MBARARA – As the staff strike enters its ninth day, the committee of Parliament on Education on Thursday, May 9, met with the top management and a section of staff of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) in an effort to iron out the impasse that has engulfed the government institution in the recent past.
The meeting follows a number of petitions from the guild leadership and members of the academic staff, who on May 2, laid down their tools demanding that the Vice Chancellor Prof. Celestine Obua be retired in public interest and the University Secretary Melchior Byaruhanga steps aside to allow for investigations into the mismanagement of university funds.
The committee led by Hon. Jacob Richards Opolot, Member of Parliament for Pallisa County, included Hon. Joseph Ssewungu, Hon. Allan Ssewanyana, Hon. Nathan Itungo, Hon. Sheila Mwine and Hon. Moses Kasibante.
The meeting started at around 10; 30 am at Kihumuro main campus but later none members and the media were told to move out before they could divulge into details of the discussion. The meeting was attended by council members, academic staff, and representatives of staff unions, all deputy vice-chancellors including embattled Vice Chancellor Prof. Obua.
A source that attended the meeting intimated that it was a heated debate where members of staff told the MPs that Prof. Obua has mismanaged the university funds and the university council has been in bed with him, therefore they failed to address the challenges that the university was going through.
As the meeting was going on, the student leadership led by Guild President Mike Katongole stormed the building but Police had been deployed and they tried to disperse the students using tear gas. Later, Hon. Ssewungu came out of the meeting and told the Police’s FFU Commander Mr. Collins Kaganzi to let them in.
“We are here because of these students. We have to listen to them. Get them a place they can be as we finish with the administration we want to talk to them too,” Ssewungu told Police.
After the meeting at around 7:00p.m, Julius Taremwa the Secretary-General of Mbarara University of Science and Technology Academic staff Association (MUSTASA)told the press that among the resolutions agreed upon was that a search for a new vice chancellor should start with immediate effect and a forensic audit carried out.
“We are happy that some of our demands have been addressed like the forensic audit which is going to be done by the office of the Auditor General and the search committee which had been frustrated by the incumbent will also start the process. The committee asked us to suspend the strike but we told them we are a small number and we cannot decide before consultations,” said Taremwa.
Taremwa said MUSTASA will have a General Assembly today at 2 pm so that all members get informed of the resolutions passed in the meeting.
“If they find they are convincing enough to suspend the strike we shall do so and the students and lecturers will come back to the lecture rooms,” Taremwa said.
However, the student leaders strongly rejected the move to have exams on Monday. “We cannot have exams on Monday without a timetable, all facilities including the library have been closed, the university system was shut down we could not access examination cards to print them, we don’t have our marks for course work so what shall we do in those exams, we have not been revising. We put a condition that the period be extended for at least one week and in that period each student should be paid shs15,000 every day as compensation.”