Makerere University student leaders are meeting the First Lady Janet Museveni over the impasse that has led to the continued closure of the university.
Makerere University student leaders had demanded that the Vice Chancellor, Prof Ddumba Ssentamu, adheres to a directive by the Education minister and reopens the institution despite a strike by non-teaching staff over pay.
In an August 10 letter to all vice chancellors of public universities, the Education minister, Ms Janet Museveni, ordered for their reopening.
While the Kyambogo University vice chancellor, Prof Eli Katunguka, said he would comply with the directive, Prof Ddumba said he could not reopen a university with locked up offices and un-swept lecture rooms and halls of residence. He postponed the opening of Makerere University from Saturday until further notice.
The five public universities of Makerere, Busitema, Kyambogo, Gulu and Makerere University Business School (MUBS) were initially supposed to reopen on August 6, for the continuing and new students to report for the first semester of the new academic year.
However, the strike by the public universities non-teaching staff protesting government’s reneging on its promise to enhance their pay has paralysed the institutions of higher learning. The workers say government’s decision to increase pay of only the academic teaching staff in 2015 was discriminatory.
The Makerere University students guild at a meeting held August 12, chaired by acting guild president Jothan Burobuto, demanded that their vice chancellor abides by Ms Museveni’s directive to reopen the university, the strike notwithstanding. “We need the university opened as per the minister’s directive and resume normal operations without any further delay. As students we disregard the vice chancellor’s communiqué closing the university indefinitely,” the guild said in a statement.
The students announced last week that they would start a parallel strike today, to push for the re-opening of the university which has remained closed over an ongoing strike by the non-teaching staff. The university was initially scheduled to open on August 6, for freshers and on August 13, for continuing students.
But the opening dates have been moved twice following a failed negotiated deal between government and the non-teaching staff members who are striking over their salary enhancement and arrears amounting to 28 billion Shillings.
On Thursday, Vice Chancellor Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu issued another notice indicating that the university would remain closed indefinitely.
This morning, the student’s held a demonstration at the university demanding the university to open the institution. Over one hundred students led by the interim government leader Jothan Yamureebire Burobuto were transported by bus to the Office of the Prime Minister at the invitation of the Education Minister Janet Kataaha Museveni.
“We are here to fight for our rights; we are here to end the impasse between the non-teaching staff and the government. We have been patient enough but we have no guarantee that the university is opening very soon,” one of the students told our reporter before the meeting started.
Jackson Betihamah, the chairman of the Public Universities Non-Teaching Staff Executive Forum (PUNTISEF) says they are still determined to carry on with the strike until their grievances are addressed.
“We have written and talked to all stakeholders but it seems the only language they listen to is the strike. We are maintaining our stand and we won’t return to work unless our promised money is paid,” Betihamah said.