Are Kenyan Universities Fleecing Students?

Published on 18th October 2005

Most public universities are cashing on every opportunity to get as much money as possible from the evening or parallel degree-seeking students who troop in thousands. University of Nairobi, Kenya’s oldest institution of higher learning, has introduced several fee-chargeable services that are both unnecessary and expensive to these thought to be well-endowed knowledge-seeking persons. Some of the services fees that the university levies on students include: medical, computer, union and activity that range from Ksh.100 to Ksh.5,000 per academic year.

In some instances, the varsity shortens the life span of a facility or service in order to compel the user to pay more money after a certain period. The university says that, “After the registration formalities and payment of the identity card charges, every student is issued with a student identity card bearing his or her picture and name, registration number, the course and faculty registered in and the duration of the course.”

But this clause has not informed the student that the ID, a document that is so vital, expires every year and needs to be renewed after paying another Ksh.500. A post-graduate study lasting for three academic years compels one to pay more than Ksh.1,500 for the identification card. A secretary at the Vice-Chancellors office says the ID is so important that one will neither sit for exams nor enter the library without it.

“We are doing what we have been instructed to do. You can only complain to the Vice Chancellor if you’re not willing to renew your ID but I know he will tell you to pay the money first,” says a staff. The student identity card that costs Ksh.500 for graduate students is renewable every year at an extra cost. There are no available records showing the actual number of students in the evening programmes as they are not compelled to sign the nominal roll. A senior staff puts the figure to be above 10,000 students. This implies that the university collects over Ksh.5,000,000 from the students at the end of every academic year to compulsorily renew their ID cards. The regular students do not renew their cards.

The ID, says the University in a website report, allows easy identification of students and gives the student access to various university services such as the library, the student clinic, the halls of residence among others. A Masters’ student at the School of Journalism, whose ID had already expired, was advised to renew it or forfeit his examinations. The varsity places a lot of importance on the ID that it advises a student who has lost this document to report the loss to a police station and acquire an abstract. “They will also be required to report the loss to their faculty offices from where they get a letter confirming the loss and their student status. After getting these two documents the student should report to the faculty library for a clearance note to indicate that the card is not held in the library.”

After all these processes, the student reports to the admissions office, located in the main campus, for a re-issue of the student card upon payment of the relevant fee. Another service that is both expensive and unnecessary to evening students is the students’ health scheme manned by the varsity’s principal medical officer. All students both undergraduate and postgraduate in regular and parallel degree programme are eligible and required to be members of the University Health Scheme. The scheme is all-inclusive and compulsory despite the fact that most of the parallel students are employed and thus have other medical service schemes in their places of work apart from the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF). To be member of the student health scheme, one must pay a prescribed medical fee, which ranges from Ksh.2,000 to Ksh.3,000; the student must also fill form known as 11/3. The student must sign this form and submit it to the office of the chief medical officer at the time of registration. This is meant to assess the clinical condition of the students before being admitted for studies.

This process, in most cases, is not adhered to. A number of students interviewed said they have neither been to the facility nor known where they are found as they are in college in the evening and weekends. The University clearly steers off providing vital medical services but instead has concentrated in what is easily available in most local clinics. In fact in the online version of the general information, the University says, “The medical care provided will preclude maternity care, pregnancy and pregnancy related complications and services received from private facilities.” Students who fall ill during working hours are advised to report direct to respective campus clinic with their university card for identification.

Although students with dental problems will be referred from university student clinics to the dental clinics at Kenyatta National Hospital for all dental services, which the university will pay for from the fee paid by the students, the university will not pay for crowns/bridges/orthodontic treatment, fillings, dentures or scaling.\" Most of these clinics that serve both staff and students are found in Chiromo Campus, Upper Kabete Campus, Kenyatta National Hospital, Kikuyu Campus, Lower Kabete Campus, Main Campus and Parklands Campus. At the end of the page the university says, “For optimum service, please try and attend the clinics during working hours.” Since this is socialized as opposed to market driven, it is common for one to miss a senior medical personnel in what the University calls non-working hours. These hours stretch from 5pm to 8am.

“There is a 20-meters pool at Parklands Campus and sports and recreation rooms in various students’ hall of residence for indoor games and martial arts,” says the website report adding that, all students, including the evening, are required to pay an activity fees of Ksh.1,000 per year. Further, new students are required to pay a computer laboratory charge of Shs 3.000 per year. Though the School of Journalism charges its graduate students Ksh. 5,000, there is no working printer and the users have to type their works and send them via email to somewhere else where they can print. “This is both cumbersome and expensive,” pointed out a student.

University of Nairobi and other public universities should shade off most of the non-core services that are available somewhere else and concentrate in offering education. These services such as computer laboratories, medical services, sports and union fees, among others should be optional. Students and staff seeking these services should pay in advance and an access card issued in order to discriminate the non-members from the paid-up members. The tuition fee paid by the learners that range between Ksh.8,000 to Ksh.12,000 per course should cater for computer training programme.

Students who wish to use a computer should have an option of either paying for the same or looking for alternative sources downtown, that are, in most cases, user-friendly and market-driven. Those who want to play should state which game they want to engage in a specific activity that has certain monetary value. Those who want to play table tennis should not pay the same amount as those seeking to engage in soccer. In other words, people should pay for what they need.

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