Students up in arms over bursary delay

April 10, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, April 9 – Students from the Kenya Polytechnic University College Wednesday boycotted end of term examinations, protesting laxity by the college administration in allocating bursary funds to needy students.

The students blocked the busy Haile Selassie Avenue, paralysing transport on the busy road for nearly one hour before security officers moved in and dispersed them.

The secretary general of the Students Union, Innocent Ratemo noted that the administration had sent needy students away for fee arrears prior to the onset of the examinations.

“Bursaries have been given but these funds have not trickled down to our students, some of whom were affected by the post election violence,” Ratemo explained.

Their efforts to march to the Ministry of Education headquarters at Jogoo House, to present their grievances to the Minister were however thwarted by the police.

The Government allocated bursary funds amounting to Sh4.5 million to the institution for the current financial year. The polytechnic administration annually donates a further Sh300,000 while the student’s union contributes Sh150,000 to the internal bursary fund.

But the College’s Principal Gabriel Muthwale explained that the Education Ministry had not released the funds, and stated that union officials had derailed the internal bursary allocation process.

“This year they have overdrawn their account to an extent that I was unable to charge it so that the bursaries could be awarded. So we reached an understanding that they write to me explaining how they are going to raise the money before I could authorise the accountant to lend them the money,” Muthwale noted.

The Principal informed that the union officials had submitted the letter on Monday afternoon and he had since authorised the bursary allocations after consulting with the bursary committee.

The students however also accused the college management of tampering with the process of upgrading the college to a University.

“Where is the University and who is blocking it?” asked the Union’s Secretary.

Muthwale, in his defence, pointed out that the upgrading process had been derailed by ‘bureaucratic processes’ at the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Under the government regulations the Ministry of Science and Technology is mandated to appoint a Council that will take over the management of the College. It is expected to recruit a Principal and a senior management team. The ministry is yet to appoint the Council members.

Muthwale however indicated that the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry had on Friday assured that the process was in the pipeline.

The institution was upgraded to a constituent College of the University of Nairobi last year as a transitional status in the process of making it a full-fledged University.

The College, which is a leading institution in the region in the training of technical courses, is set to introduce five-year programs where students will spend the first three years for their respective diplomas and upgrade them to degrees in the last two years of the programme.

Another five polytechnics were also upgraded but lack the infrastructure befitting their new status. These colleges are expected to retain their identity and continue offering certificate and diploma courses.

The students also faulted the Principal for charging them tuition fees during their industrial attachment period and an extra attachment fee. They also alleged that he had reduced their Academic Trip allowance from Sh600 to Sh300.

Muthwale absolved himself of blame noting that the levies were determined by a policy in the school regulations.

“These are historical issues that we are currently looking into.”

He expressed optimism that the exams would go on and denied reports that the students had boycotted them.

“We are progressing on well and I have not received any reports of missed exams,” he affirmed.

The students were last in the streets in January protesting the extension of opening dates by the College following the post election crisis.


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