The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, yesterday asked the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to review the current government university scholarship policy and prioritise children of the poor. The Deputy Speaker said the current scholarship policy is unfair and favours the rich at the expense of students from poor backgrounds. Mr Tayebwa, who was a chief guest at the 13th Blended Higher Education Institutions Exhibition held at UMA showground in Kampala, reiterated that the current system is giving out scholarships to students from good schools and families that can afford to study at university, at the expense of those who are poor and attending schools in rural areas.
“I have a child at Namilyango SS and another at St Mary’s College Kisubi but when I look at the fees I pay, it is almost twice what is paid in the public universities and yet these are the schools from which most students are given government sponsorships yet their parents are rich,” Mr Tayebwa said. “Why should my child be given government sponsorship when I can pay the money? We should open opportunities for all,” he added. He asked the NCHE to work with the Education committee of Parliament to ensure that the current sponsorships are ring-fenced for the children of the poor or abolished and transferred to the study loans scheme so that the poor can borrow and pay later.
Currently, the government is sponsoring 4,000 students from across the country based on merit. These are distributed among the nine public universities in the country. Since the scholarships are given on merit, students in urban centres, especially Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono that perform better in most cases take the lion’s share of the scholarships. These are mostly the children of Ugandans who can afford to pay more than Shs2m per term as school fees. Mr Tayebwa said the discussion should be around how to make students from rural schools benefit from the scheme.
A number of educationists and MPs have on several occasions asked the government to abolish these scholarships and put more money in study loans but they hit a dead end after they were frustrated. “The university vice chancellors 10 years ago made a similar recommendation but we did not succeed. Since Parliament, which is one of the three arms of government has picked it up, I am optimistic that it will work,” the executive director of NCHE, Prof Mary Okwakol, told Daily Monitor yesterday. She said they have the capacity to come up with a formula to assess those who are poor and the would-be beneficiaries.