We are on strike, Makerere staff tell Prof Nawangwe

The university campus remained virtually forsaken yesterday. This is due to the ongoing strike by lecturers at the institution. PHOTOS BY ALEX ESAGALA

Kampala- The striking Makerere University staff yesterday accused the Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, of telling lies and vowed to continue with the sit down strike until all their grievances are addressed.

The university management and the new chairperson of the university council, Ms Lorna Magara, yesterday met striking lecturers but the meetings didn’t bear any fruits.

The staff refused to return to work and some accused the management of telling lies to the public that “everything is okay.”

The lawyer representing the suspended staff, Mr Isaac Ssemakadde, attacked Prof Nawangwe for allegedly telling lies on social media that the staff are not on strike.

Mr Ssemakade also asked the Vice Chancellor to get serious and stop treating his employees as “kindergarten children.”

“Makerere staff are mature workers whose dignity and grievances should be handled with great national concern,” he said.

“Staff are open to negotiations and [Prof] Nawangwe should stop going to media telling lies. Threats and lies must stop,” he added.

The vice chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa), Mr Edward Mwavu, who spoke on behalf of the teaching and non-teaching staff, told Daily Monitor after their meeting with Ms Magara that she pleaded for more time to look into their issues.

“Our strike is still ongoing until we agree with the university management on when they are going to handle our grievances,” Mr Mwavu said.

“We met management to lay ground for the dialogue but nothing came of it. But we are going to meet again next week and if the university agrees to work on our demands, we will call the general assembly and call off the strike,” he added.

Ms Magara also told Daily Monitor after her closed-door meeting with striking university staff that she couldn’t do much to resolve the standoff since she is yet to receive instruments of power from the outgoing council.

She, however, promised to look into their complaints once the old council chaired by Mr Charles Wana-Etyem hands over office in February.

The acting vice chancellor, Dr Eria Hisali, addressed a crisis news conference at Makerere and asked the striking staff to resume work as the university continues negotiating with them on how to solve their grievances.“We met the executive members from the three staff associations who have called for the strike to discuss the process of solving their grievance so that we have operations at the university fully normalise as quickly as possible,” Dr Hisali said.

He explained that Ms Magara had also separately met the staff to see how council can solve their grievances.

“We call upon the staff to resume work and we take our university forward. Our doors are going to remain open for the negotiations to continue,“ Mr Hisali added.

The strike followed the suspension of the chairperson of Muasa, Mr Deus Kamunyu, Mr Bennet Magara, the chairperson of Makerere Administrative Staff Association (Masa), and his general secretary, Mr Joseph Kalema, for alleged indiscipline and inciting fellow staff.
Prof Nawangwe, who is currently on leave, yesterday took to social media and claimed that classes were going on normally.

He also disparaged the media as “fake news” for reporting the impact of the strike.

He said there was no strike on campus and that the suspension was valid since the staff in question were disrupting peace at the university.

Although Prof Nawangwe claimed there was no strike at Makerere, when Daily Monitor visited seven colleges, most of the offices were closed and lecture rooms were empty. Some lecture rooms had students without lecturers and others came and bounced because their lecturer rooms were locked.
At the School of Economics, lecture rooms were all locked and there was no time table.

At the College of Natural Sciences, most of offices were locked and lectures rooms were empty. However, at College of Education, only Master students had classes yet School of Law, all lectures rooms were also empty. Lectures at the School of Health Sciences at Mulago Hospital were going on normally since their lecturers do not usually engage in strike.

Students threaten to join strike.
As strikes enters fifth day today, infuriated students who talked to Daily Monitor threatened to join the staff strike if the university management fails to resolve the standoff by next week.

Speaking on behalf of the students, the president of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Makerere Chapter, Mr Edmond Mugabe said: “We have reported to university to study but lecture rooms are looked and there are no lecturers. We are giving them up to next week to agree if they fail we will join the strike.”

Makerere Guild President Papa Were, however, said the Guild Council would meet today discuss a way forward.