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THE TRAGEDY OF OUR UNIVERSITY EDUCATION IS FINALISTS WHO CLING TO STUDENT ROOMS
t’s the criteria that a country uses to admit its university students that tell you everything you need to know about the state of education in the country in question. In Kenya, we use bed space.
Admitting students who will be important actors in the development of the nation through the number of bed spaces available is the tragedy of our education.
Every year, thousands of potential world-class engineers, economists, doctors and teachers are left at home hopeless because institutions of higher learning in Kenya cannot find a bed for them.
The number of students seeking university education by 2015 will range from 160,000 to 180,000. About 100,000 more will miss to join unless more opportunities-like increased bed spaces- are created. By 2020, the state plans to increase admission numbers to a respectable ratio of at least 15 per cent.
Where will all these students live? Will university administrators destroy roofs so that they can pile beds over each other to fit all the numbers?
There has to be a paradigm and radical rethinking on how to address the increasing demand for bed space.
The pre-condition of admission of students is slowly being de-linked from bed spaces to the availability of academic and tuition facilities.
The government policy of de-linking admission from bed capacity is expected to help boost enrolment by an estimated 10 per cent in universities and 60 per cent in technical institutions.
During the recently held Joint Admissions Board (JAB) meeting, university chiefs seemed to agree on accelerated intake and double intake. Only UON VC Prof George Magogha insisted that “facilities like bed space and lecture halls” could not allow him to easily play with the plan.
The number of students who applied to join public universities in the academic year 2011/2012 increased from 57, 660 in 2010/2011 to 67,237 but the declared capacity was 27,833, a cut-off of 64 points.
But the meeting agreed to give “embrace difficulties” and allow an extra 3,971 students to be admitted using a new minimum cut off of 63 points
This figure of 3,971 is already creating problems for universities. Students continue streaming to accommodation offices demanding to be allocated rooms.
There are several probable solutions to the ticking time bomb in 2012 once all students who score C+(over 96,000 students scored C+ and above in 2010 KCSE) and above are admitted to universities.
One, public universities should think of privatizing management of accommodation facilities. This practice happens in a number of institutions of higher learning in developed nations.
Secondly, there should be increased partnerships with private developers. For instance, universities can fund entrepreneurs to come up with appropriate, affordable and appropriate accommodation for all students including married ones. This should happen within set standards with both sides benefiting.
For instance, Maseno University has invited interested individuals or firms to offer accommodation to students both at Maseno University and Kisumu City Campus College.
Thirdly, universities should stop lying to students about accommodating them and make it very clear who gets accommodated and who doesn’t. Use of the online system or balloting is a big gamble.
UON insists that a computer “picks” your name. Those who don’t get accommodated are quickly requested to blame their bad luck with the online system. In KU, the student union insists that those who were accommodated in the previous semester to be given priority. Seems like disturbing their hostel lives might be so chaotic to their lives! When this gets controversial, they use the time bomb balloting system.
Their argument even in UON that makes use of their “brainy computer” is that third year, fourth year and other final students must first get accommodated. Or be lucky with the system.
The basis of their argument is that those towards the end of the line in their university education must be given ample time to finish from the university. What about the first year student straight from the village who doesn’t know where else to look for accommodation?
Unlike us, high-ranking universities in the world make it a priority to accommodate all new first year students before thinking about the third, fourth and fifth year students, our grandmas and grandpas, whom we have to make their old age in campus comfortable.
These university hostels are partly responsible for moulding graduates with a do-for-me mentality.
Although university hostels make it easy for learners, there is some one who cleans the toilet, cheap food at the mess, better socializing with classmates, they are also responsible for the “delayed” development of today’s young people.
These are the ones who go through campus and come home without knowledge on how a home can be run, how much a spoon costs, don’t know where to switch electricity from and still suffer from that mentality that a “student is always right.”
By the end of their second year of study, they should “mature”, run away from hostels and start staying in outside hostels or rooms were a visiting lady or male friend during any period of the day or night does not book you a date with the university disciplinary committee.
By engaging in the accommodation business so as to get cheap cash at the expense of their core function that is the provision of education (an area they are doing so badly), Kenyan Universities are missing the moment.