Union break ranks with education CS

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UASU Secretary-General Constantine Wasonga. PHOTO FILE.

By Bernard Mulwa.

A standoff is looming between the institutions of higher learning and the Ministry of education over funding in public Universities. This comes days after the government announced that it will no longer fund public universities and colleges. 

Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) Secretary General Constantine Wesonga has accused education Cabinet Secretary CS Ezekiel Machogu over his remarks that universities should seek alternative means of raising revenue. 

Over the years, the government has expanded higher education by establishing many universities. Currently there are 77 universities in Kenya, 36 of which are public universities and 5 Constituent Colleges. The funding of public universities has not been commensurate with the student population growth in the universities. The demand for university education has led to unprecedented growth in student population over the years, which has led to high student numbers in universities rising to 145,000 students admitted yearly.  

Speaking to journalists in Nairobi today, Universities Academic Staff Union (UASU) Secretary General Constantine Wesonga said the universities are seriously underfunded which is affecting the education standard. Wesonga also pointed out that despite the underfunding crisis at public universities, the government nevertheless allocates funding to private universities to support for government sponsored students placed in private universities even when there is adequate capacity in public universities. “As a union, we have been wondering what has informed this, Public universities are government owned and the government should fund them from the tax payers’ money, Wesonga said cartels at the ministry of education are influencing the government on capitation fee. However, the government has not been able to provide sufficient and adequate funds through capitation to enable the public universities respond to the high demands promptly and effectively. Consequently, universities have been forced to secure and offer many of their services on credit. Almost all the public universities have been run budget deficits on account of debits to their suppliers and service providers. 

Wesonga told journalists at a news conference in Nairobi today that staff have been grossly affected by the state of affairs since their pension schemes do not receive adequate funding from the sponsoring institutions. “Bank loans are not serviced as the contracts provide for and the credit reference bureau (CRB) has listed many staff for loan payment defaulting, the financial situation of universities has now reached a crisis level and unless it is addressed immediately, there is imminent collapse of higher education” he said the minister for education, said the universities should be innovative to fund for their programmes, why don’t other government owned institutions be innovate too. 

Universities Academic Staff Union Secretary General said the union is calling for an urgent stakeholders’ forum to discuss the funding crisis in Public Universities with a view to a lasting solutions

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