Barely out of their teens and bubbling with enthusiasm, the newly admitted students to Uganda's public universities will have to manage their excitement as their lecturers are not in any hurry to start teaching.
At Makerere University, the country's oldest institution of higher learning, the ongoing public university lecturers’ strike and absence of time tables has given first year students a rude welcome.
Having gone through orientation last week, first year students commonly referred to as freshers had high expectations to begin their lectures today. However, they ended up in disappointment loitering around the campus in despair.
Ritah Nakalyowa, a student of Psychology has had her enthusiasm to have a feel of university lectures cut short, after being informed that their time table was withdrawn due to missing course units.
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She says she hoped to have an experience of what lectures are as soon as possible but her patience has been put to test as nothing is certain as yet.
John Ken Ssali, pursuing a Bachelor of Education in Arts at the school of education expresses disappointment as no time table for classes has been issued as yet.
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He says that during orientation it was promised that the time tables would be out by end of last week so lectures could commence on Monday 1st March, 2021 but that has not been the case.
Sheba Namakula, a student of Education, is optimistic for classes to resume after receiving a time table from her Kiswahili lecturer.
However, she also notes that the time table came in at 9am indicating that they were to have had a lecture at 7pm which hadn’t taken place.
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On the other hand, Samalie Asako doing Bachelors of Agriculture at College of Agriculture and Environmental Science promises to stay home after today as long as commencement of lecturers remains uncertain as she cannot foot transport costs from Namugongo to Makerere University in vain.
Meanwhile, academic staff at the institution under Makerere University Academic Staff Association with backing from Forum for Academic Staff Association in Public Universities (FASPU) have maintained that they will not set foot in lecturer rooms.
Under leadership of Dr. Deus Kamunyu, the academic staff demand that the government release 129.24 billion Shillings for full equal pay enhancement of their salaries in all public universities.
Barnabas Nawangwe, Makerere University Vice chancellor, is firmly in opposition to the ongoing strike noting that it was called by an illegal body (FASPU).
“The university Council is our employer and the Council does not have any obligations on salary enhancement to any category of staff," Nawangwe noted in a communication sent to all university staff. "The demand made by the staff in 2013 of 100% salary increment has long been surpassed. Indeed every member of staff at Makerere University is earning at least 120% of the salary he/she was earning in 2013.”
Nawangwe further cautioned that management is monitoring teaching of students by staff on daily basis.
However, the academic staff through their legal representative Isaac Ssemakadde have scoffed the threats by University management.
“So unless your University Management is in possession of a court order declaring it ‘unlawful’, organizing or participating in this industrial action cannot be considered as ‘absconding from duty’ based on your university’s HR Manual or internal policies," Ssemakadde wrote to University staff.