The police yesterday sided with Makerere University students demonstrating over the institution’s policies on tuition increment and feeding.
Despite being on recess, students led by the guild president, Mr Ivan Bwowe, had gathered at the university, shouting slogans demanding the vice chancellor, Prof John Ssentamu Ddumba, to resign.
Consequently, the police were called in. But after listening to the students’ grievances, the Force blamed the university management for making decisions which are unfavourable to the common person.
Mr Samuel Omala, the Kampala North Metropolitan operations commander, who had commandeered a heavy deployment at the university to quell the demonstration, promised students his support and demanded that the university management revisits the policies.
“After making such decisions, the university management says police will handle. Whoever is listening to me must be warned. The university authorities should not make wrong decisions which will drive students to riot and think police will handle,” Mr Omala said.
“Police are not there to deprive people of their rights. This policy must be revised. The demand by these boys and girls looks to be genuine. Even if it was me, I could stand in their shoes. Scrapping the feeding and replacing it with Shs4, 000 as total cash for breakfast, lunch and super is not enough. The Shs4, 000 is not even enough for breakfast in Katanga (slum).”
While addressing journalists later in the day, Prof Ddumba maintained his position, saying there is nothing he can change since he simply implements decisions passed by his employers.
Vice chancellor responds
However, Prof Ddumba clarified that, instead of giving the money to the students, the university will pay the service providers and students will only be handed a food coupon as has been in the past. On tuition increment, he asked the guild body to present their protest letter to the University Council, highlighting why they don’t want the fees hiked.
Prof Ddumba said that privatisation of catering services in the halls of residence will relieve the university management of debts from suppliers. For example, he said they have not been able to clear Shs2 billion for students’ food. The government pays Shs2, 000 for feeding per day to each student on government scholarship.
Although the government has not increased their contribution for the 4,000 students they sponsor for every academic year, the university management has increased it to Shs4,000. It is unclear how they will raise the extra Shs2, 000 but Prof Ddumba insists they will manage as they have cut costs on some items.
But the students maintained their stand, saying they will leave no stone unturned until the university accounts for the money they pay.
“We have been paying but we don’t see value for this money. The services are poor. We want the vice chancellor to resign or tell government that there is no money to open the university,” Mr Bwowe said.