Busitema medical school faces closure for lack of staff

Thursday January 30 2020
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Study time. Nursing students at Busitema University in a laboratory. The university has about about 500 medical and nursing students. COURTESY PHOTO

Busitema University Faculty of Health Sciences faces closure for failure to recruit adequate staff and construct laboratories.
The university vice chancellor, Prof Paul Waako and team, made the revelations while appearing before Parliament Committee on Education last week.
The warning follows a recommendation by both the Medical and Dental Council, and the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to the university on May 28, 2019, to upgrade their facilities and improve staffing levels to meet requirements for training health workers in the country or face closure.
“The state of biochemistry and physiology laboratories are totally unacceptable, and this must be addressed as a matter of urgency to match the standards of NCHE,” the report read in part.

Seeking solution
Prof Waako informed the committee that they received a communication from Education minister Janet Museveni for a supplementary budget of Shs6.75 billion in November to support them in upgrading their facilities, which they were yet to get.
“The President directed that we get a supplementary budget of Shs6.75b, saying this school should not close. We are still waiting. We hope it will be part of the supplementary budget. We need staff and laboratories to keep the Faculty of Health running. It was recommended that we improve the facilities or it is closed,” Prof Waako pleaded with the committee.
The university’s faculty is in Mbale District housing Microbiology, Physiology, Pharmacology and Biochemistry laboratories whose space is inadequate, according to Prof Waako.
About 500 medical and nursing students training at this campus will require an additional 19 teaching and administrative staff for efficient teaching and learning for now.

Daily Monitor has seen a copy of the letter Ms Museveni wrote to the institution’s vice chancellor informing him that she had requested for the money following President Museveni’s directive.
“The university faculty, which is on the verge of closure, lacks necessities such as staff and laboratories, which are critical if the facility is to remain operational. I have requested for a supplementary budget as per the President’s directive… for additional funding to the faculty,” Ms Museveni said on November 11.
But the issue has not been acted upon.
Daily Monitor has established that the Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, assured the university management two years back that they would get the additional funding in the 2019/2020 budget.

In his letter to the university secretary, Mr Muhakanizi acknowledged that his team had visited the university to ascertain the state of the infrastructure and found that the university had designed prototype agricultural equipment for farmers to save the community from buying expensive machinery from foreign countries and thus promoting the Buy Uganda Build Uganda policy.
“This is to inform you that additional funding will be considered,” Mr Muhakanizi wrote on August 4, 2018
Although Prof Waako yesterday said they hadn’t received the money, he added that they were in touch with the Ministry of Education top management over the matter.

Donating staff
However, MPs were last week disappointed after finding out that Busitema University was ‘donating’ staff to other universities yet they continued to demand for more.
Out of 760 academic staff needed, the university has only 167 (22 per cent).
The committee chairperson, Mr Jacob Opolot, said: “You are lamenting about staff but Soroti University was here saying you have donated staff to them. Where do you find the moral authority to donate staff?”

But Prof Waako said they were responding to a distress call from their colleagues.
“They (Soroti University) needed staff from a nearby university for six months. The staff we are lending out are administrative and not academic. We sent two staff to support them start but they remain staff of Busitema,” Prof Waako said in a separate interview with Daily Monitor.