Kampala. Police were yesterday deployed at six public universities across the country as the institutions’ nonteaching staff laid down their tools protesting against government’s decision to increase salaries for academic staff – leaving them out.
Students picking their admission letters from Makerere University, for example, could not access the Senate building as it remained locked for the better part of yesterday.
Prof John Ssentamu-Ddumba, Makerere University vice chancellor, said the strike had affected their operations and appealed to government to heed their staff’s call.
“Government’s position is that there is no money and that their request will be considered in the 20162017 budget. The association of non-teaching staff has said no to the position and their strike has affected us. The system is down as offices are locked,” Prof Ddumba said, adding: “My appeal to government is to assist the staff and listen to their concerns and the staff should come back and work as government finds a solution.”
However, the more than 4,000 staff have stuck to their guns insisting government has discriminated against them. Mr Jackson Betihamah, the chairperson of the Public University non-teaching staff executive committee, said all its members have participated and that unless government shares the national cake equally, they will not report to work. The new academic semester begins this month for all public universities.
“We have registered countrywide success since no non-teaching staff has operated,” Mr Betihamah said, adding: “We have also been contacted that Gen Kale Kayihura wants to have a dialogue so we are yet to set a day for the meeting.”
At Makerere, Ms Euzobia Mugisha Baine, Makerere University directorate of quality assurance (manager academic affairs), said they have been compelled to strike because government could not offer them a solution last week.
There are about 4,000 support and administrative staff at Mbarara, Kyambogo, Busitema, Gulu, Muni and Makerere universities.
Ms Polly Namaye, the police deputy spokesperson said: “It’s our mandate to secure people and property. Since universities belong to Ugandans, then we are right to take action. Students are not able to access what they are paying for. This may drive them to also take measures which as police, we are preventing by being a vessel that creates a peaceful environment through neutrality.”