Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Private universities are requesting the government to avail them with a fiscal stimulus to enable them re-open their gates to final year students.
Early this week, President Yoweri Museveni relaxed on the lockdown guidelines allowing educational institutions to resume in a phased manner starting with finalists, Primary seven, Senior four and senior six students and those in their final years in Universities and tertiary institutions.
But the move comes at a time when the institutions are facing financial challenges following a two-month lull brought about by an outbreak of coronavirus disease. Several of them had indefinitely suspended operations while others sent their staff on unpaid leave for the last two months.
Now, Professor John Ssenyonyi, the outgoing vice-chancellor of Uganda Christian University notes that unless they receive significant government support, they might fail to reopen given the immense financial impact of the coronavirus shutdown. He was speaking in his capacity as the chairman of the Vice-Chancellors’ Forum.
Professor John Chrysostom Maviiri, the vice-chancellor of Uganda Martyrs’ University notes that although the university is opening for a few students which on average might be 30 percent of the total number, several expenditures will not change.
Prof. Maviiri also notes that universities are not even sure that students who had not remitted tuition will pay on return given the fact that they are also equally affected by the lockdown. On top of the stimulus and tax breaks, he adds that they also need a grace period on basic payments like utilities.
Dr Mouhammad Mpezamihigo, the Vice-Chancellor of Kampala international university notes that if they are given government support, it will mean the higher education sector can maintain the capacity to play it’s vital role in a difficult period.
Prof. Vicent Kakembo, the Vice chancellor of Muteesa I Royal University notes that if the government doesn’t intervene, they are left with a single option of accessing finance through commercial banks which will certainly push the burden to the students in one or the other. But he fears that shifting the burden to students might throw a number of them out of school.
However, Professor Ssenyonyi, notes that commercial loans would be suicidal. He points at a possible transfer of students from institutions who might fail to reopen. But, he notes that the transfer option would come with a lot of challenges.