By Innocent Anguyo
Scores of Kyambogo University students will not sit for their end of semester exams because they have gambled their tuition fees, according to the entity’s acting vice chancellor Prof Eli Katunguka.
Katunguka noted that most of the students who owe money to Kyambogo were given tuition fees by their parents but preferred to gamble it, as opposed to remitting it to the university.
While addressing the press at the university, Katunguka said the university will not allow students with outstanding fees balances to sit for exams.
The electronic fees payment system closed on Wednesday, after three extensions, leaving out hundreds of students. Once the system closes, the Kyambogo tuition collection account equally closes.
“Some of these students use their fees for gambling, lose it and then fail to pay the university. How do you receive a service you have not paid for?” Katunguka said.
Gambling, especially sports betting is popular among Kyambogo University students. Along a 200-metre stretch of road from the southern Kyambogo gate to Banda trading center, there are over 13 sports betting companies.
Some of the companies include Premier Bet, Goal sports betting, King sports betting, Victory sports betting, Imperial sports betting, Royal sports betting, Best sports betting, Gemex sports betting and Bingo sports betting.
According to officials in the betting companies, their target customers are the students. They also said their largest customer base comprises students.
As much as the National Lotteries Board (NLB) requires all betting centres in Kampala city to be 200 metres away from public facilities, some of those in Kyambogo defy this guideline with some located as close as 50 meters from the university boundary.
Lubwama, a manager of one of the betting companies said that many students often bet using their fees, especially after ruining their upkeep money.
Sports betting Lubwama said is very addictive.
“Once you have started winning some small money, you will always want to win more, subsequently losing all your money in further attempts. As much as we tell the students not bet using their fees, they always tell us to mind our business,” said Shiraj, one of the officials.
Although some students eventually recoup their investment, most lose huge amounts of money, according to Lubwama.
“Someone may stake sh20, 000 and win sh500, 000. Then, he will stake the whole fees so that he can win millions. Most of them lose the bet and start crying that it was their fees that they used,” narrated Lubwama.
Other students are influenced by their peers to bet using their fees. “When he wins a bet today, tomorrow he will bring his friend to also try. The multiplier effect keeps on growing.” Said Maisha, a Kenyan betting businessman.
The sports betting companies are milking Kyambogo students dry. Andrew Mpairwe, a student of education says he has used all his upkeep money for betting and now has to rely on handouts to buy meals.
John Baryomunsi has sold most of his personal effects such as basins, shoes, sugar, soap and bags to raise money for betting.
Lubwama said he collects at least sh3m every day from his sports betting business and pays out about sh200, 000 won by gamblers; leaving a profit of sh2.8m.
Late last year, James Mpiirwe, the then acting NLB board secretary in the last financial year, casinos and gaming companies brought sh8b into the national coffers and are expected to fetch sh12b this financial year.
Kyambogo University students on Friday demonstrated over the closure of the electronic fees payment system before they could meet their financial obligations for the semester.
The students pitched camp at the senate building, asking the university authorities to reopen the system and extend the fees payment deadline for at least a week, to no avail. Kyambogo puts estimates of the number of students who have not paid fees at 2% of the total students population of 24,000.
Samuel Malinga, a second year student of social sciences said he has been carrying his tuition fees of sh630, 000 since Thursday but can’t pay it because the bank officials told him that the electronic fees remittance system has closed.
Students who don’t sit for exams will get retakes. Kyambogo students start exams tomorrow (on Monday).
Although, the computer program can be revised to reopen the electronic payments system, Katunguka said it will remain shut until next semester, on grounds that resurrecting it now would interfere with exams.
Last semester, at least 100 Kyambogo students missed exams over failure to pay fees on time.