31 October 2006

Kenya: Another Varsity Closed, As Dons Pay Withheld

Nairobi — The lecturers strike bit harder as another university was closed, while some institutions refused to release the tutors' salaries. It was a rude shock for some lecturers yesterday who had gone to banks to withdraw their October pay, only to be turned away.

Investigation by The Standard showed that at least three universities have not released the salaries.

At Kenyatta University, which has 700 lecturers, only 100, who are also administrators, have been paid.

"We have not released the salaries for majority of lecturers because they are on strike. The university council is discussing the issue," said Dr Fredrick Njoka, a deputy registrar. "Senate members, chairmen of departments, deans and other administrators have been paid."

A similar fate has befallen lecturers at Maseno.

But salaries for the about 1,500 teachers at the University of Nairobi have been released. "The lectures have been working and there was no reason to deny them what is rightfully theirs," said Mr Charles Sikulu, the public relations officer.

He added that none of the institution's lecturers disciplined over the strike.

And the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) demanded immediate release of the salaries. Union chairman, Dr Sammy Kubasu, termed the move as a contravention of human rights. "Why are universities behaving as if we went on strike at the beginning of October?" he posed.

He also denounced the withholding of medical services to academic staff. "Even prisoners of war and combatants injured are offered treatment," he said.

And in Eldoret, Moi University Vice-Chancellor, Prof Richard Mibey, announced the closure at 1.30pm after a two-hour meeting. "The Senate has resolved to close the university because the prevailing situation cannot allow the continued stay of students," he said.

Students were given up to today morning to vacate all four campuses, including the Western University College of Science and Technology in Kakamega.

The closure comes a day after students at Egerton and Kenyatta were sent home indefinitely. Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology and Maseno closed last week. Only the University of Nairobi remains open.

Meanwhile, Nominated MP Prof Ruth Oniang'o has urged Parliament to pass a policy on resolution of labour disputes.

Oniang'o described the lecturers' strike and the leakage of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examinations as "twin problems of crisis proportion" facing the Education ministry.

"Ministry officials cannot continue burying their heads in the sand. They should address the twin problems, which affect the nation," she said.

Oniang'o said the method of declaring strikes illegal and rushing to the Industrial Court had proved ineffective.

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