KUPPET Asks Government to Stop Sponsoring Students in Private Universities.
The Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) Chair Hon. Omboko Milemba has urged the government to stop sending state-sponsored students to private universities.
Students who earn a grade of C+ (plus) or higher on the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) are automatically admitted to universities, and the State pays a significant portion of their tuition.
Under the government-sponsorship arrangement, there were previously varying cutoffs for students to gain admission to public universities.
The cutoff grades fluctuated between B- (minus) and B (plain) and were assigned based on gender, with girls receiving marginally lower grades than their male counterparts.
In 2015, when Fred Matiang’i was appointed Cabinet Secretary in charge of the Education ministry by President Uhuru Kenyatta, the government announced that all students who scored at least a C+ (plus) on the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) would be granted automatic admission to universities and that the threshold grade system had been eliminated.
Public universities’ capacities were strained due to a sudden increase in enrollment.
This prompted the government to enlist the aid of private universities to accommodate the vast number of qualified students.
Before the latter part of Mwai Kibaki’s presidency, Kenya had seven public universities. It included the University of Nairobi, Moi University, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Kenyatta University, Maseno University, Egerton University, and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST).
This number increased significantly over the years to 32 public universities in Kenya by 2021, with President Kibaki’s second term from 2008 to 2013 initiating the expansion. Kenya, as of 2021, had some 33 private universities, bringing the total number of universities in the country to 65.
In the traditional university placement system, students who did not attain the minimum admission grade but had at least a C+ (plus) on the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) would opt for private sponsorship.
Others who pursued self-sponsorship were selected for courses for which they had not applied or who lacked the necessary cluster points to enroll in their dream career programs. This group increased the finances of both private and public universities.
When the government announced in 2015 that all students who scored a minimum of C+ (plus) on the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) would be automatically admitted to the university, the earnings from the self-sponsorship programme decreased significantly, causing some public universities to incur greater debts and liabilities.
Since then, several universities, including the University of Nairobi, Moi University, and Egerton University, have experienced severe financial difficulties, with some even declaring bankruptcy.
As of June 2022, the total debt of Kenya’s public universities was Sh56,1 billion.
The insufficient revenue and funding crisis prompted the National Assembly to discuss the funding situation of the nation’s universities on November 23, 2022.
The Emuhaya Member of Parliament, Omboko Milemba, urged the government to stop sending students to private universities and redirect the funds to public universities.
“What’s the point of sending government-sponsored students to private universities?” he posed.
“When we do that, we are using public funds to build private universities. We should consider doing away with the policy of placing state-sponsored students in private universities. The private universities, which are private entrepreneurships, are getting rich at the expense of public universities,” said Milemba.
Yusuf Hassan, a representative from Kamukunji, expressed regret that some public universities could not remit mandatory deductions such as PAYE, NSSF, and NHIF due to cash flow issues.
Due to the severe financial crisis, the University of Nairobi was compelled to increase tuition and accommodation fees in an effort to remain solvent.
Haji says the main campus of Egerton University has been closed due to strike action by its faculty and staff over unpaid salaries.
The lawmaker suggested that political and administrative goodwill would assist in reversing the loss-making status of public universities.
“Are we able to sustain all universities, especially those that are run based on local politics? Universities have become political vessels,” he said.
Julius Sunkuli, a representative from Kilgoris, stated that the government must act swiftly to save the universities from total collapse.
“Where will [Kenyan] professors come from if the universities close?” he questioned.
“If the universities shut down, where will [Kenyan] professors come from?” he posed.
“We’ve turned many places into universities. I’m not sure that expansion model is sustainable. Let’s come with an expansion policy that would guarantee quality education,” said Sunkuli.
“One way to go, is to stop the proliferation of university branches in the country,” he added.
Recently, Education Cabinet Secretary (CS) Ezekiel Machogu was on the receiving end after he suggested that the government was considering withdrawing funding from public universities.
Later, Machogu would claim that he was misquoted and that he meant universities should seek alternative sources of revenue in addition to government funding.
In this fiscal year, the government will allocate Sh50 billion for university funding and Sh15.8 billion for the Higher Education Loan Board (HELB).