KAMPALA – Politicians and stakeholders have condemned the manner in which Makerere University management has handled staff issues and accused the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, of disregarding the institution’s structures.
Currently, staff at the university are on strike, protesting against Prof Nawangwe’s decision to suspend three leaders of the teaching and non-teaching staff, among them Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi, who is the chairman of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA).
But the FDC vice president for eastern region, Ms Salaamu Musumba, said Prof Nawangwe is leading the university like a headteacher of a secondary school.
“I find what is happening in Makerere today a criminal act. It’s more like a secondary school with a headmaster. That is the brand we see now. I believe that the way the university lecturers call for strikes is not the same as taxi operators. There are enough systems in place and can be fixed if they are inadequate,” Ms Musumba said.
She made the remarks while appearing on NBS TV political talk show, Frontline, that is hosted by Charles Odongtho on Thursday evening. Also at the show was Kalungu West MP Joseph Sewungu, who is also a member of Parliament’s Education committee, Democratic Party president Norbert Mao, MUASA chairman Dr Kamunyu and the Executive Director of the Uganda Media Centre, Mr Ofwono Opondo.
Sewungu said: “When Nawangwe was appointed Vice-Chancellor, I thought Makerere would improve. It disturbs me to see a Vice Chancellor behaving the way Nawangwe behaves.”
Mao said: ” I don’t want us to oversimplify the issues of Makerere. It is as if the Vice-Chancellor is the fountain of all vices in Makerere which is not fair. You have to look at what it takes to be Vice-Chancellor of MUK. I won’t be surprised if generals are deployed to be in charge of MUK.”
“Makerere is a brand and Nawangwe should know that MUK was there before him and it will be there after him. It is important that he follows the law does not personalize issues. Prof. Nawangwe has adopted disruption as his leadership style. Bank of Uganda has been tackled, I think Makerere should be next. It seems to be a political problem and it will require strong political intervention. We as the former student leadership are trying to get together to see what we can do to support Makerere. Whatever we say here does not excuse Nawangwe from doing his job according to the law. I wish Nawangwe could come and be president for DP for one day, he would fire everyone. The way forward for Makerere is the same for Uganda. Just like Uganda needs a leader who loves the country, Makerere needs leaders who love the university to be in charge of it. I believe the situation is not out of hand. I also want parliament to shine a light there (Makerere) just like Bank of Uganda,” he added.
But Opondo defended Nawangwe.
“If your lecturers are absent for 2 to 5 years and are continuously paid, does that make your university competent?
Dismissing them (lecturers) was long overdue. I disagree with the lecturers running to the speaker because they were looking for a quick political solution,” he said.
“Another issue was that Some of the lecturers used positions to enroll students who didn’t qualify. I thought this would be handled in the university or maybe courts of law. If university lecturers have been discontinued or disciplined. I don’t expect academicians to gang up to stop disciplinary action from taking place. If the process was not fair, I think there are channels to handle it. There is nothing wrong with the Vice Chancellor using social media to send out information even if it is a suspension. The only issue should be, is it in the rules of the university to use social media to send out information?”
Dr Kamunyu said: “I think it started way before when I was Public Relations Officer for MUASA. The Rwendeire report highlighted important issues that were going to be critical to us because we asked for it. That was for us to be able to follow up on ending strikes. As MUASA Chairman I started on the process. In June last year, I was written to a letter to substantiate issues that I had raised. I was told by the Vice Chancellor that I made unsubstantiated issues and that I should stop talking. What is happening in Makerere has nothing to do with the 45 suspended staff.”
“If Makerere was to be rated according to the strikes that take place, it wouldn’t be the 3rd best University in Africa. If you look at Makerere and the entire country, we have continued to protect the image of the university irrespective of the circumstances. It challenges us as academics to see people fighting for marks and forgetting how the marks were acquired. The quality of education should go beyond these marks.”