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Why government-sponsored university students are disadvantaged

By - | May 10th 2013

By Erick Naibei

The move by the then Ministry of Higher Education under the former government to minimise the idle long stay by form four leavers before joining campus was a welcome idea but there is a need to review it.

 The double-intake programme that came into force during the tenure of His Excellency the Deputy President William Ruto as the minister was indeed a show of commitment and concern for the learning youths. It gave students an opportunity to pursue their academics with the freshness of an ambitious young person.

There is a way in which a student who graduates from secondary school perceives his future especially that immediate moment when they get their results. Apparently, their dreams are great and the quicker they get a chance of actualising these dreams the better. I therefore comment the then higher education minister, now the Deputy President for this brilliant idea.

However, the ultimate consequence of the altering of public university programmes is to the effect that the same students are now being compelled to regular long holidays that stretch up to six months.

Nearly all the public universities embraced the system claiming to have proper infrastructural and technical facilities, including human resource. Right now all the public universities have undertaken to implement the system, with the University of Nairobi being the last as it plans to admit first years late this May contrary to the September/October intake tradition. This will see the current First Year students go home until January next year, a period of six months before coming back to start their second year studies.

Is it rational for one to study for six months and break for another six months? I criticise the whole move if such are the consequences. It is just like filling a hole by digging another hole to get sand.

Clearly, most public universities did not have the proper infrastructure and facilities to enable this. This may sound censorious but it is logical that the problem can only be solved progressively if the institutions are putting up more facilities. What most universities did was to re-organise timetables just to create room for an extra group without establishing new structures or recruiting more staff.

There is a general feeling among government-sponsored students that public universities have tended to concentrate so much on admitting more and more private students as they “boost” the institutions financially. It sounds like an indirect punishment to such students who worked extra-hard to excel in High School.

In the same line, the new Government should re-consider formulating a policy which will ensure that bright and needy students who score highly in KCSE are given priority in public universities. Public universities should not block out bright students who miss the cluster points by minute decimals only to replace them with private sponsored students.

There is a way in which the country does not utilise the sharp brains around if, for instance, an A student is denied a chance to pursue a degree in medicine and surgery because of some decimal points yet the same faculty admits a self-sponsored student who scored as low as a B plus.

Why the double standards? This portrays the ever widening inequality gap between the rich and the poor. Equality is a right smartly printed in paper that Kenyans are eager to see it converted into a fact by the Jubilee Government which has so often promised to be neutral.

The quality of professionalism and skill from our higher learning institutions cannot and should not be compromised by greed for money by universities.

It is undoubtedly true that money can take you anywhere, but the bitter bit of it is that it cannot nurture a talent or gift. A student who is made to pursue a course because his parent has the cash to take him there will most probably not do well in the field because they had no chance to make the best choice.

 I therefore urge the incoming Cabinet Secretary for Education even before assuming office to start unlocking this puzzle, if indeed the Jubilee manifesto is to be implemented. Meanwhile also, the Deputy President should look at the consequence of what he introduced and judge if that is what he intended.

By Erick Naibei, law student,University of Nairobi


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