Inter-University dialogue on strikes calls for calm

Inter-University dialogue on strikes calls for calm
Makerere university Business School (MUBS) students at the start of the strike
Makerere university Business School (MUBS) students gathering during a strike in 2013

The Inter University Conference for Peace in East Africa (IUCP – EA) held a half day dialogue on 28th Nov. 2013 at Makerere University to discuss University strikes. The dialogue attracted participants from a number of universities including Kyambogo, Uganda Martyrs University – Nkozi, Makerere University Business School, Kampala international University and Makerere University – the host.

The Chairperson of IUCP – EA and St. Francis Chaplain Rev. Canon Dr. Johnson Ebong, decried the continued culture of strikes at Institutions of higher learning. “University strikes have almost become an integral part of our cherished institutions, notwithstanding the gross costs they come with,” he said. “Preventing strikes and alleviating their negative effects require urgent action, calling for concerted efforts from all stakeholders,” he added.

The dialogue was opened by the Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Ddumba – Ssentamu, who observed that, “This dialogue on University Strikes is very important to Makerere University as we have had a fair share of strikes both by students and members of staff. We need to understand the causes of the strikes and we in Management should make sure that these causes are well understood.”

In his presentation, Dr. Simba Kayumba Ssali the Head, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), noted that most of the world’s positive social transformations have been as a result of strikes. He attributed the University strikes to State withdrawal. “The State significantly withdrew from funding public universities following a World Bank report in the 1990s.

This resulted into cost-sharing, with universities continuously looking at students as a source of funding,” he argued. He advised that the state needs to increase funding in public universities and that the organizational structure of student leadership be revised to match that of Staff at Makerere University. Most Makerere University students stay outside halls of residences and yet issues affecting them, which are academic in nature as opposed to welfare, are not well represented in the current structure.

The University Secretary, Mr. David Kahundha Muhwezi, attributed strikes to a communication gap highly portrayed by misinformation. “Someone will wake up and circulate an allegation. Before you know it, the allegation has caused a lot of tension and a strike is looming. It is best that students take time off to understand issues/policies before resorting to strikes. The University has ample mechanisms of resolving conflict,” he emphasized.

The dialogue was attended by Politicians including Hon. Beti Kamya – President of Uganda Federal Alliance, Deans of Students, University Religious Leaders, SSP Muleterwa Anatoli from the Uganda Police Force (UPF), Student Leaders and representatives from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs).

Article by Marion Alina, Public Relations Office Makerere university

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