Uganda: Why Makerere Dons Abandoned Strike

(file photo).
18 February 2019

After three weeks of striking, Makerere University staff were finally wooed into picking up their instruments to resume work.

The lecturers' top leadership told Daily Monitor that their decision was informed by the good will of the new council and the promise to expeditiously handle their grievances within an agreed period of one month.

Among some of the promises made to the staff were; "expedite the reinstatement of the suspended lecturers, immediate disbandment of the committee put in place by the Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, handling their issues at the top most level of the university and reassuring them of committed leadership and goodwill."

Ms Lorna Magara, the university council chairperson, told Daily Monitor that they had been engaging the members of staff on various occasions.

"We have been with them through this from day one. We asked them to tell us what their issues were and then assured them that we would handle it all. We have asked them to trust us and give us time to handle their woes with the different stakeholders," Ms Magara said.

The suspension of the academic staff association chairperson, Dr Deus Kamunyu, and his general secretary, Mr Joseph Kalema, sparked off the strike about a month ago. Despite the many threats by the university management of forcing lecturers to go back to class or face dismissal, there were no fruits yielded.

Last week, Prof Nawangwe ordered the closure of the School of Law because it had not conducted any lectures since the start of the semester. The university council reigned over the decision and blocked the possible closure of one of the university's most cherished departments.

On Friday, the staff held a meeting and unanimously agreed to go back to class starting today. During the staff meeting, the council's vice chairperson, Mr Dan Kidega, told the lectures that the new council had their back and would hold an immediate meeting after their decision.

"We are going to sit and forge a way forward after your good gesture and response," Mr Kidega assured the lecturers.

"We only hope that the council will be in position to fight the high-handedness, sectarianism, corruption, authoritarianism and the mechanical way of handling issues that have marred the top management," Mr Edward Mwavu, the university academic staff vice chairperson, told Mr Kidega.

In the council meeting held that very day, Ms Magara told Daily Monitor that they had implored the university appointments committee to investigate the circumstances under which the two staff leaders were suspended and tasked management to come up with an immediate solution on how to compensate the time lost.

"Our committee will work within the one month and give us a report to make the final decision. We also expect management to give us a workplan on how they will compensate for the time lost to the students," she said.

Dr Muhammad Kiggundu, the university head of communications, said already a solution is being sought by all stakeholders.

"We are waiting for senate to decide but most likely the semester is going to be extended by either a month or three weeks. This is something we are working on and we hope to be done in the shortest time possible," Dr Kiggundu said.

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