Students in public universities have warned the government over an impending ‘Mother of all Strikes’ at a press conference. Through their leaders, the students are demanding the Education Cabinet Secretary withdraws his earlier statement that University School fees might be reviewed upwards.
The press conference, organized by the Kenya University Students Organization, was rather unusual as they were joined by Members of Parliament. The MP for Kiharu, Irungu Kang’ata, reiterated that it is repugnant for the Cabinet Secretary to review school fees upwards as it is going to block needy students from accessing university education.
Babu Owino, the Chairman of Students Organization of Nairobi University, said that they are planning to hold a ‘mother of all strikes’ on Tuesday 20th May to demand that the current fees be reduced by 50 percent and HELB loan increased up to Sh100,000 from the current Sh60,000.
‘’We have tried to book for an appointment with the Cabinet Secretary to register our concerns and fears about rising the university fees but he has refused. We are going to use law and forceful means if he insists,’ said Babu Owino.
Mr. Irungu, a former SONU Chairman, promised to mobilize other members of parliament to block the move by the government. He said that other MP’s who were student leaders will join the movement. On matters of HELB, the MP said that he would push for the disbandment of the body as it is poorly managed and needy students are not benefiting from it.
All indications show there will be a stand of as HELB has indicated that it will reduce the loans it gives to students by Sh25,000. This means that a student who previously got Sh60,000 will now get Sh35,000. Charles Ringera, the Chief Executive Officer of HELB, has said that the number of students applying for the loan has increased exponentially while at the same time the government has not added them more money.
Currently, up to 154,000 students are supported by HELB in public Universities and 10,000 in tertiary universities. The Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service has announced that it has increased the intake of students from 53,000 in 2012 to 58,000 in 2013, an increase by over 4000. This is going to create a deficit in the loan kitty, which will force HELB to slash the amount each student gets.