Ensure fairness in funding of university education

Just a few days after the release of the 2022 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examination results, with nationwide celebrations, there is some bad news for the candidates who have qualified to join the university: Higher tuition fees could slam the door in their face.

It is the last thing the 173,345 candidates would have expected. President William Ruto is on record as a warning that the government may be forced to only pay for the students it can afford.

He has put on notice the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb), which has in recent years enabled many students from poor families to get a university education, that it could soon be replaced.

The President wants only the needy students catered for. He argues that even parents who easily pay up to Sh200,000 for their children in private secondary schools leave that burden to the government in university.

Although the country faces difficult economic times, the government should go slow on any changes that are likely to cause chaos in the education system. Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu, who sparked panic by declaring that the government would stop funding public universities (though later clarifying that he had been misquoted), is again at the centre of what is cooking.

Then, he explained that he was only advising the institutions of higher learning to stop over-reliance on the Treasury and seek alternative funding.

New method

But now, Mr Machogu has revealed that consultations are going on at the highest levels of government to come up with a new method of funding university education. But one thing is clear: Not all the candidates who scored a mean grade of C-plus and above will get government sponsorship.

The education sector gobbles up 25 per cent of the national budget, which could rise to 35 per cent if the government-sponsored all the candidates. The Ministry of Education is waiting for recommendations by the Presidential Working Party on Education Reform to come up with the new policy.

The country needs this high-level manpower for its development needs. The National Government Constituency Development Fund, county government bursaries and also Helb, should be harmonised to avoid hurting the students and hampering the education sector.

The high cost of tuition would effectively deny many Kenyan youths their deserved constitutional right to education.


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