Doubts loom over proposals to solve Makerere woes

Saturday January 13 2018

Makerere University students join their lecturers in a strike over pay on November 1, 2016. NMG

Makerere University students join their lecturers in a strike over pay on November 1, 2016. The university has been dogged by disputes between students, lecturers and the university’s management. PHOTO | NMG 

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Education experts say a raft of recommendations seeking to address the challenges faced at Makerere University are unlikely to work.

The report by a committee appointed by Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni in November 2016, at the height of student riots in the country’s oldest university, was handed to the president in December 2017. It was headed by the late Abel Rwendeire.  

The Rwendeire committee supported the college system including a radical proposal to merge other public universities into Makerere.

Former vice chancellor, John Ddumba Sentamu, who left the university in September last year, highlighted salary and wages as the main challenges to smooth operations at the university.  

The State Minister for Higher Education, Chrysostom Muyingo, said a team from the department of higher education is carrying out consultations on the recommendations made in the report especially those that require financial resources.

“When the consultations are done the department will hand over the report to the ministry, which will then give it to the Cabinet,” said Mr Muyingo.

Makerere vice chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe set up a special committee to study the report and identify areas that need immediate implementation and those that need further clarification from the ministry.

Issues of mismanagement of university resources, poor leadership, lack of accountability and lecturers failing to teach are some of the challenges highlighted in the committee’s report and are similar to issues raised in the previous three reports.

Education experts, including two former vice-chancellors, say the recommendations face the same fate as the findings of the McGregor committee, the Mbaguta committee and the 2014 Omaswa committee.

Following a series of strikes at Makerere University, officials from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, university chancellor, council members and senior university managers agreed to set up a task force in 2011, which was mandated to investigate the disputes between the university staff and management. This led to the inception of the Omaswa task force.

Former vice chancellor of Makerere Vanansius Baryamureba said authorities need to ask why there has been no implementation of recommendations made in the previous reports.

He partly blamed Makerere’s university council for the failures.

“Most of the university council members are appointees who have no qualifications, which makes it hard for them to make informed decisions about how to run such an institution,” said Prof Baryamureba.