The fate of Gulu University students hangs in balance as lectures continue their sit down strike over unpaid allowances.
Students say they are uncertain of when they will sit for semester one exams for the academic year 2017/2018 which they missed when lecturers went on strike in December 2017 due to nonpayment of their allowances.
The students are demanding the intervention of President Yoweri Museveni to save their academic lives and future.
“We need the central government to step in and do a thorough audit of the University. Let the President meet with student leaders and hear us out because there are small gods in the administration who believe that nothing can remove them from the university. There are so many wrong things here,” said Edmon Okello, the Representative of Private students in the council.
Perhaps worrying for the parents as well as the community is that the continuing redundancy of the students coupled with the exhaustion of upkeep money has rendered them vulnerable to mischief such as prostitution.
Okello argues that the University cannot fail to meet “legitimate” demands of lectures since the institution collects more money from private students in a semester that what the students are demanding.
“The lecturers want only 700million shillings out of the UGX4 billion arrears for their allowances. We pay about 2.5 billion shillings every semester and government also sends money for paying lecturers. We don’t sit exams without completing tuition fees. So how can they fail to pay lecturers?” Okello wonders.
Gulu University has a population of about 4,000 students. About 3,200 are private students with just 800 being government sponsored.
The students some of whom come from as far as Kasese district are staying in private hostels that they pay per semester, to wait for examinations.
Daniel Bazira, a former student’s representative at the University senate said a number of students from far away districts are residing at the hostels with the hope that they will be called to do exams.
“Some of us remained at the hostels because transport to and from home would be more than the hostel fee. The hostel owners are now saying we have to pay between 3,000/= to 5,000/= per day since their semester fees expired in December last year.
The cheapest hostel room that accommodates two students costs 700,000/= per semester. And some up-market hostels charge as much as UGX1.2 million per semester,” added Bazira.
He says the hostel owners are no longer considering the holiday period have asked students to pay up for the period they have over-stayed.
“Personally, I reported back on the 2nd of January so that I could prepare for the papers, but up to now, there is no official communication on when we shall do exams. Going back home and returning means more expenses for us.”
Gulu University Academic staff under their umbrella body, Gulu University Academic Staff Association, GUASA, went on strike in December 2017 and refused to give end of Semester exams to all students.
Saadick Ssentongo, the University Prime Minister in the Office of the Guild president siad students are seeking to meet the President over their sorry state.
“So many things are happening here and the presidents has to give us his attention to just like any other public University with problems in the Country. We have not sat for exams and this is going to affect semester two activities like school practice for education students and other internship programes.
What kind of professionals do you want to send out there to the community if crucial academic issues cannot be resolved even when students have paid tuition fees?” Ssentongo wondered.
Meanwhile, Gulu University Public Relations Officer, Mahamoud Khalid told our reporter this afternoon that the students have to remain home and wait for a communication from the university on when to resume studies or do exams.
“The date when students will come back is still unknown. The tentative date of returning to the university – January 16, 2018 ahead of projected start of exams on January 20, has been canceled because the university did not pay the lecturers.
So as of now, there is no official communication until the issue is sorted,” Khalid says.
A team of about 14 members from Education Committee of Parliament had a meeting at the University last week in which the University leadership said it didn’t have money to pay lecturers and await response from Ministry of Finance to make payments for their allowances.
The inadequate number of staff to teach in the Weekend programmes, Week Day lecturers teach both the Day and Weekend programmes. The accumulation of their unpaid allowances caused the strike.
The lecturers are demanding the payment of their overload allowances to enable them resume work this year for the new semester.
Gulu University is a public University that started in 2002 and held its 13th Graduation ceremony at the main campus on January 13,2018. Students were disappointed that there was no communication regarding their plight during the graduation ceremony.