KAMPALA —A Makerere University female student who came to symbolize the protests against ‘unfair’ tuition increment at the institution has been suspended from the university for inciting violence.
Mollie Siperia, the Guild Representative Councillor for School of psychology on Tuesday took matters into her own hands — leading hundreds of students who thronged the roads, confronting the heavily armed military to protest against the ‘unfair’ 15% tuition increment for five years running.
The protest against the policy started early in the semester but intensified on Tuesday and Wednesday when huge crowds gathered in front of a heavily armed military police, holding placards seeking to halt the policy.
“This university is for poor students. Those who increased the tuition have their children studying outside this country. Some of us are here selling our bodies to get tuition. Mr. President [Yoweri Museveni] we are your Bazukkulu. Please halt this policy and relieve us from selling our bodies,” Ms. Siperia said before she was intercepted by military police.
Siperia and her colleagues were taken to Wandegeya Police Station. Later, some other students were also arrested for storming Wandegeya Police Station, seeking the release of their colleagues.
The university management reacted by suspending the jailed Siperia and sending threatening letters to her colleagues for inciting violence.
“I received a letter from the Vice Chancellor Makerere University; Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe suspending me from the institution,” she said.
She was accused of inciting violence and causing anarchy which disrupts University activities.
Her colleagues were equally served with fierce warning letters.
She added: “Looking at this letter while my legs were coiled in one of the corners of the police cell with the comfort of the stench and cold floor, I pondered on how an innocent girl who can’t harm even a fly could have incited violence in the University she dearly loves!” Siperia said.
She told this website that the letter reminded her of so many girls that have approached her with tears in their eyes telling her the difficulty they go through to raise tuition.
“I remembered the various campaigns we have had at the school of Psychology as students trying to raise tuition so our fellow students can do exams with us, the stories I have heard from the boys on how they illegally sneak into examination rooms because they have not cleared tuition,” she said.
She said when she saw the letter while in jail, “It immediately remembered me of my friends with whom we started first year but could not continue with us all because of the problem in question; the famous Sonia story stuck in my mind so much that I slid the suspension letter in my back pocket and walked away from the police station feeling much more innocent like never before.”
The defiant students’ leader added: “If my freedom of expression is to be suppressed to the core, then pardon the eggs forming in my womb by granting them an affordable education.”
Collaborating on same, Julius Kateregga, the University Guild President said that several first-year students have taken a dead year because of the tuition burden.
Asked on why students are striking, Kateregga, said his administration has engaged the university management on the issue of increasing tuition but it has kept on increasing for 5 years straight.
“We’re still pursuing the road of dialogue but management seems to be hellbent on asserting their authority,” he said adding that: “We’ve discussed this with the Vice-Chancellor. Unless our people are threatened, our only mandate is to stand and protect the students.”
Another female student whose name is withheld, calling herself “very proud to take part in this struggle,” said many students activists have received threats from the Nawangwe administration.
Students have since mobilised to protest management’s decision to suspend their colleagues.