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Fate of Gulu varsity students hangs in balance as lecturers’ strike continues

Gulu University public relations officer Mahamoud Khalid (in black jacket) chats with a colleague last year after an executive meeting convened to resolve the impasse last year. Courtesy photo.

GULU–The fate of Gulu University students hangs in balance as lecturers continue with their sit-down strike.

Students say they are uncertain of when they will sit their Semester One exams for academic year 2017/2018 that they missed when lecturers went on strike in December, 2017 due to non-payment of their allowances, compelling authorities to close the university.

The students are now calling upon President Yoweri Museveni to intervene and save the image of the university as well as salvage the future of continuing students.

“We want government to step in and do an authentic audit of the University. Let the President meet with student leaders and listen to our views because there are small gods in the administration who believe that nothing can remove them from the university. There are so many wrong things here, ” said Edmon Okello, the students representative in the council.

Okello adds that the university cannot fail to meet “legitimate” demands of lectures since the money the institution collects from private students in a semester is more than what they are demanding.

“The lecturers want only Shs700 million out of the Shs4b arrears for their allowances. We pay about Shs2.5 billion every semester and government also sends money for paying lecturers. We don’t sit exams without completing tuition fees. So how can they fail to pay lecturers?” Okello wonders.

Gulu University has a population of about 4,000 students. About 3,200 are private students while the rest are on government sponsorship.

The students some of who come from as far as Kasese district are staying in private hostels with hope that they will be called to sit their examinations.

“Some of us remained at the hostels because transport to and from home would be more than the hostel fee. The hostel owners are now saying we have to pay between Shs3,000 and Shs5,000 daily since our semester fees expired in December last year. The cheapest hostel, costs Shs350,000 per semester with two people in a room paying differently. The good hostels charge up to Shs1.2 million per semester,” said Daniel Baziira, a former student’s representative at the University senate

He said hostel owners are no longer considering the holiday period and want payment for the time students are in their rooms yet most students are running out of money.

“Personally, I reported back on the 2nd of January so that I prepare for the papers, but up to now, there is no official communication on when we shall do exams,” he said.

Gulu University Academic staff under their umbrella body, Gulu University Academic Staff Association (GUASA), went on strike in December 2017 and refused to give end of Semester exams to all students.

Meanwhile, Gulu University Public Relations Officer, Mahamoud Khalid, told PML Daily this afternoon that the students have to remain home and wait for a communication from the university on when to resume studies or do exams.

“The date when students will come back is still unknown. The tentative date of 16th January, 2018 so that students begin exams on 20th January has been cancelled because the university did not pay the lecturers. So as of now, there is no official communication until the issue is sorted,” Khalid said.

Meanwhile, a team of about 14 members from the Education and Sports Committee of Parliament held a meeting at the University today. Students present said the University maintained that there was no money to pay the lecturers and await response from Ministry of Finance to make payments for their allowances.

Due to inadequate number of staff to teach in the weekend programmes,  lecturers teach both weekday and weekend  students and are demanding for the work overload allowances before they resume work this year for the new semester.

Gulu University is a public University that started in 2002 and held its 13th Graduation ceremony at the main campus on 13th January, 2018. Students were disappointed that there was no communication as to when they will resume studies as their colleagues graduated.

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