Wednesday March 7 2012

Heavy police deployment at Makerere University as students strike over allowances

By Patience Ahimbisibwe

There is heavy police deployment at Makerere University as students demand for the institution’s Vice Chancellor to explain why they have not been paid faculty allowances and internship money.

Students have rejected attempts by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in-charge of finance Prof Stevens Tickodri-Togboa to meet them at the freedom square.

“The students have said they don’t want to talk to me because they don’t have a problem with me. I have spent over 30 minutes begging that they listen to me but they are chanting they want Prof Baryamureeba to be the one to come and meet them. We are trying to get the VC and see if he will talk to them and calm the situation,” Prof Tickodri-Togboa says.

The guild president Mr Dennis Oneka has said he has been in dialogue with university management over student concerns but the response has been “too slow”. He says for instance teachers are supposed to be going for school practice but they can’t because the university has delayed to release internship funds which they paid as part of tuition to facilitate the activity.

“There is a strike but police has been heavily deployed. Administrators make policies which treat students as young. But these are old people. You can’t manage their finances,” Mr Oneka says.

In 2010/11 academic year, the university introduced a policy which requires students to pay Shs100,000 per semester for field work attachment. The money is according to MS Ritah Namisango, the institution’s spokesperson, supposed to cover accommodation, meals, transport, administrative costs including supervision from each academic units and report writing during the field study.

However, Mr Oneka says the students have disagreed with management over the criteria they want it disbursed to benefit the students with the latter proposing money be given to college deans who will then decide what equipment to buy for each student.

“We have different needs. Management may want to buy what I already have. But the university claims the students waste the money buying hoofers which, to me is not their business because these are old people,” Mr Oneka explained.

But Ms Namisango, in a response note to media houses says, the university council last year reviewed the payment of field attachment fees, hardly a year later, indicating that students only pay for administrative and supervision costs while the student’s welfare during this period should be met by their parents.

“The parents/guardians of students will remit the funds for students’ welfare to students directly at the time when the field attachment takes place,” reads an attachment from the academic registrar Mr Alfred Namoah.

But while students were requested to pay Shs100, 000 per semester to meet all the costs during the field attachment when the policy was first introduced, the money has not changed in Council’s reviewed policy effected 2011/12 academic year. Instead, they want the students to pay the same amount in addition to parents’ contribution of at least Shs400, 000 during the same period.

This is the second time in a week students have staged a strike at the country’s oldest university demanding for better services. On Monday, students from Nsibirwa Hall dragged Prof Venansius Baryamureeba to their residence to look at the poor sanitation the students were living in. The students want the hall refurbished.