By Francis Kagolo
Parliament has passed a motion recommending a review of the district quota system for admission of students to public universities.
In a statement issued, the legislators also resolved that all girls joining university benefit from the 1.5 extra points, which is currently only given to those straight from A-level.
“Though the district quota system was well intentioned, it has not been beneficial to rural students wishing to offer traditional science courses like human medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture and engineering,” said Kyaka MP William Kwemara, who moved the motion.
The district quota system started in 2005/2006 to address the inequitable access to university education by students from various districts. This was because the selection of students to be sponsored by the Government was primarily based on academic merit.
The district quota system was introduced to enable bright but underprivileged students who would otherwise be left out on the merit or general admission scheme.
Every academic year, 896 students are admitted to public universities on Government sponsorship under the district quota system. Under the current system, all districts take an equal share of the available slots.
But lately the district quota system has attracted criticism. The critics argue that the government sponsorship is not reaching the intended beneficiaries. The Government reserves 75% of the 4,000 government scholarships, translating into 3,000 places for programmes critical to national development.
Of the remaining 25% (1,000 slots), 896 slots go to the district quota system; 40 to talented sports persons; and 64 to students with special needs.
The quota system also ended up benefiting mostly students from well-to-do urban families who, by virtue of their financial and social stand, could access good schools, with better facilities like labs and well-trained teachers right from nursery up through high school.
These stood a better chance of passing with good grades and be admitted on government sponsorship. Rural bright students could not compete favourably with their urban counterparts because they lacked facilities.
The state minister for higher education, Chrysestom Muyingo had recommended that the motion be referred to the committee on education where all stakeholders including the university senate, students, and parents would present their views.
However, Parliament directed the ministry of education to take action on the issues raised in the motion and report to Parliament within one month. In addition, Parliament resolved that the Committee on Education follows up on the issues raised in the motion.
Kwemara said the 1.5 extra points given to girls should be irrespective of age and should cover girls joining university through mature age entry scheme, diploma holders’ scheme and other admission programmes.
He also expressed unease over the pre-entry examination into the law course recently introduced at Makerere University as an aptitude in the admission process.
He said that the pre-entry requirement does not take into consideration the similar pre-entry requirements for prospective students wishing to be admitted to the university on the mature age entry and diploma holder scheme which unnecessarily creates a double examination burden.