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Parents of first-year university students who had hinged their hopes on funding from the government received a major shock after the institutions of higher learning gave them one week to clear all fees arrears. Tired of waiting for disbursement from the Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) and the University Fund Board, the institutions have said that only students who will have cleared fees balances for the first semester by end of this week will be allowed to sit for their exams.

Some universities have, however, indicated that only students who will have cleared 60 per cent of the fees by November 23, will be allowed to sit the end of semester examinations. The government has only disbursed the Helb loans to some students and for most cases, it has only remitted a fraction of the amount required. For instance, some students pursuing Bachelor of Science in Computer Science who are required to pay Sh153,800 have so far only received Sh45,000. But public universities now say that regardless of the “promised allocation” by the government, each student must pay the full fees if they are to remain in the institution.

For example, students at Kirinyaga University have been instructed to pay 60 per cent of the fees for the first semester by November 23, 2023 to be registered for registration of course units. “All students irregardless of the allocation MUST pay their due fees by the above date. Students who will not have cleared 60 per cent of the fees by the due date will not be able to access University facilities,” notice from the University Academic Registrar Wallace Kamau, dated November 17, 2023 states.

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Kirinyaga University, like all other public universities, is scheduled to commence its end of first semester examinations on December 4, 2023 ahead of the short break before Christmas. Other public universities that have already issued notices to students to pay all the first-year semester fees by the end of the week include Masinde Muliro, Masai Mara, Kisii, Maseno, Kenyatta, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Machakos, Kibabii, Dedan Kimathi and Karatina.

The directive by the universities has caught parents flat footed after the government delayed disbursement of the loans and scholarships even after promising that no student would be turned away from the public institutions due to lack of fees. The government had in August directed the universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to admit the students without payment of anything as it put its house in order after introducing a new funding model.

Yesterday, Prof Daniel Mugendi, who doubles up as the chairman of the Vice Chancellors Committee as well as the Embu University Vice Chancellor, said though each institution has its own policy in regard to fees clearance, it is imperative that students clear all fees before the end of each semester. “For example, we at Embu have a policy that all students clear their fees before they can sit for end of semester examinations and there is no compromise over that,” Prof Mugendi said.

He however said the Vice Chancellors Committee is yet to agree on how they handle the issue of the 2023 freshers whose loan and scholarship disbursements were delayed by the government.

“It is a very unfortunate situation for parents of first year students. But we are going to meet in the course of this week to see whether we can come up with a special consideration for the first years. The period given to the parents to clear the fees is just too short,” Prof Mugendi admitted.

Prof Stephen Kiama of University of Nairobi confirmed that though their hands have been tied on whether to defy the government directive and send away the students for fees, time has reached when they have made a decisive action. “As a measure towards our institutions getting out of financial crises, most of the public universities have decided not to allow students with fees balances to sit for end year semester examinations. I don’t think this policy is going to change despite the inherent technicalities occasioned by the delay to disburse the funds,” Prof Kiama said.

Although the government had last week indicated that it had finalised computing the funding modalities, only HELB has disbursed part of the funds to universities as it says it is still working on the TVETs one. No communication has been forthcoming from the University Funds Board, throwing the entire process into disarray. To further complicate matters, the government is yet to release the students’ funding categories, throwing the universities management into confusion over the amount of money each parent is required to pay.

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