The Minister of Education, Janet Museveni has faulted the students at Makerere University for complaining about a hike in tuition fees yet they were part of the process that adopted the new fees structure.
Students at Makerere, Uganda’s biggest higher institution of learning, since last week, have been protesting the 15% cumulative tuition increment.
In her statement, the Minister said “it is important to understand that Makerere University Management took the trouble to ensure that students were fully involved and consulted in the process of establishing an acceptable tuition fee structure for the Institution”.
This, she says, was done through a series of consultations with the student leadership, and the outcomes were agreed upon by both parties, as well as bench-marking with other similar universities.
“How then do students turn around, afterwards, and accuse the University management of imposing “high costs” on the students? Surely, the logical and right thing to do would have been to ask for further consultations so as to revisit the issue and find a new way forward, ” the Minister said.
She also condemned actors in the political opposition whom she says are involved in the strike. She said these politicians are paying students to riot.
“I have learned with dismay that some of the people involved in this “demonstration” are not students from Makerere University or any other university for that matter, ” the Minister said.
“They are people who have made it their way of life to be paid to join any riot wherever it is happening. Apparently, the political opposition in this country – who are well funded “somehow” by some “unknown sources” – find it useful to pay unemployed young people to riot wherever and whenever they believe they see a viable opportunity”.
Whereas some students opposed to the fees hike claim they are unable to meet these costs since they come from peasant families, Janet Museveni said on the contrary, “some of the students at the forefront of these dubious demonstrations at Makerere University are the “privileged ones”.
“For example, many of these students are sponsored by Government, Master Card Foundation, State House while others are beneficiaries of the Higher Education Students Loan Scheme. One young student lied about his “vulnerable family” to get on the State House Scholarship program only for us to learn later that he has an able-bodied mother with a well-paying Government job! That makes one wonder: What is behind these student demonstrations?”
She termed the strike as skewed propaganda meant to mislead the public, problems ought to be solved without confrontation and destruction of life and property.
She advised students at Makerere University and other institutions of learning to desist from being used by unscrupulous people “who do not care about what happens to them now or in the future”.
Commenting on the manner in which the security agencies have handled the situation at Makerere, which many have termed as brutal, she quoted the Bible (Romans 13:1-5).
“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God, ” the Bible says.
The same scripture adds.. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience”.
In justifying the increment in tuition fees, the Minister compared the fees structure of select academic programs at Makerere and those at Uganda Christian University (UCU) Mukono.
The comparison showed sharp differences in the two institutions, the fees paid at Makerere for courses such as Medicine, Social Work and Social Administration, Laws, Computer Science being less compared to UCU.
However, it should be noted that Makerere is a public university, 80 percent of whose budget is funded by government, and UCU is a private institution. This implies that the bulk of the financing at UCU is met by the students, this explaining the high costs.
The Minister’s statement, especially the comparison of Makerere and UCC, was met with sharp criticism by Ugandans on social media.