Nelson Mandela said that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” This statement is truly meaningful. With the acquisition of knowledge through education, countries develop, economies boom and infrastructure improvement is attained obviously when the skills obtained through education are put to work, but in Africa education does not come free save for exceptional cases like Libya where we have heard stories of free education right from elementary to tertiary level. Other countries like Malawi, Kenya and Uganda embraced Universal Primary Education to grant an opportunity to every child to at least complete the primary education cycle at all most no cost with the aim of making education equitable so as to eliminate disparities and inequalities in their respective societies. Many African countries have schemes for assisting their youth to actualize their academic dreams. Scholarships are in existence but in many African nations they are merit based, for top performing students and also in particular fields of study, the science sector scooping the biggest percentage. Free university education is not a common trend in Africa.
In South Africa, the current big debate is the demand for free university education. The massive uprising of students to demand acquisition of knowledge at no cost at all has left many wondering whether it is practically possible to achieve such. The argument has been that would it be possible to sustain these academic institutions with the requirements that are necessary for their proper operation with no financial input from students. The costs of operation like salaries for lecturers, maintenance costs, research costs and others have been outlined as some of the factors that make the above scenario a hard catch. With the societal imbalances, Some African families can afford a descent education for their children at any cost but there are those who can barely afford the university registration fee. There are bursary schemes in some countries that require the beneficiaries to repay the funders on completion of the qualification and upon work resume, but these funding schemes have also been discouraged by the majority of students who drop out of university or college before completion of their studies. Education does not come cheaply in Africa.
Academic Institutions of Africa have to devise mechanisms to subsidise fees for their scholars. Concerned parties can come up with strategies to lower costs of education by not necessarily eliminating tuition costs but reducing the cost of education and also boosting their institutions’ income. Kenyatta University in Kenya has been a key player with such mechanisms. The Institution opened up a mall as an approach to have a third revenue system besides funding from the government and tuition fees paid by students. The University opened up a mall called Uni-city, with an aim to diversify its income potential through innovations and participation in competitive business. It’s time for students to apply the skills they are attaining in their various academic disciplines by coming up with projects and ideas that work for their institutions. Lecturers should spear head such projects and come up with ideas that can be used as projects to raise income for their respective institutions. The money generated from such schemes can be used to subsidise the tuition fees that students are paying and also meet the operational costs of the Universities.