Three university students share their hopes and aspirations

University students

From left: University students Kimani Mwangi, Catherine Juma and Marvin Mabonga.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Marvin Mubonga hopes 2024 will come with blessings to enable him expand his businesses.
  • Catherine Juma plans to acquire more skills to boost her engineering aspirations.

The year 2023 was the most challenging in the higher education sector especially after the government reviewed the funding model for 35 public universities.

The state moved from the Differentiated Unit Cost (DUC) and unveiled a New Funding Model on May 3, 2023, to increase cash flow to the 35 public universities across the country, which were on the verge of collapse due to huge debts amounting to more than Sh60 billion.

President William Ruto and Education Cabinet Secretary Ezekiel Machogu said the student-centred model would promote equity in funding students in either scholarships, loans, or bursaries based on the level of need.

The President said his administration increased funds to universities from Sh44 billion to Sh82 billion in this financial year to ensure sustainable financial financing of thousands of students pursuing higher education.

Higher Education spoke to some university students about their outlook in regard to their aspirations this year.

Mwangi Kimani, 22, Mount Kenya University

The Second Year student is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication Distance Learning. He is optimistic that 2024 will be better.

“I wish institutions of higher learning would adopt a system that allows us to undertake our lectures at a specific time of the day, while allowing us time to practice in our field of specialisation,” he says.

His wish is that by the end of their degree studies, students graduate with at least three to four years of work experience. He says the students will also have created a suitable networking space they can rely on.

He urges the state to invest in technology in the TVETs and universities, saying the equipment their lecturers use are of an old-aged media regime, limiting their professional workability once they get to the field of media to practice.

“Media students rely heavily upon technology to advance their skills but most universities have outdated systems. I have seen new technological advancements innovated such as camera, computer, editing applications, and other media equipment,” he adds.

In 2024, he is looking forward to engaging more in equipping and improving his fellow students with editing and writing skills.

“I also plan to take part in charitable activities for the growth of youths, especially from my county, Mombasa,” he adds. Mwangi aspires to be a data journalist.

Marvin Mubonga, 23, Technical University of Mombasa

He is pursuing a degree in electrical and electrical engineering. He hopes 2024 will come with blessings to enable him expand his businesses.

“I am a student and an entrepreneur. I have two cyber cafes in the university earning Sh10,000 weekly. I also run a fast food online delivery business, which has employed two people. I earn Sh3,000 weekly. In 2024, my focus will be studies and business,” he says.

However, he wants to expand his businesses and grow them outside the university. Marvin also wants to undertake a French course at the same institution. After saving enough, he says he will no longer depend on his parents for school fees and upkeep.

However, he hopes the state will make the Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) more accessible. In his cyber, he has seen first-hand how First-Year students are struggling to apply for the funds due to stringent regulations. Marvin has witnessed most students relying on Helb deferred due to delays in the release of the funds.

“You know in university you can’t sit for an examination if you’ve not paid your full school fees,” he added.

He says some of his colleagues from single-parent homes did not qualify for Helb.

“I apply Helb for First Year students in my cyber but those who come from single mothers didn’t get scholarships due to lack of proof, or divorce certificates. These parents don’t have the crucial certificates because the marriages were not formalised,” says the former student leader urging the state to relax the Helb criteria to allow children from single parents to benefit.

He says Helb wants evidence to prove the students are from humble backgrounds. Marvin notes that Helb should have different criteria for identifying students from humble backgrounds; noting that university education has become expensive, especially for students from poverty-stricken families. Many of them, he says, give up.

He say some courses are charged Sh300,000 for an academic year.

“In four academic years if you are doing a four-year course, you will pay almost Sh1.2 million. Currently, university education is for the rich,” he adds.

Catherine Juma, Dedan Kimathi University

She says financial constraints have been the major challenge among university students. The Second Year, Telecommunication and Information Engineering student says some of her colleagues can’t afford campus life.

Another challenge she points at is academic pressure.

“Some courses involve a lot of work including regular assignments that demand a lot of time and effort,” she says.

Catherine explains that students are unable to save. Majority, she adds, end up overspending and struggling with mental health, stress, anxiety, depression and later resorting to drug abuse.

Time management, balancing working part-time and studying is not for the fainthearted.

“There is also negative peer influence where some students want to copy the high lifestyle of their peers not knowing what they have to go through to live affluently,” reveals Catherine.

To address the challenges, she urges the state to provide financial aid to struggling students, including scholarships. For mental health, she says universities should invest in guidance and counselling to enable students to seek help whenever they are struggling with stress and anxiety.

“Universities should consider students’ mental health by providing guidance and counselling champions through whom students can seek help,” she says.

Catherine plans to acquire more skills to boost her engineering aspirations.