KAMPALA —Parliament’s committee on Education and Sports has kicked off inquiry into allegations of mismanagement of Makerere University purported to have led to the strike witnessed last week.
The committee began its inquiry on Monday 4 November 2019, meeting guild leaders and students who had testimonies of torture and illegal arrest.
Students testified to have severally been intimated by management not only during the strike but even before when they protest university policies.
“You have a professor telling you that you will not graduate if you keep negotiating like that yet these professors hold our academic in their hands” said Marion Kirabo, Minister of Gender, Integrity and Ethics, Makerere Guild Council.
Ms. Kirabo explained that even the sub-committee report the University based on to pass the 15% tuition increment policy did not go through the due process because of pressure from management “the agreement was that the Guild president would present the report to the University council with recommendations forms students guild representatives council, however after the report was handed to administration, the speaker refused call for a GRC session, we understood he was under pressure from management and the council passed it without GRC input,” added Kirabo.
This process alone, Parliament learned led to riots leading to suspension of students who opposed the policy from its inception “there was a lot of chaos, members of the GRC house retaliated because they didn’t have input in the policy, about 10 students were suspended”
A student identified as Obed Derrick testified to have been suspended for an entire academic year because he led a group of students that rejected the tuition increment.
“I was called to a professor’s office who intimidated me and called my mother threatening her that I would die,” Obedi told the committee.
The Guild President, Julius Katerega testified to have been arrested three times including on Monday while heading for Parliament’s committee meeting.
In fact Kalungu West MP, Joseph Ssewungu said he had to call the Inspector General of Police and several police officers to free Katerega and be able to attend the committee meeting.
Katerega says students do not necessarily want the University to do away with the increment but want it halted until an agreement is reached between the university and students on the terms of increment.
Students are for instance aggrieved that they had initially agreed to 15% increment in tuition fees but didn’t know the increment would accumulate each financial year.
They added that the University went ahead to increase functional fees, medical fees and even national IDs yet services such as hygiene gradually deteriorate.
This increment students say has led some students to discontinue students.
“I have over 300 students who are telling that they are failing, that they cannot go on with the struggle under high costs, most of them are in the first year,” the Guild President testified to the Education committee.
The committee also learnt from the Vice Guild President, Judith Nalukwago that over 100 students discontinued their studies after fees increment was effected.
The committee chairperson Jacobs Opolot advised guild leaders to endeavor to stick to interests of students irrespective of pressure from management saying that “many times you agree to positions in the guild council, the university takes it as a policy and you jump out on implementation, yet if you stuck to your positions we wouldn’t be having these problems.
Hon Allan Ssewanyana was concerned on learning that the University doesn’t receive money from state house sponsored students yet the scheme has a sizeable number of students.
He said such gaps and misuse of funds need to be closed so as to relieve students of having to carry the burden.
The committee was directed by Parliament on Thursday 31 October to inquire into surroundings of Makerere strike.
In its inquiry, the committee will meet the University management, Ministries of Education, Internal Affairs, Defense and Veteran affairs.
Their mandate includes inquiry on tuition fees increment, management of finances, students-management relation, strike and reports of torture and sexual harassment.