changes the Azimio lawmakers want is an amendment to Article 115 of the Constitution to require the president to raise two-thirds of MPs to overturn a decision of the August House. The current law requires the House to raise the said number to overturn the president's memorandum in the event they refuse to assent to a Bill.

Mwenje said the provision was unconstitutional as it allowed the president to legislate in violation of the principle of separation of powers.

"The amendment will ensure that Parliament is independent and can legislate on issues because we are the people's representatives," said the National Assembly Deputy Minority Whip.

The MPs further want an amendment that would cap employment of a single ethnic community in the public sector at 30 per cent. They called for an audit of the public sector to establish their ethnic composition.

"The report of the audit should be forwarded to Parliament with recommendations on how to rectify ethnic imbalance," said Okello.

In their petition, the MPs also want the committee to audit cases of individuals arrested during anti-government protests and the cases withdrawn.

Oluoch further proposed that summonses to arrest MPs be submitted to the National Assembly Speaker, "in respect of the institution of Parliament."

"We want to ensure that the rights of an arrested person are respected at all times," said the Mathare MP.

The MPs want the Treasury established as an independent office and mental health prioritised in schools.

"Guidance and counselling should be included in the curriculum... the government should ensure that mental health is addressed with the seriousness it deserves," said Mayaka.

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