Society / Education
Friday, 23 Dec 2016 20:09 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
As Maasai Mara University plans to open in the first week of January, students at the institution are at a loss as to the huge penalties being demanded of them for damages during a recent strike that many say the administration has exaggerated in order to raise revenues. The university also faces the challenges of having undergraduate put off due to a crisis in paying part time lecturers, many of whom have been boycotting classes, according to students.
On 17 November, students of Maasai Mara University main campus went on strike. They cited three reasons for their action: the university administration losing student papers and transcripts leading to them failing to graduate due to the missing marks. Part-time lecturers had also gone missing, adversely affecting academic programmes at the campus. And lastly, a student was hit by a boda boda motorcyclist.
The strike started in the late morning and police were called in. They ordered students to leave the campus immediately, giving them five minutes to collect their belongings. During the course of the strike, some students broke window panes of the mess hall and also caused damage to the small guardhouse.
However, on 30 November, the university, seeking ways to increase revenues, sent an internal memo to all students informing them that the Senate at a meeting held on same day, had decided to ask them to report back on 6 December. The memo noted: “Please note that no student will be allowed into the university compound before meeting the following conditions:-
1). Completion of fee arrears, 2). Payment of a fine of Sh5,000 to cover damages arising from the strike, 3). Signing of a bond of good conduct."
A few days later, the university cancelled the reopening for unknown reasons. In the same week, information was received that Maasai Mara University owed part-time lecturers more than Sh70 million in payment arrears, with some of the debts dating as far back as 2013. The university authorities have since moved the reopening to 6th and 7th January, 2017 with the same conditions being maintained.
The biggest wonder in all these goings-on is the exorbitant fine of Sh5,000/- imposed on each student for the very minor damage caused. If we take the student population to be 8,000. This comes to a whooping 40 million from the little fine. It's obvious that the strike came at the right to assist the varsity in paying the part-time lecturers a good portion of their arrears.
The question to ask is when will the indefatigable Cabinet Secretary for Education, Dr Fred Matiang'i, turn his attention to these errant administrators who are shamelessly exploiting hard-pressed parents. Many public universities are facing cash crises but this is no excuse for extortion of parents.