For all of us who are 45 years and above we had the opportunity to study for free at University. Today things have changed; more than 90% of the students studying at public Universities in Uganda are private students. Of course 100% of the students at private universities are private students. Private students have to pay their fees.
For undergraduate students, the main source of fees is their parents or guardians. The reality is that more than 80% of Ugandans are subsistence farmers who don’t earn more than UGX 250,000 per month. Again more than 80% of the working class in Uganda (including the category of primary school teachers and nurses) don’t earn more than UGX 300,000 (net salary) per month. So for this category of Ugandans (who are the majority) in 6 months the maximum income each earns is UGX 1.8 Million and in a year it’s UGX 3.6 Million.
In many of the Universities in Uganda, UGX 1.8 Million is the average fees (tuition and functional fees) per semester. This excludes full board accommodation and other costs. So if a primary school teacher was to use all his/her salary to pay University fees for one child it would require him or her to pay fees for one semester in equal installments of UGX 300,000 over a period of 6 months. But can Universities accommodate such Ugandans in regard to fees payment?
Universities like primary schools would like to have the fees paid on the first day of the semester. However, the cash flow of a University dedicates that the fees are mainly used on salaries, and other recurrent costs, which are spread more or less evenly through out the year. This presents universities with an option of having flexible fees payment policies more so if the University happens to be a public University. Even if 100% fees were paid on the first day of the semester, the interest earned on the fees over the year would not warrant exclusion of the poor from University education. So its possible for Universities to come up with pro-poor fees payment policies since after all more than 90% of Ugandans are poor i.e. earn less than 300,000 per month.
Nobody would want the teachers who teach our own children in primary schools not to be able to educate their own at Universities. Kenya sorted this problem by providing loans to all students at Universities and Uganda could work towards the same in the medium and long-term.
Professor Venansius Baryamureeba,PhD is a distinguished consultant, academic, researcher, manager, leader and entrepreneur. He is a Professor of Computer Science and recipient of several awards.