The position was reached at a recent council meeting where a report from the Finance and Planning Committee of Council presented findings of the survey conducted among students. Food is given to two categories of students, both government resident and non-residents. The university says government students' number about 6,000 with about 2,000 being residents at the campus.
Following the university council policy to outsource catering services, the university in August 2014 contracted four firms to provide catering services at six serving centres. Venus Meas Enterprises was procured to provide food to students in University Hall and Mitchell Hall, while Rema Restaurant and Take Away was providing food to Nkrumah and Nsibirwa Hall residents.
Kabagambe told URN that the contracts for the food service providers are ending by June this year and that the university will not enter contracts with them again under the current arrangement.
The university has been paying money directly to the companies to provide food to government sponsored students and hall residents since 2014. Midway, the university was under pressure from the food providers to increase the money paid for each student citing the high commodity prices.
The government valuer had determined the appropriate rental fees for kitchen space for the stipulated period of the service contracts. Each service provider was paying between Shs 500,000 and Shs 1.5 million each month.
He however said due to the escalation of food prices, the university management in January 2017 waived off the fees pending the approval of the contracts committee. In the contract, service providers have been providing food to students including but not limited to beef, chicken, fish, rice, beans, peas, matooke, sweet potatoes, posho, milk, bread and eggs.
The companies were supposed to provide quality affordable meals to students within the acceptable range of Shs 2,000 per meal. Government provides Shs 4,000 per day for meals for each student. However, the university says the money insufficient. Giftson Kamara, a student residing in Livingstone Hall said scrapping off of meals of government students' shows how the university lacks a complete understanding not what the government students want.
"I have always stood against the scrapping but rather an improved service delivery. To me it's an absurd and unreasonable move because they will be exposing their students to health complications given the poor drainage and sanitation communities in the neighboring hostel villages."
Kamara wants the university to revise the decision they took arguing it is likely cause more confusion and strikes among students.
"Will the money come in time so that the students pay where they will be having their meals? We know the delays in the living out allowances, internship and this won't be any different," Kamara stated.
Godwin Toko Abunia, a student resident of Mitchell Hall told URN that the university did not hold conclusive studies among students to come up with that position.
He argues that giving Shs 4,000 per day for meals for each student is a ridiculous move aimed at starving majority of students who will not afford the current food prices. The lowest meal around the university's designated food joints goes for Shs 5,000 a meal, however outside the university, depending on the food joint, food ranges between Shs 3,000 to Shs 10,000.
Saphira Kubakunza a law student at Makerere said that the move is like to cause a strike among students if not handled well. Dr Deus Muhwezi Kamunyu, the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) chairperson welcomed the move arguing that if well managed, it would allow the university management to concentrate on decisions that are only related to student learning and other aspects of their life while at Black Africa's greatest academic institution.
Dr Kamunyu however decries the Shs 4000 per day for meals for each student saying it cannot sustain a student in Kampala. He argues that the amount can only do so and a clear cost sharing arrangement.
"If the phasing out of meals is the ultimate decision arrived at in consultation with government, I do not see the problem with it. I also think Shs 4000 is very little money for fully sponsored government students because the cost of living today makes it an incomprehensible figure. Contextually, cooking for students should be phased out and replaced by a student self-management programme," said Dr Kamunyu.