The sit-down strike by Makerere University lecturers has entered day two as 40,000 students miss classes just 44 days to end of the semester. Two days ago, close to 1,800 lecturers through their umbrella association Makerere University Academic Staff Association Muasa declared a strike vowing not go to class unless the university fully clears their incentive arrears dating back to February.
Two days ago, close to 1,800 lecturers through their umbrella association Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa) declared a strike vowing not go to class unless the university fully clears their incentive arrears dating back to February.
Students earlier today could be seen straying all over the vast Makerere hill, seated in small discussion groups under tree sheds, others rushing to the university library while lecture halls remained empty.
URN learnt that lecturers have not been paid their incentive allowances from February to September this year, amounting to 28 billion shillings. During the Muasa general assembly on Tuesday, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration, told members that management was aware of the arrears and was tabling the issue to the university council.
His request, however, fell on deaf ears as the lecturers later resolved to lay down their tools.
A URN reporter has noticed that most of the academic activities at the country's largest and oldest university have been cancelled because of the strike. At the School of Law, lecture halls were deserted as some students sat on verandas waiting for lecturers in vain.
Godwin Toko Abunia, a third year student of Law and also a Guild Representative Councilor for his school, told URN that usually during this period at the law school, students are doing assessment tests but have been cancelled because of the strike.
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Toko adds that he is going to use this time to read his book since there is usually no rest in law school.
Isaac Icom Omilya, a first year student of Information Systems at the College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), has told URN that they have not seen any lecturer since morning. He however noted that since the semester began, he and his colleagues in the college have been having lectures.
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Yosam Bagumirabingi, a student of Telecoms Engineering in the College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology (CEDAT), said that he has missed two lectures today.
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Two days into the strike, some students are already unhappy with the situation on the university arguing that there is too much time wasted in what they call the dilly darling of the university officials.
Elizabeth Namugambe, a second year student of Gender and Development, says she commutes from Entebbe to attend lectures but is disappointed with the way she is not getting value for money even when she has fully paid her tuition fees.
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Despite the strike, some lecturers were seen teaching a handful of students. When a URN reporter visited the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES), students and lecturers had locked themselves inside lecture theatres and teaching was going on.
When asked, Dr. James Ocita, a Muasa member who was appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the strike, told URN that the strike is on and no one has contacted them for negotiations. He noted that the lecturers who are teaching are those on contractual terms with the university and have timelines to meet.
Mandela Nkunda, a fourth year law student, has appealed to the university council and the government to intervene in the lecturers' case so that students can go back to classes.
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What is being done?
When contacted on phone, Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem, the chairman University Council said that the council will have an emergency meeting on Friday, October 28 to discuss the strike.
As a result of the strike, the meeting of the University Council, which is Makerere's highest decision making body, has been rescheduled.
The incentives were introduced during the 2013/2014 academic year after the teaching staff went on strike demanding 100 percent salary increment. The incentives, amounting to 70% of each lecturer's monthly salary, were meant to consolidate allowances they were earning from teaching evening programme students.
Are the incentives sustainable?
In September this year, the university council announced that it was reducing the incentives from 70 to 25% saying they were no longer sustainable. The lecturers in their September 5 General Assembly resolved to lay their tools down until the university reinstated the allowances.
Lecturers insist that the university has money to pay them and allege that the management uses the money for travels and other allowances forgetting the teaching staff.
In an interview today, Dr. Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, the MUASA spokesperson told URN that the university cannot claim not to have money yet it excessively spends on what he called non-core issues.
"When the university introduced incentives, they started channeling money to none-core issues, we were assigned by the university and we produced the Kabaasa report and one of our terms of reference was to review the sustainability of the incentives, why can't they follow the report?" wondered Dr. Muhwezi.
The February 2016 Kabaasa Committee report to council, after studying the financial situation of the university, found that while the financial situation is bad in terms of revenue generation, it was observed that the spending patterns continue to deteriorate.
In particular, excessive spending in form of unnecessary petty cash, hiring expensive hotels for conferences, unjustified extra load for some lecturers among others continue to run down the University finances. The committee strongly recommended that if the loopholes are closed, the incentives would be sustainable.