Students Should Embrace Makerere’s Proposed Fees Policy

By: Davidson Ndyabahika

I welcome the efforts by the university and the government of Uganda in trying to find a permanent solution to the endless spate of strikes that had swallowed up the country’s largest higher institution of learning due to unfair fees payment policies.

Makerere University’s first attempt to implement the 60% tuition policy was in 2012 under the Prof. Ddumba leadership. Under this policy, diagnosis students were supposed to clear all dues by the end of the 6th week of the semester. These attempts always hit a snag as students always came up to boldly oppose it regarding it as an unfair policy hence its futility to implement.

Most times these strikes have come with heavy destruction of property both for university and areas surrounding the university including burning of cars, looting of merchandise etc.

As a result of the problems related to tuition fee payment, the university has been placed into huge debts rendering it unable to meet financial obligations especially to staff who have been demanding salary and incentives.

Because of its failure, the government advised Makerere to rescind the policy so as to come up with a more inclusive one that is favorable to all students.

I must say I am pleased by the proposed policy which I think will be able to somehow solve the fights on the university if students embrace it.

In this policy, I appreciate the fact that the university realizes that it has students from different backgrounds labors to cater for all of them.

The university proposes that all continuing students shall pay UGX 200,000 shillings in the first two weeks of the semester as a commitment fee. This I think is very fair because at least there will be no student who comes to study minus this initial deposit.  Even in high school, at least pupils pay a certain amount of money in order to be allowed in school.

Unlike previously where a student would enter university and study almost the whole semester and minus paying a coin hence financially straining the university, I am convinced that this initial deposit will enable the university have some operational funds to enable it provide services to students. The beauty about this is that a student can pay from any part of the country to the university on its bank accounts.

Whereas I very much want to believe this is a fairer policy as opposed to the previous one, I believe window one (1) in which the university proposes that students pay all the tuition and functional fees by the end of 6th week, I believe this window will have very few students since it is almost the same as the previous one.

In window 2, the university proposes that a student should clear all fees by the 12th week and in case they did not pay a commitment fee for registration at the beginning of the semester, a student will be charged with a 5% of all semester fees as a surcharge. This is a window where majority of students fall. My proposal would therefore be that the planners do away with the 5% surcharge as it would be very much comfortable for students to clear by the 12th week.

At least students need to appreciate the fact that in a semester of only 17 weeks, payment of all dues by the 12th week is completely fair as this serves to their advantage as they would have enough time to prepare and sit for exams without inconveniences.

In Window 3, the university proposes that students who are not able to clear fees by the first two windows, a student will be allowed to pay his/her fees under a Monthly Payment Plan on application, verification and approval by the Vice Chancellor. Whereas this applies to people who individually pay their own tuition either those employed, I find this one also very accommodative to students.

In appreciation of the policy, you realize that almost all windows, the deadline for the payments is 12th week of the semester. I would therefore propose that either, window 1 and 2 be merged in order to form a comprehensive window with deadline 12th week. Or alternatively, the windows are maintained and the five percent surcharge be removed since the deadline will be 12th week. Then the university can find an alternative to those who default by 12th week.

The new policy shows that the university has increased the late registration fee from the previous Shs 50,000 to a whooping Shs 100,000. I believe this is a lot of money to someone struggling to pay tuition. At least the former be maintained.

As Makerere seeks a permanent solution to the endless tuition payment strikes, I pray that students appreciate the new policy and where possible, adjustments be made as proposed to cater for all students. We all must embrace the proposed policy and we refrain from cheap political appreciation of the policy.

There can never be a policy fair to all people but this proposed one, I believe it is fair once a few adjustments are made and students embrace it. I entirely agree with the notion that the university MUST have a fees payment structure so as it can be able to run.

Though what I find tricky will be the university communicating the policy to students as almost all channels of communication have always been ignored.

The writer is a 4th year finalist of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University and has been the Guild Information Minister.

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