25th June, 2015, saw Parliament approve a Motion for a Resolution of Parliament to establish five (5) Public Universities; Soroti, Lira and Kabale Universities in 2016/17 and the Namasagali and Bunyoro Universities in 2017/18.
Soroti University in FY2015/16 was allocated Ugx 18bn for the construction of lecture rooms, halls of residence, dining rooms, laboratories and staff quarters among other facilities but the resources ran-out leaving the work incomplete. However, for 2016/17, only Ugx 12.238bn has been earmarked for the Universities, leaving a deficit of UGX 25.172bn. Consequently, the university administration asked Parliament to increase their allocation to Ugx 37.4bn to permit the completion of these facilities.
Professor Denis Ikoja, the acting Vice Chancellor for Soroti University, while appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Education told of this plight. He added, that due to the incomplete state of the facilities, the university has extended its maiden admission of students to academic year 2017/18.
Kabale University, previously private and currently undergoing transformation to public status, has 180 staff but the Ministry of Education resolved to take on board only 23 members of the administrative and academic staff who will be teaching on selected few science-based programs. The total wage bill for the selected group is Ugx 5.212bn, leaving a deficit of Ugx 9.6bn if all the 180 staff are catered for.
Basing on the fact that the selection of only a few staff members for the access to enhanced salaries, there is a possibility it will complicate relations at the university as it runs on two salary scales.
While appearing before the Education Committee, Professor. John Dumba Sentamu, Vice Chancellor, Makerere University, questioned the move of creating new universities despite the inadequate funding to already existing ones. He said, “I don’t see why the government is creating new public universities, I know it is politics but Makerere is collapsing yet government is busy creating Lira, Soroti”.
Government has been accused of not adequately funding public universities, Professor Ddumba revealed that recent reviews of the University’s Dental Medical School by the National Council for Higher Education and the East African Medical Council indicated inadequacies and poor quality of facilities at the School and unless it is resolved, the will be shut down. In 2016/17, Uganda’s oldest university has unfunded and underfunded priorities amounting to Ugx 144.2bn.
All these revelations were made to the committee of Education, Science, Technology and Sports during the consideration of the Ministerial Policy statement for the Education sector for FY2016/17.
By all means, Parliament should allow the increase public expenditure on public universities, only on account that the already existing ones are doing just fine. For 2016/17, Government will be spending Ugx 35.1bn, to run the Soroti, Lira and Kabale Universities. Resources that could have been used to refurbish already existing ones to increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Makerere also boasts of the ownership of vast land, unfortunately it is either not or underused, something a one off funding can cure by developing it. Depending entirely on tuition is a recipe for disaster, Makerere University also has the capacity to generate revenue.
Kabale university should also have opted for a Public-Private Partnership instead of going fully Public considering bureaucracies in government.
Source: Musa Mugoya.
Musa is a Content Developer at Parliament Watch Uganda. He is also a graduate of Ethics and Human Rights from Makerere University.