Doom and gloom for broke varsities, students in Budget

Moi University students

Moi University students demonstrate in the streets of Eldoret over delays to release Helb funds on March 10, 2021.

Photo credit: Jared Nyataya | Nation Media Group

The financial instability in public universities will continue after the Treasury failed to satisfy their requests in the 2021/23 Budget.

National Treasury Secretary Ukur Yatani allocated the public universities Sh91.2 billion, instead of the Sh102.807 billion they had suggested to enable them to settle pending bills and salaries and sustain themselves in the next financial year.

Even though the allocated funds in the next financial year is more than the Sh76.3 billion allocated to them in the current financial year, they are not enough as many universities are in deep financial woes and have been struggling to stay afloat.

Helb woes

The Budget will also not impress university students, with the same sum of Sh15.8 billion allocated to the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb).

Many needy students, who rely on the board for loans and bursaries, have been struggling as it is unable to fund all applicants.

In 2021/22, over 75,000 students did not get Helb allocation because of underfunding from the National Treasury.

The National Research Fund has been allocated Sh323 million, similar to what it got this financial year. Its budget had been reducing. It received Sh1.86 billion in 2018/19.

When he presented the sector’s proposals before the Education Committee, University Education and Research Principal Secretary Simon Nabukwesi said universities such as Nairobi, Moi, Masinde Muliro, Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta were underfunded and needed more cash.

The others, like the Meru University of Science and Technology, Kirinyaga University and Garissa University, required an additional Sh100 million each to settle outstanding part-time lecturers’ salaries and refurbish facilities such as staff houses.

The University of Nairobi (UoN) needed a further Sh112.5 million to offset court awards on pending bills; Rongo University Sh167 million to bridge the funding gap for the construction of a library whose pending bills stand at Sh67 million and Sh100 million for personal emoluments.

The PS said the Technical University of Kenya (Tuk) had also requested an additional Sh150 million to bridge its financial gap and stop frequent freeze of accounts.

The Ministry had also requested an additional Sh200 million to cater for the balance of the 2017/21 Collective Bargaining Agreement.

TVETs gain

For technical and vocational education, training (TVETs), Mr Yatani proposed an allocation of Sh5.2 billion capitation for students and a further Sh527 million for technical, vocational education, training and entrepreneurship.

An additional Sh1.8 billion has been allocated for the construction and equipment of TVETs and Sh971 million allocated for promotion of youth employment and vocational training.

Mr Yatani said that from 2012, the number of TVET institutions has increased from 701 to 2,301.

TVETs have also been allocated Sh1.1 billion to increase access and improve the quality of programmes under the East Africa Skills Transformation and Regional Integration Project (Eastrip).

So far, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania are part of the Eastrip, which aims at increasing access to Tvet programmes and improving their quality in 16 select regional centres of excellence.

In Kenya, the centres are Meru National Polytechnic, the Kenya Institute of Building and Highway Technology, KenGen Geothermal Institute and Kisumu National Polytechnic.