16 August 2016

Students report to closed universities


Students in various government universities were yesterday seen loitering around their campuses, clustered in groups sitting or moving in and out of universities hoping to start the new semester.
Although some university administrators said they had heeded a call by the Education minister, Ms Janet Museveni, and vice chancellors to re-open, there were no signs of chefs preparing meals for the resident students. Non-teaching staff instead carried on with the strike.

At Makerere University, students were stranded as most buildings were locked up while at Gulu University, their counterparts arrived to find a placard indicating that non-teaching staff were still on strike. At Kyambogo, student leaders were welcoming new learners.

The strike in the five public institutions of Makerere, Busitema, Gulu, Kyambogo and Mbarara started about two weeks ago when the non-teaching staff laid down their tools demanding that the government clears their outstanding salary enhancement arrears amounting to Shs28 billion.

However, President Museveni vowed last weekend not to divert funds he said are meant for the construction of roads to pay the non-teaching staff.

No headway
Although Ms Museveni assured striking students in a meeting on Monday that Makerere would open yesterday, the university remained closed.

Some 10 students sat adjacent to the Main Building waiting as they waited a council meeting which would announce the university’s opening date. Students were expected to strike if Makerere was not opened.

At Mitchell Hall, a mattress and a suitcase were placed at the entrance. At Makerere Police Station, Mr Joseph Anywar, a new student admitted to Bachelor of Social and Entrepreneurial Forestry, who is to reside in Nkrumah Hall, is stranded after travelling from Butambala District yesterday morning.

“I heard on radio and TV that the university is opening today. In the morning, I came. They should open the university so that we study,” he said.

At Nanziri Girls’ Hall in Kyambogo, opposite the Senate Building, a student was acting as custodian, welcoming and recording new students.

When asked where the new students would be finding meals, he said: “West Ends Kitchen is open.” However, at this kitchen, there were no signs of cooking.

The university is littered with dirt, but few cleaners were seen around the campus strenuously trying to improve the university sanitation.

Most lecture rooms were still closed although lecturers’ offices were open. At the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, new students were queuing to pick reference numbers, a pre-requisite to tuition payment.

At the university Senate Building, non-teaching staff were gossiping about the ongoing strike. They were supposed to meet but their leaders were summoned for a meeting in State House.

“You can see for yourself, the university is verbally open,” one of the non-teaching staff said. The striking staff are worried that government is likely to bribe their leaders in a bid to pour cold water on their strike.


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