KAMPALA – Members of Parliament on the Education Committee have appealed to the Makerere University leadership to focus more on engaging in dialogue whenever they reach an impasse with any stakeholders other than resorting to violence.
The legislators while meeting the Makerere University Council and Management on Wednesday 6, expressed their disappointment particularly with the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe in how he has handled the strikes at the university since beginning his tenure at the helm of the institution.
The committee, chaired by Hon. Jacob Opolot was tasked by the House to investigate the circumstances surrounding the student strike at the university.
Hon. Opolot said that there has been a marked high-handedness of Prof. Nawangwe especially when it comes to him dealing with any dissent.
“You seemingly cannot entertain anyone who disagrees with you; when the lecturers demonstrated earlier this year you suspended some and now when the students demonstrated you suspended some of them even over social media posts,” Opolot said.
Nawangwe, in January this year suspended the Chairperson of the Makerere University Staff Association (MUASA), Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi and other staff for alleged misconduct and inciting violence.
Last month, in a letter authored by Prof. Nawangwe, nine students were suspended over the same issue of inciting violence and general misconduct after the students’ leadership body demanded the halting and review of a 15 percent fees increment.
Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa (Justice Forum) noted that the general atmosphere has been that the vice-chancellor is not very cordial especially when dealing with the students.
“There might be regulations and policies that support your move to suspend people but your predecessors were not using their authority in that manner; you are on record for having the biggest number of suspensions since the inception of this University,” he said.
Basalirwa advised that Nawangwe should instead talk to the students in a more cordial manner like some of his predecessors did.
“During my tenure as Guild President for Makerere, the vice-chancellor then, Prof. John Ssebuwufu would always call me to his residence for a cup of tea and talk in case there was a strike; it did not mean we agreed but nobody got suspended,” added Basalirwa.
He urged the vice-chancellor to engage the students more to diffuse the tension and asked him to allow open debates.
Hon. Emmanuel Ongiertho (FDC, Jonam County) decried the violence exerted on the students arguing that it was uncalled for and instead the university leadership should talk to the students.
“Of all the vice-chancellors I know, you have had the most crises with everybody; the students and staff,” he said, adding that, “Maybe you should be relieved of your duties because you have failed to manage the university clearly.”
However, Nawangwe denied the assertions advanced by MPs insisting that he means well and maintains an open-door policy to all especially the student leaders.
He added that the Makerere University Guild President, Julius Kateregga, refuted the claims that the Nawangwe is unapproachable to the students.
“He said on the NBS Morning Breeze show that I consult whenever there is an issue; no vice-chancellor has met student leaders more than I do,” Nawangwe noted.
The vice-chancellor said that for first time he created an avenue for the university management to interact with the Guild Representative Council.
“I have met the Guild Representative Council on several occasions and I have drawn very many brilliant ideas from them,” he added.