After a four week long industrial action by the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA), the body reached a truce with the administration of the university last week.
However, given the underlying tensions that still exist, there is no substantial guarantee that a strike, will not occur deep into the new semester.
The lecturers, who laid down tools over the suspension of their colleagues and demanded dismissal of at least two members of the council, have now resumed daily lectures with hope that the administration will act on their concerns.
On January 22nd, lecturers at the country’s biggest educational institution, Makerere University lay down their tools.
What followed were images of empty lecture rooms, distraught students and a flood of emergency meetings.
But it wasn’t the first time that the lecturer’s body was laying down tools.
In 2013, the staff body lay down tools for over a month demanding that the university increase their salaries.
Only that this time, MUASA was angered at the nature of dismissal of their fellow staff members.
It was never to be that the staff strike would come this soon in the semester but on January the 17th, matters took an unlikely turn.
This is the copy of the letter that was delivered to the MUASA Chairman suspending him, over his remarks in the media.
Part of those remarks included interviews he’d offered to me demanding that the university institutes a tribunal to hear appeals of a set of suspended, dismissed or terminated 45 lecturers.
The news of his suspension would grip the hill and throng it into an abyss of power struggle nearly unseen before.
MUASA immediately laid down tools, demanding a re-instatement of Kamunyu and the sacking of two prominent members of the University council.
Following closely behind it was the Students’ Guild that also went on strike to protest the lack of lectures at the hill.
What followed were four weeks of intense negotiations on the fate of the lecturers.
Makerere University has been here before. In 2013 when the lecturers’ laid down their tools over pay, the negotiations then took a month long to complete and after it, it was agreed that a 70-salary incentive be offered.
This time though, the demands were tough and hard.
Some scholars argue that the staff body had entered a space in which they were jostling for power to administer the university, a mandate they didn’t have.
But it wasn’t only the administration that had a foothold on staff salaries.
Under the payment structure of the university, government foots 60% of the salary whilst internally generated revenue contributed 40% of that salary.
Any effect on the salary would mean that both the university and government would have to put more money on the table. And this was a hard bargain for the university.
We have seen a confidential university revenue document that shows internally generated revenue went down from Shs 120 billion to Shs 90 billion in three years.
To manage the decline in resources, Professor Nawangwe asked a committee to look into how the University bag could be secured.
The Thomas Tayebwa led committee, recommended that staff incentives be scrapped and evening lectures expunged.
Another committee headed by Bruce Kabaasa recommended contracts for all teaching staff and an abolition of teaching assistants.
These two moves narrowed in on the reigning lecturers at the university.
The stroke that eventually broke the camel’s back was when a list over 47 lecturers were disciplined over non-attendance of class, sexual harassment of students and absconding of duty. In this list, 31 were out rightly sacked from the University.
This sacking was endorsed further by President Museveni.
The struggle to get some of those lecturers back is what eventually led to Dr. Deus Kamunyu’s suspension and eventually the strike.
But after four weeks now, the University is back to its usual operations with very little but guarantees from the administration.
The question still holds: will this be Makerere’s last strike?