Government-sponsored students at Lira University are up in arms over unpaid allowances and what they call “unfair treatment” by the university leadership.
The students claim that they are yet to receive their faculty allowance, internship fees, and recess allowance amounting to about Shs 750,000. The money is part of the Shs 1.47 million total disbursed by the government to facilitate them.
Last week, the students started a protest march but were halted midway by police under the leadership of Joseph Bakaleke, the Lira City Divisional police commander urging them to use dialogue and engage the university administration.
The university guild secretary, Kule Ronald Mbinga explained that students are made to pay internship fees to facilitate lecturers who go to supervise them yet the money is meant to facilitate the interns. Additionally, he says that the university has also increased tuition fees for privately sponsored students, which is causing friction between the students and their parents.
They also accuse the administration of not only failing to account for Shs 14 million allocated from the guild fund to install security lights on the university roads, but also sports fees, which they pay per semester without any sporting activity taking place.
“Because the guild government saw that it was really alarming, the issue of security, they approved Shs 14 million of the guild fee to purchase security lights. But when you reach out in those offices, they tell you procurement takes 12 weeks, and as I speak now, we’re now into almost 200 weeks and the security lights have not yet been installed. If we have approved our own money, why don’t you install for us security lights? And then, the tuition for this university has sports fees incorporated, but trust me, I have not seen anything like a sports activity engaging the students fraternity and therefore the students are demanding for accountability. If they paid for sports, where is that money?” said Kule.
In his response, the university vice-chancellor, Prof Jasper Ogwal Okeng explained that the government has been sending money for only 100 students under government sponsorship despite having way more students and as such, they had to take the hard decision of diverting sports money towards feeding the students instead.
“How do we cover that shortfall? It means some services must suffer. I cannot leave you to go hungry and go and erect football [goal] poles, you must get your money to enable you to live much as it is not enough anyway. The question of sponsors in our case here is normally parents who foot the cost,” said Okeng.
“They give us money for 100 students, but we now have 400 students on government sponsorship. It is worse in second year because the money they are giving remains fixed but government would have sent another 100 [students]. The money is effectively broken into two and all of them are coming to live under the same conditions and the 3rd year, the money has now become a third. We raised the issue, how are we going to handle the issue? Last year, we even asked to budget for this money so that it can be paid, but I have not received that money,” added Okeng.
Responding to the alleged tuition increment, Geoffrey Angela, the academic registrar said the university has not increased tuition fees and advised students whose portal reflects an increase in tuition to report to his office for redress.
“The process of increasing school fees at the university is not a simple thing. You have your representatives to senate, you have your representatives to council. So if we’re increasing fees, we follow all that process up to council and it is approved. We have not increased any fees for privately sponsored students. You could be having individual challenges with accounts…bring those issues and we handle case by case,” said Angela.
Whereas Jamesbond Opok, the sports tutor who doubles as the university warden explained that it is the responsibility of the students to request the available sports equipment from the office, the university cannot force students to play games.
“The previous guild union, they bought equipment worth over Shs 10 million for all the games. Now the current government pointed and guided them on areas in terms of sports equipment that are missing to realign the budget such that we’re able to procure them as we come. Putting that aside, we already have a terrible playground which hosts different sports activities,” said Opok.