Student leaders from public and private universities have called on government to reconsider the decision to re-open academic institutions for only finalists.
The guild student leaders from Makerere University, Kyambogo University and Uganda Christian University who presented a joint petition to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on 14 October 2020, argued that the decision to re-open institutions of higher learning to only finalists disadvantages continuing students.
The Information and Senate Representative from Makerere University, Joshua Muhwezi Lawel said government’s proposal to make it compulsory for continuing students to adapt to online learning is not feasible since internet penetration is still very low.
“This model discriminates students with disabilities especially those with visual and auditory impairments,” he said adding that, ‘online learning model is still affected by number of challenges which include bandwidth limitation, high costs of internet subscription, unreliable internet and infrastructure limited to only urban areas’.
Muhwezi added that online learning does not favour courses that require practical engagement especially science courses like human and veterinary medicine and engineering.
“We propose that online learning is suspended because it is discriminatory and inefficient,” he said.
Muhwezi called on government to make arrangements for continuing students to attend classes physically arguing that the Standard Operating Procedures to curb the spread of the coronavirus are easily observed in gazetted areas.
“Students doing practical courses should be allowed to come back and access accommodation in their respective halls of residence and hostels since online studies are not feasible,” said Muhwezi.
The Guild President of Uganda Christian University, Timothy Kadaga called on government to suspend taxes on private universities since they have been closed for the past six months and yet their operations largely depend on tuition fees from students.
“The tax suspension will give these universities time to recover from the six months of inactivity,” he said.
Timothy Kadaga also urged institutions of higher learning to exercise lenience in tuition fees payments saying that parents cannot afford the 100 per cent fees.
“Parents have been affected financially; we therefore, ask that institutions of higher learning should allow students to pay 60 per cent of the tuition fees as opposed to the required 100 per cent,” he said.
Speaker Kadaga said she will convene a meeting between the student leadership and the Ministers of Education, Health and Finance to find a way forward.
“We need to find a solution on whether continuing students should study online or not,” she said.
The Speaker added that attempts by legislators to move a motion to suspend taxes on private universities were futile.
“We tried to move a motion on taxes on private universities but the Minister vehemently opposed it,” Kadaga said.
The Ministry of Education and Sports announced that academic institutions will re-open on 15 October 2020 for finalist students at all levels following a six months’ closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.