Sunday, 23 November 2008

Makerere students bear the yoke of tech business

By Mubatsi Asinja Habati

Makerere is turning into a petty business hub. Copiers, telephone sheds, secretarial bureaus, make-shift stationery shops and canteens are found in every corner of the university campus. In fact, one would say these technological devices have put the once spacious and greener campus under a litter-like siege.

In his book: Scholars on the Market Place, Prof. Mamdani says before the adoption of neo-liberal reforms, preached by the World Bank in 1990s, Makerere University was purely public. But after the Ugandan leaders accepted the World Bank advice, which argued that higher education was more of a private than a public good, with ‘uncritical enthusiasm of a convert’, Makerere University then became commercialized; the demands of the market began to define the priorities of the functioning of the university, making it to serve private purposes.

As such, Mamdani adds, some university administrators looked at the number of students as a translation into cash earned.
Currently at Makerere there are hardly any places or balconies where students can sit to rest or wait for the next lecture. Most of that space has been taken over by photocopiers. Some copiers are almost blocking the way. They dot every corridor in most faculties or schools. The Faculty of Arts, for instance has 19 photocopiers, there are 13 copiers at the School of Education and 8 at the Faculty of Social Sciences.

A big number of students The Independent spoke to alleged that some big-weight university employees own these most of these copiers and printer-typing businesses.

Dr. Hannington Ssengendo, Dean Faculty of Arts, told The Independent that it takes one to apply to the faculty and the Faculty Committee sees if there is space or not to allocate the photocopier. Thereafter the owner of the photocopier has to get a bank account from the faculty accountant on which to bank the money for the faculty.

When asked whether the photocopiers are not an eye sore in the faculty and owned by lecturers as claimed by students, Dr. Ssengendo said “whether they (photocopiers) are for teachers that’s not my problem, and what is wrong with a teacher owning a copiers? Lecturers are entitled to doing business like any other person.”

Halls of residence, schools and faculties are avenues for these businesses. To get a slot to put up your business you need to first consult the faculty/institute head if one intends to operate in any of these places; and the hall warden if the business is to be set up in the hall of residence thereafter pay a fee (rent) for the space or ground one operates from.

In fact, The Independent has discovered that in most cases whenever lecturers have notes handouts to give students they always direct them to pick those notes from specific photocopiers.

Whereas this development has brought services nearer to the students, the business might turn out to be a nuisance if not regulated as the copiers, secretarial bureaus are patched anywhere even under the space beneath stair steps. And students say they have little space to sit and read their books since the library capacity cannot accommodate all students at the university.

The students’ guild Minister of Information, Mr. Onesimus Twinamasiko, said the photocopier business at every corner of each building in the university has helped in bringing services nearer to students. “Students are able to photocopy at a lower costs as opposed to if there was one photocopier at each academic unit,” Mr. Twinamasiko added.

In faculties like that of Economics and Management where course units are done by at 2000 students, the business of photocopying is booming. Aisha Nakalanzi, who operates one of the photocopiers at the Faculty of Economics and Management, says: “whenever I get a handout of Shs1500 I always know about 1700 students would buy these notes. Here I know I am Shs2,550,000 richer”. This money is only from a single and simple handout.

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