I dropped out of campus 2 years ago due to financial constraints. Before dropping out, it had been a 7 year struggle for me trying to get a degree to no avail. I had attained the cluster points necessary for me to gain admission into campus in my country in the KCSE examinations. However, I was more than sure that the Course I would be considered for, if I did join Public University as a Regular student, wouldn’t be something I had a passion of pursuing.
And so like many other Kenyan students in a similar predicament, I opted for the Parallel Course. By opting for that, I knew that I would be a self-sponsored student unlike the government sponsored Regular Course students. I knew that I would have to pay way higher for my tuition fee than the latter category. However, I found comfort in the fact that I would still be eligible for the HELB loan. Thanks to the government considering the fact that there were indeed needy students in the Parallel programme.
But there was an advantage for parallel students in Public Universities. Unlike their counterparts in the Regular Programme who took longer to finish their courses in campus. The parallel students are usually in a crash form of programme. Within 3 years, a student is done with their undergraduate studies. Considering this in mind and seeing that I had always excelled in Languages and Humanities, I chose a Course I had a passion for. Little did I know that this would prove to be a grueling process which ended in me having to drop out.
I was a HELB loan beneficiary four times. However, with the exorbitant tuition fees, my annual loan of 55,000 Kshs only catered for 4 of my units in a Semester. It did help a long way seeing that I was in dire financial constraints with a strong zeal to attain a degree but at the same time, it wasn’t enough. Now my narration is not an attempt to draw a pity party kind of scenario to myself. Neither is it a ploy to point fingers at the Government sponsored student loan. As a matter of fact, I will still go back to campus to finish my degree but this time round, in a Private University.
Why have I opted for a Private University?
Private Universities have in the past been associated with students from well off families. Parents who could afford to pay campus fee totaling around 100,000kshs per semester without factoring in accommodation and pocket money. I personally plan to educate myself in a Private University from my own pocket. I’m psychologically prepared for the tuition fee I would be required to pay. But I’m certain that the quality of education I would attain from an established Private University would be higher than the one I attained in a Public University.
I’m not trying to insinuate that Public Universities are for the poor and of bare minimum quality of education. Indeed, some of our Public Universities in Kenya have been in existence from the colonial times and have since created a name for themselves, in some of the courses where they are known to churn out the best professionals. The one I was enrolled in was no different. However, it is no secret that many of our Kenyan Institutions of Higher Learning have in recent times, leaned more on the money making side of things than of giving quality education.
I was paying close to 100.000kshs per semester in a degree course offered by a Public University under the Parallel Programme. Not much difference from a student purported to be from a well off family in an established renowned Private University. Indeed many of us struggled a lot with school fee to the extent of dropping out. We were advised to get funding in the form of student loans but that did only a little to ease our tuition fee financial burdens. At some point, we started feeling as if we were being punished heavily, for failing to join campus via the government sponsored regular programme, if the frustrating high tuition fee was anything to go by.
Young Kenyans are hungry for education. However, being an average performer further hampers this dream in the youth of Kenya. For this post, I chose not to refer to any of the statistics given, but rather to relay the situation on the ground just as I have equally experienced it. When Garissa University happened, it was evident the high number of needy students in Kenyan Campuses. Many of the Garissa University victims were students from poor families, who had ended up in campus through the government sponsorship admission. They simply wanted to learn and eventually improve their livelihoods.
These are the things the government needs to look at. I’m 100% sure that a majority of the Garissa University students were HELB beneficiaries. HELB really helps the needy Regular students and especially, if you manage to get the maximum amount of around 50,000Kshs, according to an article on the Business Daily website dated January 27 2015 which is a reduction from the previous maximum amount of 60,000kshs. The regular course tuition fee is way reasonable as compared to the parallel course. However, you will be highly surprised that many Kenyan students still miss out on this. Reason being, that they fail to gain admission into Public Universities perhaps, due to the marks they attained in their KCSE in high school and therefore, their parents cannot afford to enroll them into parallel programmes as an alternative.
The student leaders in our Public Universities do little to help with the plight of struggling students in the Parallel Programme. It is almost like over time, the student leaders have developed an insensitivity toward their counterparts who are not in the Regular programme like them. They appear to assume that since they are paying much higher than them, then they can definitely afford it and therefore, need no representation whatsoever. I will confidently state that while in campus, I paid annually for the student leadership as part of my tuition fee. An amount of 1,000kshs. Higher than what the Regular Student pays. And never once, did I hear our student leader address the plight of the parallel programme students, except hollering over cheap, unnecessary politics that hardly concerned education.
My intention in stating the above is not to create a rift but rather to address the deep rooted issues that are ailing our higher education as a country. We need more enlightened Kenyans. We need more degrees in our nation. It doesn’t matter whether this person with a degree will go the formal employment way or not. Education empowers you as an individual. Once literate, you cannot reason like someone who has never been to school and this is way important in the development of a nation. As much as there are concrete reasons as to why there are Parallel as well as Regular courses, it is time we asked ourselves critically if everyone who had initially been targeted by these crucial decisions, is in essence benefiting from them.
There are quite a number of our Kenyan students in foreign universities abroad. We need to ask ourselves why this is so other than dismissing this fact to their parents having money to send them abroad. Why aren’t the Western countries sending their students to Africa to study? Not unless they are on exchange programmes or in universities with an affiliation with some of the best universities in the West? What can we do as a nation to improve the quality of our education in higher learning institutions and in the process, ensure that a larger percentage of our Kenyan youth are in campus to the end? What do our student leaders in campus need to really fight for?
These are questions that are posed to all of us and not just individuals.