Owing to the high demand for higher education the government of Kenya was forced to introduce cost sharing in higher education in the early 1991/1992 academic year, so as to allow the public purse to cater to health, infrastructure, primary education and eradicate poverty. The cost-sharing policy that was implemented in all public universities in Kenya. The policy advocates that costs of higher education should be shared between the government, parents, students and/or donor organizations. It was a radical policy change from “the state-centered model” of financing universities to “the market competitive model” that was necessitated by the economic recession in the country in the 1980s.
The University management saw the need to create the Office of the Special Student Advisor (the office has been renamed as Financial Aid Office) to ensure that needy students do not fail to pursue their academic studies due to lack of finances or other challenges and it was immediately established. The mission is to provide to needy students an enabling environment and safety net though advisory, counseling and guidance services. Our vision is to support students to achieve their academic goals and aspirations. And our core values are confidentiality, empathy, professionalism, quality customer service, strong social responsibility, teamwork and tolerance.
The office is involved in the following activities;
- Liaise with the relevant educational authorities on behalf of the students.
- To act as a bridge between students and the university administration.
- To provide proficient advisory and counselling services to current and prospective students.
- To source for financial assistance for needy students.
The stakeholders are;
- University staff.
- University colleges.
- Higher Education Loans Board.
- Daisy Eye Cancer Fund.
- Rattansi Educational Trust
- Southface Organisation of Spain.
- Embassy of the Peoples Republic of China.
- Pathways Organisation.
- University Academic Staff Union, UON Chapter.
- Kenya University Staff Union, UoN Chapter.
- Alumni Association.
- Rotary Club of Nairobi.
The office registers regular needy students who thereby qualify for bursaries, work study programme, scholarship and other assistance. The procedure for registration starts with the students being introduced to the office by the Special Student Advisor during the Orientation Week. Others are referred to the office by university staff or the general public. At the office or through the office website, they get details about the required information and procedure for registration. In particular, they have to write application letters detailing their family backgrounds and financial status.
The application letters are then vetted by the Special Student Advisor for due processing. Complete applications are then issued with serial numbers and the same communicated to the students through the e-mail. Following on this, two letters are then dispatched to their referees (local assistant chief/chief and religious person) seeking confirmation of the applicants family backgrounds. The applications and the reference letters are then filed.
ALLOCATION OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE
Once favorable reference letters are received, a student is allocated a bursary according to the following;
- A student with two peasant parents/low cadre employee Sh. 4,000
- One with a single mother Sh. 6,000
- An orphan Sh. 8,000
- Work Study Program
Those students who prefer to enroll in the go to Work Study Programme instead of getting a bursary are recommended to the departments where there are vacant positions.
Once donors confirm their willingness to sponsor students, scholarships are advertised. And in this case, the main criterion is good academic performance besides being needy and fully registered in the office. Moreover, applications are initially assessed by the office before being forwarded to the prospective donor for the final decision.
d. Special Cases
In some instances, students face acute financial problems due to theft of their personal effects or calamities befalling their families. Such students are awarded special grants depending on the prevailing circumstances.
The office received donations from ten donors. And the biggest contributors are the Rattansi Educational Trust, University of Nairobi Alumni Association, University of Nairobi (Needy Students Fund) and the Chinese Embassy.
Others are The South face Organization, College of Humanities And Social Sciences, College of Education And External Studies, Rotary Club of Nairobi, University Academic Staff Union and the Kenya University Staff Union.
COUNSELLING AND GUIDANCE
Over the years, some students have faced academic, family, medical and social problems. In such incidents, the office has undertaken to intercede for them. For example, orphans have been assisted to access fund from the Public Trustee or where parents have refused to support their offspring, it has been necessary to seek the assistance of lawyers free of charge.
- Student Management Information System (SMIS)
The office has continued to be a beehive of activity. All the procedures are done manually. For that reason, it had requested its inclusion in the SMIS for ease of processing applications and the bursaries. But this is still pending apparently due to financial constraints. However, as an alternative the office decided to ensure that students are informed of the status of their applications through the office e-mail. This has saved them precious time and money from travelling from their campuses to the office. And for the office, it has considerably reduced the number of students who have to travel to the Main Campus for consultations. Nevertheless, there are many students who still visit the office for consultations and advice.
B. Slow Rate Of Processing.
Over the years, the office has experienced a low level of processing due to non-cooperation by referees, unwarranted change of referees, submission of incorrect contact addresses and the fact that there are no deadlines as applications are welcome throughout the year. As well the finance department sometimes delays in completing the disbursement process.
C. Cheating and Forgery
The office has noted an increase in cases of cheating and forgery in spite of, a number of students being expelled at the commencement of the Needy Students Programme. But this was considered to be too harsh resulting in only a few cases being reported for disciplinary action or simply being disqualified from the programme.
The staff manning the office is not consummate with the volume of work. This has led to serious overload. In view of this, there is a dire need of solving the problem.
- There are more than fifteen thousand registered needy students and currently around 12,126 students have benefited from different programs. I believe if these students can be tracked, they are more than willing to give back to the current needy students.
- University of Nairobi is a Big Brand. Alumni who serves in corporate world are very willing to come in and b part of this programme if an elaborate and transparent policy is laid down to guide the whole procedure.
- The university management have been very supportive and annually allocating generously to the needy student funds vote. Proposals of income generating projects could be initiated to support the needy students and the management are willing to approve and support where necessary.
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