Makerere embarks on headcount to establish numbers

A three-week head-counting process of Makerere University students and staff aimed at establishing the precise number of students enrolled in the institution and eradicating ghost students and workers, got under way last week.

The headcount forms part of the investigations of a 10-member visitation committee set up by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last year, after he ordered the shutdown of the nation’s flagship public higher education institution on 1 November 2016 in response to prolonged staff and student protests. The committee, headed by Dr Abel Rwendeire, was set up to investigate the source of the unrest and make recommendations.

According to local press reports, university managers were unable to provide precise figures on the size of the student body at Uganda’s largest university during the committee’s investigations last month. Rwendeire reportedly requested that the university be re-opened in order for a headcount to proceed. The university re-opened on 2 January 2017.

The total number of students at Makerere University has been a contentious issue in part because, among other issues, the university relies primarily on student fees to operate.


It is anticipated that establishing the exact numbers of students will help with financial accountability, and provide greater clarity on revenue generation, an official said.

The total number of students at the university has been estimated at between 35,000 and 40,000.

In a circular dated 16 January Academic Registrar Alfred Masikye Namoah said any students not verified by the committee would be deemed not to be students of Makerere University “and will be purged from all university records”.

Dr Muhammad Kiggundu Musoke, the Makerere University Academic Staff Association chairperson, endorsed the work of the committee.

“I think the head count is going to help greatly to do away with ghost students and ghost workers. As a researcher, I know verification is a normal process. It is also a human resource practice and improves the working environment,” said Kiggundu.

Stanley Okecho, prime minister of the Makerere University Student Guild, however, said they were concerned with the timing of the exercise which was to coincide with the start of examinations, student elections and travel by students to conferences. He also raised concerns about students not having the documents required by the headcount process.

Fee-related issues

Since its opening on 2 January, Makerere has appeared in the news over concerns that some of its final-year students may not graduate owing to their failure to meet internal financial requirements.

Students have raised concerns about the institution’s stringent new tuition fees policy which requires them to pay tuition and functional fees in order to sit their examinations. Failure to pay will mean that final-year students who cannot sit their exams, may also miss out on graduating.

It has also been reported that Makerere University Business School or MUBS – an affiliate of Makerere – has allegedly failed to remit the functional fees of its students for the past three years, putting the graduation of over 4,000 students in February at risk.

In a letter dated 9 January 2017 to MUBS Principal Professor Waswa Balunywa, Makerere University Bursar Augustine Tamale accused the business school of failing to remit the functional fees.

He said the business school owes the main campus a total of UGX6 billion (US$1.6 billion) and has remitted only a fraction – UGX1.4 billion (US$389,000).

Peter Odoki, public relations officer for MUBS, denied the school owes Makerere any money, saying there was disagreement over an unauthorised affiliation fee the university was attempting to levy on students.