Makerere University students left their homes for the second semester in January . This was, however, blocked by the egos of the institutions professors and doctors, which is very unfortunate for their career and reputation.
There is a proverb in Swahili that says ‘Upiganapo wa tembo ,nyansi humia, literally meaning that the fight between two elephants affects the fighting ground. Two elephants - Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe and Dr Kamunyu Muhwezi - have fought for more than two weeks and the wrath has been felt by the core stakeholders of the university, the students
I will again borrow another proverb from Swahili that says vita havina macho (meaning that war has no eyes). Those who are not fighting such as students, non-teaching staff, suppliers, security agencies, parents and a few lecturers, who clearly understand their primary responsibility at school, are the ones that are suffering more.
What is the cause of this unfortunate strike ? Many interviews have been done with different media houses by both parties but nobody gives a reasonable cause of this mayhem. Sources indicate that the lectures’ salary arrears were paid immediately they made a threat to go on strike. So if it is not about money, then what is the problem?
The suspension of more than 30 lecturers was, in my view, justified. Reasons like absconding duty without an explanation, embezzlement of university funds and sexual harassment reasonably calls for suspension of anyone regardless of their qualifications or position at the university.
This is because like any other public institution, Makerere University has clearly identified standing orders for civil servants. Parents have paid their hard-earned money for tuition and students in the university have remained idle.
What is more painful is for the Vice Chancellor to lie to an informed nation like Uganda that all lecturers were in classrooms waiting for students. If he thought that was public relations stunt, then it is an outdated way of spinning and manipulating the situation.
As a person with a communications background and PR in particular, I am sure that many people are surprised given the uncoordinated messages sent from the institution on the same issue. For instance, Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa) says one thing now and the next minute, the office of the vice chancellor says something different. This is followed by students’ guild gives an ultimatum to the administration threatening to stage a strike.
The university’s reputation has been thrown to academic dustbin by egocentric leaders and self-seekers. I am tempted to believe in the words of the President that these lecturers as greedy and unpatriotic.
I do not understand why one Dr Kamunyu’s suspension should force the entire Muasa of more than 400 intellectuals to strike.
Meanwhile, students are losing time yet this is their last academic semester.