We all are happy that the University is open but have we thought about what would happen if the lecturers’ moneys are not paid by February. Are we going to sit home for two months again! Is the Minister for Education and Sports going to sit back and wait for the President to close the University again? Those are questions that need to not only be answered but found everlasting solutions too. Several times committees are appointed to conduct inquiry into matters when the institution is closed but the same issue repeats itself, what should we expect from this new committee? ♣
Makerere University lecturers called off their strike in a meeting held on 24th December, 2016 at the University’s main hall chaired by Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) executive Chairman Dr. Muhammad Kiggundu, 81 lecturers voted for the suspension of the strike so as to allow the University to continue with its normal operation while 56 wanted the strike to continue and the institution closed. However, the lecturers vowed to strike again if their incentive arrears are not cleared by February 2017. President Yoweri kaguta Museveni ordered for its indefinite closure of the University on the 1st November, 2016 following successful strikes from the students and teaching staff. The teaching staff strike comes after their incentive allowances had not been paid for eight months which led to a lot of disorder in the University premises thus the President’s directive to cease all activities at the Ivory Tower to protect the property of the people. It should be noted that, the university closed in 1979, 2006, 2011 and 2013 majorly concerning strikes by lecturers over salary.
One would say that lecturers had no any other choice this time around but to vote for the reopening because they had been denied pay for two months, access to University facilities and property, and had to negotiate their way out. These are people who also have children to educate and homes to sustain; therefore they had to choose what may favor their well-being. The closure of one of Uganda’s reknown “strike’ University has bred a lot of challenges for the students ; delayed graduation, release of marks, fixed program for the new semester which started 2nd January, 2017.
Funny enough as lecturers were busy striking for their unpaid allowances, students getting stranded at the University due to immediate closure, President Museveni and the Auditor General were unbothered approving six billion shilling cash from a supplementary budget rewarded by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to 42 government officials including the Uganda revenue authority head for settlement of a tax dispute in a London court for a duty they were obliged to do. The 42 government officials were respectively from URA, the energy and finance ministries as well as the Attorney General’s chambers. Some of the 42 government officials walked again with Shs200 million. Isn’t this foolery? A university containing about 40,000 students closes over a debt of $13.5 million allowance arrears and money is being misused on people for their supposed official duty. One wonders if the “promised money” to the lecturers will be paid.
When the institution closed in November, 2016 the president appointed a committee to investigate the problems leading to continuous turbulence. The new committee is to review the reports of the old committees, find out what was implemented or not implemented and why, as well as making new recommendations if necessary. In addition, the students of the Uganda’s biggest and oldest university also asked the committee to investigate the guild body for corruption and misuse of finances. The question on everyone’s mind is; will this committee put an end to Makerere’s problems?
By Phiona Babirye