500/- FOR DAMAGES: IS OUR UNIVERSITY BROKE?

11th November, 2013. That’s the date you are supposed to report back to school with a deposit slip of 500/-, plus any other fee balance you have, in hand. In their own wisdom, and after many deliberations, during which you waited to be informed of the reporting date, the senate concluded that the damage caused during the riots was worth 500/- per student. With a population ranging between 5,000 and 7,000 students in the main campus, that comes to a total of between 2.5m and 3.5m. Without even bothering to establish a numerical estimate of the actual damage, you can see that someone is taking advantage. Or are they? I think we are all missing a point here, a very crucial point.
The major complaint I hear from comrades at DeKUT is that the admin does not realize that the students are the integral part of Kimathi university, that without them DeKUT is not a university anymore. Well, here comes the shocker, we, the students, are Kimathi university. I know you are thinking: “I already knew that”. Yes you did, but you might have missed what that means. It means that when Kimathi university gets buried in financial obligations, such obligations will trickle down to you in one way or another. A good example is what you are seeing now, 500/- per student for a damage that will probably cost less than 100,000/-, materials and labour included, to fix. Adding the cost of the food that was wasted in the mess and the staff canteen, and any other miscellaneous losses, the actual amount needed might turn out to be no more than 250, 000/-. But a university, like any business, needs to turn up revenue, otherwise it might go bankrupt.
Where does the university get its money? Government allocations and school fees must make the bulk of its income. Above that, we have local projects that generate revenue. Notably, farming is at the fore of income generating projects, with coffee being the main cash crop. The horticultural farms produce vegetables which are sold to both the staff and students alike. You might even have bought the pork from the pigs which are slaughtered sometimes. It may not raise much but it’s an ingenious way to raise money, maybe the university should think of doing the same on a large scale. Another source of revenue is the conservancy, although it is far from reaching its potential at the moment. One day, I expect it will be attracting quite a crowd of local tourists. Some people believe that the llama might be the next beast of burden in Kenya, replacing the donkey. Guess who has a head start breeding llamas! Kimathi university. That might be useful someday. Other universities, e.g. JKUAT and Strathmore, get funding from corporate partners. In JKUAT, Safaricom has provided an ICT centre to carry out research related to mobile telephony; in Strathmore, well, their tech centre is mind blowing, to say the least. I received a guided tour during a conference I had attended, and the scope of their research and innovation is like nothing I had ever imagined. All that is funded by corporate partners and sponsors; in one of their labs, each piece of computer hardware was provided by Samsung. Who are our partners? Maybe you can tell me because I do not know any.
If the university has all these sources of income, why then does it still want the 500/- most of us can ill afford to pay? Too much money is not enough money. If it were, Bill Gates would have quit Microsoft already. DeKUT has a lot of expenses – research, development projects, labour, overheads, etc. So even though there might actually be quite a huge amount of money at its disposal right now, most of it is budgeted for and more is needed. Therefore, at the end of the day, the university has to raise more money. That is why an opportunity like this cannot be left to pass; we gave the university a chance to charge us, and they have. The question remains: What do they intend to do with the extra money? Maybe it will be used to improve one of the numerous things students are always complaining about; but again we will probably never know where any of it went. As a student, however, you have a responsibility to follow up on its use.
I wish universities were like public companies which have to gazette their annual returns. That kind of financial transparency would be quite helpful in helping us understand why some things take forever to get done around here. Why do we have such a tiny student centre, no gym to speak of, such poor Wi-Fi, shortage of hostels, inadequate academic facilities, and those transport problems? Can it be that the university just does not have the money to improve them? Are we broke? That makes me wonder whether the administration would even be honest enough to tell us if they do not have enough money. There is a bad history of lack of communication from the administrators to the students. On some level, this contributes to the dissatisfaction with the administration that characterizes most students. No one likes being kept in the dark about issues that affect them. Personally, I would like to know why development is slow in our university. Those buildings that take years to complete, is it because money for raw materials or labour is never at hand? That DSTV that goes for weeks before subscription is renewed, is it because we do not have enough money? Maybe someone forgot to include it in the budget.
When I was going home, I thought the charges for damages would be upwards of 1000/- per student. Another friend of mine had psychologically prepared himself for the amount to be 2000/-. The one thing we agreed on was that the charges would be highly out of proportion to the damage, and we have turned out to have been right mostly. Perhaps it could have been better if the university had charged us an even 1000/-. Then the extra two or three millions could have been used to start off construction of any one of the many things we need in Kimathi. We all know what we need: hostels or more buses, a larger or alternate student centre, lecture halls, better internet (cable LAN and wifi), a swimming pool, and you can possibly name more. Now we need to ask ourselves, if the administration clearly proved to you that it has no enough money, would you be willing to add your 500/- to finance these things we need so they can be built faster?

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