By EUNICE RUKUNDO, Ultimate Media
With just 15points from her A Level exam results, Jean Ayikoru Longo would not have made it to any university on government sponsorship, leave alone join Makerere University. Yet the fact that she managed to scoop that many points although she is blind is proof that she could have performed better if she were completely able bodied like the other students she was competing with for university admissions at Noah’s Ark secondary school and other secondary schools allover the country.
“I had to depend on my friends to read for me, guide and explain some things. Of courses they also understood things better than I did like graphs and went around their studies like the other tasks easier than I could,” she says.
With an additional 5.5points however, Ayikoru amassed 20.5points, which earned her admission to Makerere University as a Government sponsored student to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Social Administration. She is now in her 2nd academic year. She also serves as the Minister of the People Living with Disabilities in Africa Hall.
People Living With Disabilities sponsorship scheme
Ayikoru’s is a case of an able but disadvantaged students benefiting from the government university admissions policies in place to enable special case students access higher education facilities and compete favorably with the other citizens (students).
Ayikoru benefited from the 4points given to disabled students and 1.5 points given to female students as affirmative action points to enable them compete favourably for university education.
While the 1.5points are accorded every female that sits for their senior 6 exams in this country and applies for higher education in a public university, not every disabled student bags a sponsorship under the People Living with Disabilities scheme sponsorship. “There are about 64 slots reserved for the disabled for government scholarship spread across all public universities that each of these candidates applies for and competes to fill,” explains Gilbert Kadillo, the Public Relations Officer of Makerere University.
In senior 6, Ayikoru says she used the space provided on the university application forms to apply for the scholarship by describing her disability and preferred courses.
“After the results were released we were called upon and medically examined at Mulago and Mengo hospitals to prove whether we were really disabled and then short listed for admissions,” she reveals.
Kadillo explains that there are applicants who lie about or exaggerate their conditions thus care has to be taken that only the deserving are accorded the available slots on the Disabled Persons sponsorship scheme. “We have a committee that screens the applicants and a medical team that checks them to prove their disability before they are considered for sponsorship,” he told Ultimate Media.
Those who qualify also have to be able to get at least 2principle passes that generally qualifies one to be admitted to any university.
Under the district quota system, another of the affirmative action admissions policies, 12 students from every district in the country also have an opportunity to be sponsored by the government every admission year.
“The government put into consideration the fact that not all students in every district have the same opportunities or facilities so cant compete fairly, and introduced this scheme in 2005,” says Kadillo, “Every district is thus supposed to send over 12 students with a minimum of 2principal passes that qualify them for government admission at the beginning of each academic year,” he adds.
Sports talent sponsorship scheme
40 other slots are reserved for students with exclusive sports talent every year. “This was introduced in 1994 as a way of uplifting sports standards in Uganda by identifying talent, nurturing, grooming and developing it but also to enable and encourage sportsmen to pursue higher education alongside developing their talents,” Kadilollo says.
The applicants for this Scheme too are given provision on the JAB (Joint Admissions Board) forms to apply for this sponsorship and are required to list their talents and achievements per this talent. These details are also cross checked from the applicant’s former schools and past records. The 40 slots too are spread across all public universities and tertiary institutions.
These admission policies are a way of affirmative action in the universities to enable fair distribution of university education opportunities across the country by aiding the less advantaged or special case citizens compete favourably for university education.
“They are what is in existence in way of affirmative action and are not MUK but government policies that cut across all the public universities in the country. They are originated and put in place by the government through the Ministry of Education and Sports and only implemented by the public universities and tertiary institutions around the country,” Kadillo explains.
1.5 Points Scheme for females
But many people are more familiar with the 1.5 Points Scheme for females where by every female applicant to join a public university is given 1.5 extra points in order for females to compete favourably with males. Around 1991 when the 1.5 Points Scheme was introduced, there were far less females being admitted for university education, with some university courses being undertaken by only male students. Today, there are incidences of more females graduating from the university after a gradual annual increase of female admissions as the 2004 review of the 1.5Points Scheme found out.
The 1.5 Points initiative helped counter the gender roles and stereotypes that hindered the females in education like child birth, poverty and lack of support from the community who preferred women to stay home and bare children. With the 1.5points more females qualified for university education under government sponsorship and didn’t have to depend on society for education as long as they had the interest.
In the same way, more people living with disabilities have been offered a chance to pursue university education since around 1996 when the government sponsorship scheme for such people was introduced. Even the students who sit their senior 6 exams up country where there are less facilities than in urban areas have a better chance to qualify for government sponsorship because of the district quota system. Just like the students who spend a lot of time in sports activities while others concentrate on books have got their own chance through the Sports sponsorship scheme.
While these affirmative action policies are positive, some are facing numerous challenges, especially the district quota system, according to Kadillo.
“There are cases when districts fail to raise the 12 students with 2pricipal passes that qualifies them for admissions. There are uptown students who take the opportunity to apply under this system alleging that they completed their A levels upcountry,” he says.
There is also the fact that new regions are granted district status every now and then with others on their way to being declared districts almost everyday.
Kadillo says the biggest challenge probably is the limited resources, which mean that not all who need help to access university education can be helped to Access university, the reason there are limited slots for most of these schemes.