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By Isingoma John, Ultimate Media
In the recent past, there has been an increase in the number of students seeking admission into universities. This is evidenced by the long queues at Makerere and other universities during the time of applying to enter into the universities.
Many universities have in turn been increasing on the number of students they admit year after year. This has prompted concern from the public over the availability of enough space in terms of lecture theaters, sports facilities, parking lots, libraries, office for administrators and staff, entertainment, leisure, computer and other laboratories, among others to adequately cater for all the needs of the increasing number of students in the universities.
Questions have been asked whether the universities have space to handle the increasing number of students or what they are planning to do to solve the space challenges brought about by the increased students enrollment.
Several Universities The Focus visited in mid-September 2005 acknowledged the challenges of limited space, a factor, which affects students’ academic and social life at the University.
The University Secretary of Ndejje University, Adonia Kyeyune says that Ndejje being new and still growing has limited space and is lacking a number of facilities.
“But we have tried to put up the minimum required structures as classrooms, a spacious library and the newly constructed science laboratories,” Kyeyune says.
According to the Estates Manager, Makerere University, Engineer James Bakuru Ssempa, Makerere does not have enough space in form of lecture rooms and other facilities to cater for the ever-increasing numbers of students at Makerere.
He told The Focus that in the bid to cope up with the pressure of numbers, Makerere University has decided to develop a master plan with the aim of meeting the current students demands of more space for academic structures.
Bakuru says that since the introduction of self-sponsorship scheme in 1990, the University started facing the problem of limited space in offering quality education.
The Public Relations Officer, Uganda Christian University Mukono, Catherine Morris, says that though there is concern of limited space to handle the increasing number of students at Mukono University; the University has enough space to cater for the increasing number of students joining the University.
Morris says that the university with a student population of about 3800 has made it an important priority to meet the students’ space needs. “We are realizing this through the construction of structures including the new classroom block, which will be in use by the students in the academic year 2005/2006,” she said in an interview.
“We have 21 lecture rooms on the campus but we have increased the umber following the completion of a classroom block that houses seven-lecture rooms,” Morris says.
But this is hardly an indication of the University being at the top of solving its space problems. The Guild office for example is accommodated in a small two-roomed house. One room is for the Guild President and his cabinet and the other is for administrative purposes and is occupied by the secretary.
Apart from limited lecturing space, all universities cannot accommodate the students they admit. Makerere University for example has never built another hall of residence since the introduction of private sponsorship, which saw students increase from 7, 000 to 40, 000 as per 2004/2005 academic year statistics.
Students have to come from their homes or hostels where they are accommodated which in turn affects their academic life. But even those who stay in Halls of residence at the University, inconveniences abound as congestion takes its toll.
In many halls, rooms which used to house one student now house two while some four (sleeping on double deckers), while using the hall facilities like dining hall, compound and senior common is only possible if there are no lectures going on the dinning halls, or discussions and meetings going on in the compounds.
Even at Uganda Christian University Mukono the present rooms accommodate between one and three students depending on the amount of money a student can afford to pay. Morris says that the university is constructing a multi-complex building, which will house 100-residential rooms to add on to the present eight halls.
Olive Eyotaru, a third year Mass Communication student at Mukono Christian University says that the lecture rooms on the campus are spacious and conducive for the students to study and read. She however adds that the rooms in the halls of residence are not spacious enough and this has led many of the students to instead look for hostel accommodation, which are more spacious, comfortable and cheaper.
Then if students cannot study and sleep comfortably, do they have enough space to engage in recreational and leisure activities?
Peninah Kabenge the senior sports tutor Makerere University says that playing space at the university has not changed since it was planned and established at the beginning of the university.
She adds that due to too much pressure exerted on the playing grounds, the grounds have lost their vegetation cover and that they are now bear hence making it uncomfortable use.
Kabenge also says that lack of interest by the university authority in sports has led to limited funding and the resultant effect of poor quality sports facilities at the university.
She says that the university has one multipurpose field, a swimming pool, two all-weather valley ball courts, one netball court, two basketball courts, two squash courts and two tennis courts.
The tutor however says that the university lacks indoor sport facilities, which she says that the university only improvises by using spaces in the halls of residence.
Kennedy Kiprono a student of education at Ndejje University says that space for recreational activities at Ndejje University is enough especially if it is serving the current number of students at the university. He says that the university has provided enough playing grounds to offer a conducive sports environment.
But what amount of sports facility ground is enough to constructively and consistently engage even 5000 students at even the new Universities?
Martin Kawuki a diploma student of Kampala International University says that the University has only two playing areas. A basketball court and one tennis court.
Efforts to get a comment on campus space from administrators at Kampala International University were futile as all those approached said the issue was very sensitive “for them to just give out the information to whoever wanted it.”
Sarah Nantongo the Library Assistant Ndejje University says that the main Library capacity is 120 students and enough to seat students who are in need of the service at all the time.
According to the National Council for Higher Education Checklist of Quality and Institutional Capacity, an ideal Library is one where each student has 2.5m squared as reading space.
The increase in students’ enrollment has inevitably meant that Universities get more lecturers to handle the increased academic load. But in many of the universities, this has not been matched by increase in office/administrative space.
Charles Rugyaima Mwesigye a lecturer of English language and literature at Ndejje University says that in his office they are three desks yet the users are more than the available desks.
He says the university is currently constructing a structure, which after its completion he predicts will improve the space around Ndejje University.
John Baligira a lecturer in the department of History Makerere University says that the space in his office and furniture is very adequate and comfortable.
He says apart from part time lecturers and students who do not have defined places, the university has enough space for the staff and administrators.
The lecturer however notes that students especially during examinations and tests have a big problem of space whereby students sometimes attend lectures while standing and staring from windows.
Morris of UCU says that in order for the university to create more space and buildings for the increasing number of students, there is need for availability of enough cash.
“The recurrent university costs are easy to fund,but the capital development costs like buildings are hard to fund,” she says.
She appeals to the government to waive the heavy taxes that private universities are charged, and instead offer financial assistance to the universities in order for the Universities to manage to create the required space.