By Spy Uganda
Kampala: The speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has summoned the Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni together with Finance minister, Matia Kasaija in regards to the scheduled re-opening of universities after the Guild leaders from different universities petitioned parliament querying the manner in which government directed the reopening of educational institutions without the necessary consideration of the financial status and operational capacity of the institutions as well as parents/ guardians despite the eight months of lockdown.
Kadaga’s directive followed her interface with guild leaders from different public and private universities on Wednesday this week during the meeting that took place at her chambers at parliament.
The guild leaders raised concerns over the preparedness of their institutions, as well as demands for 100 per cent tuition payment despite the financial crisis occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The guild leaders were from Makerere University, Kyambogo University, Uganda Christian University (UCU) and Uganda Martyrs’ University.
The group led by the Makerere University guild president, Julius Katerega and UCU guild president Timothy Kadaga presented a petition to the speaker in which they requested that final students with tuition challenges be allowed to sit for examinations and required to complete their payment upon accessing transcripts.
“In recognition of the financial challenges all academic institutions have faced following their closure for the last six months, the government should provide a stimulus package to enable them to get back on their feet. Online learning should also be suspended because it’s discriminatory in nature and inefficient especially to medical students whose curriculum requires 85 per cent physical interaction between lecturers and students,” reads part of the petition.
”We put forward the Concerns of the Students regarding the manner in which Schools and Institutions of higher learning are resuming studies without taking in account certain factors that have either risen since March when the Country went into lockdown and other hindrances for approaches like online teaching.”
In the same vein, the student’s leaders are also questioning the manner in which the online programmes were adopted and considered without taking into account the challenges that come with internet access and coverage throughout the country.
”We prayed that before adopting online Studies, certain factors must be checked. Sighting Challenges like limited skills for Students, Internet penetration which stands at 37.9%, Network Coverage which sits below 40%, Electricity penetration which is at 22% we also argued that when we went home especially the girl child took up other duties in their homesteads which Altogether affects the e-learning environment of Students adding that most institutions of higher learning have not developed online portals and even those that have to require students to pay money through data to access them. We prayed that Government first invests in ensuring that Students have enabling gadgets before accepting online Studies as a means of study”. Makerere guild president, Julius Katerega said
The petition further adds that there is Concern of Students doing practical courses like medicine, vet and MDD, being subjected to non-practical studies in the guise of online Studies, following 8 months of economic inactivity, households income has been highly affected and therefore the parents are unable to pay all the School dues on time and therefore asked Parliament to intervene and allow Students to do Exams and pay upon accessing their transcripts
The petitioners further argued the general public to appeal to government and other stakeholders to relax on the requirements as they open up the institutions for finalists especially on issues of tuition fees which many students say their parents/ guardians have been financially affected by the lockdown
”We hope the entire country can come together and address the Concerns of the Students, parents, guardians and sponsors of Education, we encourage those carrying the mandate of the Students in Uganda to help put across the Concerns of the Students.”
Lawel Joshua Muhwezi, Makerere University guild speaker added that necessary preparations should also be made to ensure that continuing students report back to school physically adding that the COVID-19 standard operating procedures among students are easier to regulate whey they are in institutions of learning as opposed to when they are in the community.
Timothy Kadaga also appealed to the government arguing that private universities be exempted from paying taxes during the pandemic in order to ease their financial burden which will in return reduce on the burden for students as well.
However, In reaction to the petition, speaker Kadaga noted that parliament may not convene for full sitting for the next two weeks and proposed a meeting between the ministers of Education, Finance, students and university vice-chancellors to iron out the issues, she directed that the meeting between the officials should happen next week at her chambers.