Kampala — Students of Makerere University were yesterday stranded at the campus when they found empty or locked lecture rooms following the staff strike.
The strike followed the suspension of the chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa), Mr Deus Kamunyu, Mr Bennet Magara, the chairperson of Makerere Administrative Staff Association (MASA), and his general secretary, Mr Joseph Kalema, for alleged indiscipline and inciting fellow staff.
The university staff vowed to go on strike which started on Friday midnight until the suspension of their three colleagues has been lifted.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, suspended them last week.
When Daily Monitor visited the university yesterday, some students were found in lecture rooms and halls but there were no lecturers.
Some students were seen loitering at the campus and checking on different notice boards for their academic timetables but did not find any.
Some students found their lecture rooms locked such as at the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Education. Majority of offices belonging to staff were also locked.
The students this reporter spoke to complained that their tuition fees would be in vain because of lack of lectures.
Mr Stephen Mpagi, a third-year student of Bachelor of Arts, said they had started their research, but now had no idea what would happen to their work.
"We cannot have facilitators who will be taking us through our research. The university should sit with the staff associations and solve these issues amicably so that our semester is not affected," Mr Mpagi said.
"I feel my stay here is useless when the lecturers are not at campus. We do not know when the strike will end. It is the obligation of management to solve their misunderstandings. We pay our tuition so expect to learn," Mr David Magere, a fourth-year student of Journalism and Communication, said.
Ms Patricia Ayebare, a second-year student of Social Sciences, said she left her home upcountry without knowing the staff were on strike but was shocked when she reached her department and found padlocks staring at her.
"Today we have reported for school but we are not studying. We are hoping that very soon, their demands will be dealt with by the university management," Ms Ayebare said.
Guild council to meet
The university student's Guild Representative Council (GRC) has also called for an emergency meeting over the staff strike.
The guild president, Mr Papa Were Salim, said many students, who had reported for the new semester, were seen stranded. He said the GRC will sit tomorrow to discuss the way forward.
"The students were supposed to begin the lectures yesterday but by 8am, the lecturers were not willing to offer their services following their statement that was circulated calling for all staff to down their tools. As the governing body of students, we are going to meet to forge a way forward since we pay our tuition," Mr Salim said by telephone yesterday.
Prof Nawangwe yesterday told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview that the striking staff who do not want to work can stay home forever.
He said he had been informed that majority of the teaching staff were willing to teach apart from a few who are stubborn and a few administrators who are pushing for the strike.
Prof Nawangwe insisted everything was normal at campus, adding that those who do not want to teach can stay home indefinitely.
"Teaching started yesterday but I was told that some students came and there were no lecturers and some lecturers said there were no students. That is something that happens to every beginning of semester but business is going on normally," Prof Nawangwe said.
The head of Department of Journalism and Communication, Mr Wililiam Tayebwa, said he had to report on duty to prepare for the semester regardless of whether the lecturers were in class or not.
Dr Tayebwa, however, said they were challenged on whose order to take since their leadership asked them to stay home and the university management ordered them to report for work.
Dr Kamunyu yesterday said he does not accept the suspension.
"I am not undisciplined and I don't think I can be in my old age. But if speaking straight is indiscipline, then I am in a wrong profession. I live on campus. I have an official residence. I am not a criminal. Even if I was dismissed legally, I still would need my retirement package. You can't just dismiss me from my official house," he said yesterday.
"I have never had a clash with Prof Nawangwe. We only disagree as intellectuals. I have never abused him. We have disagreed on employment systems. How people are brought in and thrown out. We have disagreed on appropriation of internally generated funds, we have talked about land as an asset. I did this as Muasa chairperson not as a lecturer. Someone wants to show that they have the power, they can do anything, but I am saying no. You have the power, but use the law. You are managing a public institution," Dr Kamunyu added.
Additional reporting by Patience Ahimbisibwe