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First Year JKUAT Students Challenge Forced Laptop Purchases.

Hundreds of first year students at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) students staged a protest march against the institution’s administration over allegations that it was forcing them to buy laptops from the institution.

The students walked out of college staging a noisy but largely good-natured protest with chants and placards attacking the move by the university.

In a statement letter sent to their parents and guardians, JKUAT that accompanied their admission forms, the university was demanding parents to deposit Sh. 41,500 in two instalments into a Taifa Laptop Account. The fee structure states that parents must make an initial deposit of Sh. 22,000 and a second of Sh19,000 for the gadgets.

“It is a requirement that all students should have a laptop,” reads a statement in the fee structure.
The parents questioned the logic behind this new demand arguing that some of their children possessed their own laptops which they could use for their projects at the university.
“Why should we be forced to buy their laptops at such an exorbitant price while we can get the same for as little as Sh20,000 in other places? Mind you, some of us have our laptops. This is unfair and exploitative,” complained one parent.

Others alleged the institution was trying to clear its old stock of laptops by forcing them on first year students.

“Why did the university not open a shop in town where we can buy the laptops? The manner in which this whole thing is being conducted is questionable,” said Mr. John Kang’ethe.

The administration was at one point forced to adjourn the registration of those who had not yet deposited the initial amount but most of these parents stayed put and stood their ground.

Nevertheless, the university maintained that every student must use their laptops.

“Our laptops are specially designed and assembled at the university and it was the high time our learnt to embrace locally assembled products that paved way to industrialisation of this country. Though they might cost a bit higher, this kind of initiative guaranteed creation of job opportunities in Kenya,” said the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academics, Prof Romanus Odhiambo.

He added that the laptops known as ‘Taifa Technologies Inspiring Africa’, kicked off three years ago, targeting all first year students joining the institution. They said each of these gadget bore Information Communications Technology as mandatory unit.

The VC said that in a span of 6 years, they had realised that there existed great disparities between students who had prior exposure to computers and those with none. The Prof added that this new move was geared towards bridging this gap. The university would, every year, purchase desktops for the new students at a cost of between Sh. 50 and 100 million through a cost sharing programme with fresh students who were getting admitted to the university.

He pointed out that theirs was the only university in the country with a laptop assembling unit that set up a platform for the local manufacturing of the gadgets.

Going by the number of students being admitted — 4,700 regular and 6,000 self-sponsored students — the university stands to rake in about Sh. 500 million.

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