EVELYN Hone College principal Cephas Chabu says the government owes the institution over K90 million.

Speaking to Minister of Technology and Science Felix Mutati when he toured the institution, Wednesday, Chabu revealed that a further K25 million was owed by students who were on the 50 percent bursary scheme.

“What we have done is to watch our income leakages and also to look at the expenditure side. So from the various strategies which we have implemented, we have been able to conserve these mega resources to improve the college infrastructure which is the classrooms, the ICT and so forth. The college has got 75 classrooms and out of this, we have rehabilitated 20 from our own resources in the past eight months. Looking at this financial management strategy which we have put in place, it is very possible that by the end of the year we may rehabilitate all these 75 classrooms,” he said.

“We are also looking at the hostels. We are doing a lot of routine maintenance in terms of plumbing work. We are also looking at just general rehabilitation of these hostels so that the accommodation environment for our students is in good order. Now, Honorable Minister, as we do this with very little resources, it has not been easy because one; the ministry is owing us a bit of money. We are talking of K99 million. Additionally, students who were sponsored 50 percent are from vulnerable families and we are talking of K25 million which they cannot raise from their resources because what is happening now is that the ministry gave the 50 percent bursaries, but at the same time it was expected that the other 50 percent will come from the students themselves which has not happened, Honorable Minister. So in that space, we have about K25 million which is owed by the students on this 50 percent bursary.”

Chabu said the financial constraints affected the institution’s enrollment capacity.

“Because of the financial constraints that we have, it is affecting our enrollment capacities. We have a situation where this year alone we have enrolled about 4,867 students. Now, Honorable Minister, our programmes are on very high demand. Out of the people who have applied and qualified, we are talking 6,469. These are the people who qualified to come into the college. But because of the limitations on infrastructure, limitations in the hostel capacity as well as classroom capacity, we only took about 4,867,” he said.

“Honourable Minister, the issue of accommodation is a serious one because at the moment, the bed space demand that is on the college is about 6, 751 but we can only accommodate 1, 377. So, Honorable Minister, you see the gap. It’s a yawning gap which we feel with this figure (K99 million), if it is liquidated, be it in bits and pieces or maybe some lump sum, it can help us to do a lot in terms of addressing this particular problem.”

Chabu, however, noted that despite the challenges faced by the institution, the enrolments had this year increased from 4,362 to 4,867.

“Despite these challenges we have, our enrollments have increased this year from 4,362 to 4,867. So the college still has the momentum of growth which is taking place. I should mention that our programmes are three-year programmes but what we have done as management is to structure short term courses which will have an immediate impact on the youth and entrepreneurship. So we are looking at, for instance, fashion and design where you just get youths to come and learn about designing garments and looking for the markets. We are also looking at things like sculptures by our school of education and arts education section where you can make baskets and be able to sell them to the market. School of media, we have also come up with a programme in terms of investigative journalism which is a very short course but well packaged,” he said.

Chabu appealed to the government to consider releasing part of the money owed to the college so that it could upgrade its laboratories and invest more in ICT.

“We really need equipment, especially for our laboratories. We have from our resources bought about 73 computers which are being delivered in the next one week but we want to be ICT smart. In terms of preparations, Honorable Minister, you are aware of the COVID challenges that this country has been facing and the importance of online learning. So if we are helped to release part of this money, we can upgrade our laboratories and also invest more in ICT,” he said.

And speaking after touring the institution, Mutati said there was need to address the institution’s infrastructural issues.

“Evelyn Hone is one college that has got the largest student number. Given this, there are five key issues that have arisen from the tour, that the government needs to take on board urgently. The number one issue is around infrastructure. Infrastructure in terms of available bed spaces for students, infrastructure around sanitation and overall welfare of the students. The welfare of the students is what forms the basis of quality education and we saw for ourselves, totally inadequate. We saw for ourselves stranded construction that has been left for so many years unattended to. We saw for ourselves a canteen that can be used but for whatever reason it is no longer available,” he said.

“We have over 10, 000 students but available bed capacity is just under 2,000. We need to begin to address the infrastructural issues. I think that is a key priority. The second issue that we noticed on the tour is around the equipment that is available to support learning. In most of the workshops we saw, we have old equipment. In some workshops, there is no equipment at all. Despite the tenacity of management, they can’t move forward if they are not supported in terms of equipment. Also tied to equipment is the technology that is being used and most of it is backward technology.”

Mutati observed that overcrowding of students in classrooms was a potential threat to quality learning.

“The third thing I felt was overcrowding in terms of classrooms. So it makes learning that much more difficult, particularly quality learning. And what makes learning that much more difficult is inadequate library facilities including computers. So here ba principal we have a significant problem that we need to resolve. The aim of the new dawn government is to equip the students with appropriate education skills so that they are able to be productive students out there,” said Mutati.

“So what we are going to do from the government perspective, having seen things on the ground is that my permanent secretary will now superintend a project resolution committee which will involve your principal and your team from here, it will also involve TEVET, it will also involve the Ministry of Technology and Science. Let’s put our heads together to find a quick solution. Let’s begin to deliver for our students. Let’s have a kick off meeting PS as early as next week. Let us pay attention to Evelyn Hone, it is our greatest campus.”