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Govt officials defend Makerere fees increment

Top officials of the Ministry of Education and Sports have defended the current position by the Makerere University Management to increase tuition fees by 15 percent.

The officials, led by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Dr John Chrysostom Muyingo, reaffirmed the position on the fees increment to Parliament’s Committee on Education and Sports on Tuesday, 5 October 2019. The committee was tasked by the House to investigate the circumstances surrounding the student strike at the university.  

Muyingo said that much to the knowledge of the ministry, the university students’ guild and the council agreed on the increment of 15 percent on the tuition fees over a period five years which would only affect freshmen into the university.

Dr Kedrace Turyagyenda, the Director, Education Standards Agency and representative of the education ministry permanent secretary said that government makes a substantial contribution of Shs 221 billion to the Shs 316 billion budget of Makerere University as approved by Parliament. The shortage therein means that the university has to find ways of sourcing the remaining money.

However, Turyagyenda added, “If the government and Parliament is willing to make an increment and fund the whole budget relegating private sponsorship, then we as the ministry will be ready and willing to take that up.”

Ms Jolly Uzamukunda, the Commissioner for Higher Education and a member of the University Council said that the increment of 15 percent is aimed at supporting the payment of salaries for lecturers following the enhancement of lecturers’ salaries.

She added that one of the triggers justified by the management of the university was having a small internet bandwidth; “the council thought that this would help with supporting many learning process that are internet assisted especially e-learning.”

Uzamukunda said that the increment in internet bandwidth costs the university Shs 2.1 billion. She added that the council was also focused on improving the learning, utilities and welfare infrastructure which would result into a Shs 9.6 billion increment in the budget. The rise in student enrolment to 35,000, she said, put pressure on the infrastructure which has not changed much since its opening. 

However, the chairperson of the committee, Hon. Jacob Opolot, said that the Shs 1.5 billion arising from the increment over a year that the university claimed was used for renovation of the sanitary system was in actual sense nowhere evident. 

“The student leaders said that nothing about the sanitary system had changed and the halls of residence were still filthy in over a year of its implementation,” he noted.

Opolot added that the student body said there was supposed to be a review on the increment as well to see what effect it would have on the students.  

“However, the above has not been done and when the student guild leadership tried to raise it with the university leadership, they were instead intimidated into refraining from the raising issue,” Opolot said.

Hon. Winfred Kizza (FDC, Kasese District) further asked whether the university management had taken into account the cost of living today and whether it is plausible against the current economic situation to increase fees. 

Hon. Joy Atim (UPC, Lira District) also probed the ministry on whether the university declares to them the money it receives from the students. 

“What happens to the donor funding that the university receives? Does the university account to you its expenditure?” she queried.

Turyagenda promised that the ministry is going to investigate the plausibility of the increment and look into the utilisation of the money given to the university after normalcy returns.

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