As a strike by Makerere University’s academic staff over salary disparities looms, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe has appealed for patience so as not to disrupt studies. He urged the lecturers to “move cautiously” at the time when Uganda’s biggest institution of higher learning is trying to redeem its image.
A general assembly of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) was convened on October 31 and moved that the university salary structure be harmonized so that lecturers and Professors can earn equal pay as those in other public universities.
The MUASA meeting further resolved that all incentive arrears owed to the teaching staff since June 2016 be cleared by government.
Subsequent to the resolutions, the MUASA Chairperson Dr. Muhammad Kiggundu wrote a letter to the university Council communicating the demands, and that failure to meet them would prompt an industrial action.
“That failure to fulfill the above two irregularities by November 7, 2017, the academic staff will lay down their tools,” the letter dated October 31 read in part.
The one week ultimatum given to the University’s top most decision making body ended yesterday (Tuesday).
It is this eminent strike that has prompted the call for restraint from the Vice Chancellor, saying the issue of harmonizing Makerere’s staff salaries with other universities was way beyond the mandate of Council.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Prof. Nawangwe said that “Council is doing everything within her mandate to address this issue to the appropriate authority as soon as possible”.
He explained that a Committee to advise Council on this salary harmonization had been instituted since the staff raised and that relevant stakeholders including the National Council for Higher Education (NHCE) had been engaged.
However, the committee “is due to present its report to Council soon”.
“I would urge all of us to move cautiously in order to avoid any further disruption in University activities. We are doing everything possible to rebuild our image and rebrand our great institution,” Prof. Nawangwe said in his appeal to MUASA.
While the Vice Chancellor acknowledged that “the struggle to continually improve the welfare of staff must continue”, he added that “it must be rational and sensitive to the reality that faces our University”.
In regard to the incentive arrears amounting to Shs 60 billion, Nawangwe said that this impasse was among the issues to be resolved by the pending Abel Rwendeire Visitation Committee.
The committee was appointed by President Yoweri Miseveni late in 2016 to investigate into issues that caused perennial problems at Makerere.
The last time the academic staff laid down their tools in 2016 demanding for payment of incentive arrears, Makerere University was closed on the orders of the President for over 5 months.
These disruptions, Prof. Nawangwe says, have led to serious consequences for the University’s image locally and internationally and have had negative implications for teaching and learning, research our international partnerships.