Stripped of their allowances for evening lectures, Makerere law lecturers downed their tools, Monday, forcing the university council into a crisis meeting yesterday.
The law lecturers refused to teach evening classes, citing unfairness in council's decision, last month, to abolish allowances for evening classes. As a result, law students yesterday demanded to meet their dean, Dr Damalie Naggita, for an explanation. Naggita informed the students that the lecturers would maintain their standoff unless council resolved this problem.
"Council is currently in session and we hope to engage with its chairman to find a quick solution," she told the students.
Though they had earlier planned to call off only evening lectures, it was later agreed that all lectures (day and evening) be called off in solidarity with evening students. In April this year, staffers at Makerere, through the Makerere University Academic Staff Association, went on strike demanding a 100 per cent salary increment.
Government refused to grant the pay rise, forcing the University Council to reallocate its budget to introduce a harmonised 70 per cent incentive starting September this year (some lecturers started receiving this incentive last week). To generate this incentive, the allowances for evening classes in some of the non-core expenditures were scrapped.
This meant that whether someone taught day or evening, they would get the same incentive. Previously, every hour taught in the evening was paid between Shs 35,000 and Shs 50,000 and some lecturers in some 'wet' units would collect up to Shs 10m in allowances per semester. They now get no more than an extra 70 per cent of their previous salary.
This lack of an extra allowance has dampened morale in most units at Makerere - especially those offering evening classes. The Law School responded first by scrapping all weekend classes at the start of this semester.
Students report that some lecturers at the schools of Woman and Gender Studies and Social Sciences were reportedly dodging classes while others advised their evening students to consider attending the day classes. Even at the college of Business and Management Sciences (COBAMS), some lecturers have indicated that they will soon stop teaching evening classes.
"Very few of them are coming for lectures. Those that come usually teach for a few minutes and leave us with pamphlets. It is clear that they are demoralised," said one evening student at COBAMS.
But the university remains firm, quoting from Article 4 of the Human Resource manual, which requires every lecturer to work from Monday to Sunday and teach for at least 10 hours every week.
"A lecturer can either teach day or evening so long as they meet their 10-hours-per-week minimum," the director of Quality Assurance, Vincent Ssembatya, earlier said.
But lecturers opposed to this arrangement cite unfairness in relation to the workload.
Paul Wabiga, a lecturer at COBAMS, said morale was low in most units, arguing that council had equalised incentives without equalising the workload.
"A person at COBAMS feels cheated to teach and assess a class of 800 students on both day and evening basis when they earn the same money as someone at science units who only teaches during the day and handle classes of 50 students," Wabiga explained.
COBAMS and the College of Computing and Information Sciences are Makerere's most populous units, with some 8,500 and 6,500 students, respectively. Lecturers at these units previously received an extra allowance for handling bigger classes - which is no longer tenable under the current setup.
Opponents of the new incentive say it was people from science and engineering units who spearheaded the harmonisation of incentives for their own benefit.
"They only teach during the day, have very few students, the president gave them a 30 per cent salary increment and now they get a similar incentive," an angry lecturer at the school of Women and Gender Studies said.
But Prof Noble Banadda, from the college of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, defends the incentive, arguing that every staffer deserves a decent salary "because education is an investment."
By press time, council was still in session to resolve the incentive standoff.