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How Parliament’s Intervention Facilitated Return of Sanity at Makerere University

Written by: 
Mirionsi Kaboolanganda

The riffraff between Makerere University students and management over 15% cumulative tuition hike that recently bred into students’ protests bent on overturning the controversial policy, a campaign that provoked extreme police and army brutality, causing stalement for over two weeks at the institution, has since withered as sanity now prevails following Parliament of Uganda’s intervention into the impasse at Makerere.

The Parliamentary Committee on Education and sports, chaired by Hon. Jacob Opolot that was tasked by the House to investigate the circumstances surrounding the student strike at the university on Monday, November 4, 2019 met with the aggrieved students, the Ministry of Education and Sports and officials of Makerere University, in separate sittings as the committee deliberates on management and policy issues bedeviling the University.

 

The students' strike that started 22nd October 2019 with unwavering demands from students' including revoking the 'unfair' 15% tuition policy hit a major deadlock, when a section of the students Guild Leadership including the Guild Prime Minister, Obbo Emmanuel Johnson agreed to call off the strike in meeting held on Thursday 31 October 2019 saying that the students'issues are already being handled by parliament.

Makerere University students petitioned Parliament on 30th October 2019, asking the august house to prevail over the impasse at the University, “We (students) have been tortured, maimed and molested. Our properties were vandalized by soldiers who on several occasions have routinely raided students’ halls of residence. The army raided Lumumba hall on 24th October 2019 at night, broke into students’ rooms, brutalized them and vandalized their properties,” the students’ petition reads in part.

In the petition signed by at least 693 aggrieved students’ addressed to Speaker of Parliament, Hon. Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga, students decry of torture, harassment and suspension of students engaged in peaceful demonstrations.

Appearing before parliamentary committee on education recently, students also demanded for immediate resignation of their Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe. The VC together with his Personal Assistant (PA), Gordon Mulangira and Prof. Elia Hisali are accused by the aggrieved students of being at the “centre of all torture suffered by students at Makerere.”

However, when summoned by parliamentary committee on Education on November 6, Prof. Nawangwe denied having any responsibility of students'torture, saying that all deployment at the University are made by the security forces. He argued that Makerere University Management did not authorize any security operations at Makerere.

Yusuf Kiranda, the University sectary, revealed to parliament that the University has already constituted a select committee to investigate into the allegations of students'torture. He also said that the disciplinary action taken against students engaged in demonstration is not final, he denied knowledge of any student suspensions, encouraging the affected students to meet with management for hearing.

The state minister for higher education, Hon. John Crysostom Muyingo who represented ministry of Education and Sports, appearing before the committee on 5th November, expressed government support for the current position of Makerere University to implement the 15% cumulative tuition increment policy, expected to raise over shillings 40 billion to subsidize government funding to the university.

As the parliamentary Committee on Education is expected to report their findings to the house by 13th November next week, Makerere University Management has insisted that the University will not have any semester extensions, as students are scheduled to have end of semester exams beginning 18th November 2019.

Release of end of semester examinations time-table sort of reduced the street battles between security forces and students at the institution but deep inside the students’ fraternity remains deep seated anger, dissatisfaction and discontentment over the fees increment.