March 12, 2013

Muteesa I University Students Go On Strike

The Academic Registrar of Mutesa I Royal University was on Tuesday morning forced to flee his office as students staged a strike protesting failure by the administration to address their academic concerns.

Activities at the Masaka-based campus were halted for about five hours until the strike ended.

The students mainly from the Engineering Department on Monday stormed Academic Registrar Francis Xavier Ssekaddu’s office and him hostage for close to an hour, demanding for a convincing explanation why their concerns had not been addressed for so long.

Students claim to have been forced to pay shillings 50,000 shillings as practical fee last semester but they did not do any practical lessons yet their course is hands-on.

They further explain that at the beginning of this semester in January, the same administrators asked for another 50,000 shillings which they paid but they failed to offer practical lessons, yet examinations are nearing.

Led by their Vice Guild President Irene Nalwanga, who is also the Engineering Guild Council Representative, the students stormed Ssekaddu’s office on Tuesday with sticks and plumb balls.

In anticipation that the students would listen to him, Ssekaddu came out of the office and tried to explain to them but the charged crowd trashed every excuse he gave for not giving them practical lessons.

Ssekaddu later disguised himself and fled in his pick-up truck unnoticed by the students. To prove their point the students went ahead and dug trenches in the University compound claiming they were doing their practical lessons.

Using bricks, sand, and other building materials they bought, the students also erected a wall at the main entrance of the building that houses the academic registrar’s office and blocked access to it which forced the occupants to use auxiliary exits.

Irene Nalwanga said the students have on several occasions written letters to the University Administration to address their grievances but they have been ignored which sparked off the strike.

She adds that they have not received last semester’s examination results because they did not do practical lessons.

Arafat Kalema, a second year student is one of the most affected. He says that they want the university administration to transfer last semester’s practical fees to cover this semester since they did not have any hands-on classes last semester.

He claims that University administrators have always given them an excuse of lack of funds whenever they demand for construction materials yet they completed the payments.

Eddie Luswata, another second year student says they don’t have enough lecturers because most of them left last year due to unpaid salaries leaving them stranded.

He explains that the administrators refused to charge a uniform fee for supervision of engineering students undergoing industrial training. He says some pay 80,000 yet others pay up to 120,000 shillings depending on the distance from the university.

However, Academic Registrar Ssekaddu said the students bought the materials for practical lessons in the last and current semester. He explained that the construction materials were bought and kept in the store and the practical classes are expected to begin this week.

This comes just over two weeks after Makerere unuversity students staged a violent strike to protest what they called an unfair fees policy, which requires them to pay at least 60% of the tuition by the sixth week of the semester.

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