Makerere University, one of the leading and oldest universities in Uganda and Africa has for the past years been clouded with unending battles of strikes.
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Strikes at Makerere University, how far will it go and who to blame?

Makerere University, one of the leading and oldest universities in Uganda and Africa has for the past years been clouded with unending battles of strikes.

These, are mostly related to increment in tuition fees, teaching staff salary, non-teaching staff salaries, poor feeding, abuse of office… among others.

The past weeks have seen the institution filled with endless battles between the police, army and military police battling with students. This has resulted in numerous arrests, floggings, hostel raids, firing live bullets, beating of journalists rightfully doing their job and tear gas canisters to send away the rowdy scholars.

The strike that has been spearheaded by the guild leadership of Makerere University headed by Julius Kateregga who subscribes to the people power movement is protesting against the University council’s decision to increase tuition fees cumulatively at 15% for new entrants at the University.

This measure was announced in June last year and thus inflicted on the undergraduates starting in the 2018/2019 academic year.

Students and student leaders took to the ground to reportedly protest this fate arguing that the University fees are already high and if topped up with an increment, it will pile more pressure and make learning for scholars at the prestigious university more expensive and left for the rich.

“Right now, over 2000 students have dropped out of the university or failed to do their exams because of the high tuition fees,” Julius Kateregga the guild President told the media in Kampala.  “We can’t accept it,” he added.

Several University students were involved in running battles with the army that has since been heavily deployed at the University.

Footage that circulated on social media showed how the army in the middle of the night harshly raided students’ hostels and halls of residences beat and picked students whom they reportedly said to have led the protests.

However, the army and military police presence at the University has receded after President Museveni directed their withdrawal.

The appointed Students Guild committee presented the following recommendations to Council on 6th July 2018. They have been quoted verbatim by the University in a statement released on Monday.

“Instead of increasing fees by the tune of 49% and 91% as it were in the earlier Management proposal there should be a uniform and moderate 15% increase in tuition fees across all programmes effective 2018/19 for the next 5 years.

“This, however, means that a student who joins the University at a given fees structure that has a 15% factored in, shall continue to pay similar fees until he completes the Course duration.

“While the Visitation Committee recommended that Public Universities should charge a unit cost per program, our Committee has only considered a reasonable and moderate 15% to cater for annual inflation.  This was mainly considering our unique social-economic conditions as a country.

“The increment of 15% should only apply to first-year students (effective 2018/19) going forward and not continuing students.

“There should be a feedback framework where all matters/policies that affect students are discussed by student leaders beyond the two student representatives that sit on the Council and its Committees.

“The Guild President and his Vice should be allowed more participation on committees of Council that relate to student issues including quality assurance and student welfare committees.

“The revenue accruing from the above proposal if approved and implemented should reflect a change in student services especially in areas of student hygiene, Laboratory facilities, teaching facilities, WiFi, health services and customer care.” The statement read in part.

The statement says the University Council upon receipt of the recommendations from the Students Guild committee discussed and agreed as follows:

  • To increase fees on all undergraduate programmes for first-year students by 15% beginning with the 2018/2019 academic year.
  • That the 15% fees increment be successively continued for each cohort on the fees for the previous academic year over a five-year period.
  • That every cohort of students continues with the fees structure upon which they are admitted until they complete their programmes.
  • There will be no fees increment on continuing students
  • That Management sensitizes the student body on the new fees structure accordingly.

“Management, therefore, wishes to inform all our students that we are ready and willing to meet the Guild leadership so as to address the complaints at hand, in line with the aforementioned recommendations.” the statement read.

However, yesterday the school management through the manager of communications and international relations, Dr Muhammad Kiggundu Musoke released a statement to clarify the current fees policy at Makerere University now being contested by the students.

  • There has been no tuition increment this academic year. The students continue to pay the fees as per the structure given to each student at the time of admission.
  • The policy being contested by the students was approved and implemented in July 2018.
  • The policy was approved after a thorough report presented by the special committee of the Guild representatives appointed by the Guild leadership whose work started on 4th June 2018.
  • The appointed Students Guild committee presented the following recommendations to Council on 6th July 2018. They have been quoted verbatim.

BY FRANK SEMATA