Student leaders at Makerere University led by the guild president Robert Maseruka have started their campaign to solicit funds and support underprivileged students with tuition.
Last month, the students launched the campaign dubbed "Save a Makererean" aimed at raising Shs 1 billion. On Friday, the students organized a car wash event at Makerere University's Main Mosque, targeting Muslim alumni, lecturers, students, and visitors as part of their year-long fundraising initiative.
Each car was washed at Shs 30,000 and the students managed to collect more about Shs 350,000. The initiative includes continuing the car wash campaign at St. Francis Chapel and organizing a fundraising breakfast and a run. The student leaders also plan to reach out to civil societies, NGOs, MPs, and influential community members for support.
Approximately 1,000 students drop out of Makerere University every academic year due to challenges related to tuition fees. Maseruka highlighted that nearly 3,000 students were unable to sit for their end-of-semester exams due to unpaid tuition fees. Tuition fees at Makerere University vary depending on the academic program. The fees range from Shs 900,000 to Shs 2.5 million with the exclusion of the functional fees, which amount to over Shs 600,000.
In April, while appearing before the parliamentary education committee, Makerere University vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe also confirmed that the university was consistently losing a minimum of 1,000 students each academic year due to their inability to meet tuition expenses.
Prof Buyinza Mukadasi, the Makerere University academic registrar, said that in a bid to provide an enabling environment for students who are unable to meet their financial obligations, the management has already approved an employment students work scheme" in which, students would engage in community service within the university, and their earnings would be used to cover their fees.
According to the Makerere University tuition policy, all privately sponsored students should pay at least 60 per cent of their tuition at the beginning of every semester and full functional fees at the beginning of the first semester.
Prof Mukadasi explained that students who fail to pay 100 per cent of their tuition fees by the exam period can appeal to the vice-chancellor for special permission to sit exams, an avenue several students have used before. However, he emphasized that such permission is not an automatic entitlement.
For a long time, several privately sponsored students from not only Makerere University but also other higher institutions of learning have been facing tuition challenges at the beginning of the semester, mid-way, or at the end of the semester.
Many of these resolve to fundraisings within particular classes where students volunteer to solicit money and save their colleagues while others apply for financial aid, which oftentimes becomes unsuccessful. Last year, deputy speaker of parliament, Thomas Tayebwa said that the current government sponsorship program favours the affluent over the disadvantaged.
He contended that the current system was disproportionately benefiting students from well-to-do families, who attended expensive schools like Mt St Mary's College Namagunga, St Mary's College Kisubi, and St Mary's Kitende and attain government sponsorship cut-off points.
Maseruka also said that since they launched the campaign, they have been approached by a few government officials and companies who have pledged to support several students. Maseruka said minister Evelyn Anite has pledged to pay tuition for at least 15 students facing challenges.