The state of affairs at Makerere University is of concern for every citizen, academician, and advocates of democratic governance and human rights. The situation calls for candid dialogue and action.
Makerere University established in 1922 as a technical college, and one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Africa, has been turned into a battle field in the last three weeks and can no longer stand by its moto, “We Build for the Future.”
The university was meant to produce quality and competitive professionals to contribute to national and global development.
The current impasse between the university management led by Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe and students, will forever be remembered as one of the darkest periods in the history of this great institution.
First, I would like to join the rest of the country to condemn the inhuman, degrading and barbaric treatment of innocent and harmless students who are fighting for their rights and justice in order to achieve affordable and quality education.
Makerere is a public university whose funding comes from taxpayers (parents). The institutions are demanding for additional tuition, but the parents of the students are already paying very heavy direct and indirect taxes. It is worth noting that Makerere University has since the 1980s not been receiving much funding from government to runs it strategic and operational demands, including remitting money for government-sponsored students.
Therefore, Parliament should audit the university to establish the amount of money it requires for effective and efficient governance of the university and appropriate it accordingly to reduce pressure the burden of students and parents who are already making great sacrifices.
Besides, not every disagreement requires a military intervention. Disagreements at a university are not acts of aggression or war. They are matters that call for intellectual discourse.
Therefore, men in uniform, especially the army, must desist from involving themselves on issues relating to education. Parliament should institute criminal investigations and special court to try the heads of military who commanded the raid in Makerere University.
Prof Barnabas Nawangwe must resign with apologies from the Makerere VC position as he seems to have lost the moral high ground to continue working in that position. Parliament must also take strikes at Makerere University very seriously as there are deeper underlying factors that require legal and institutional reforms.
There is also the need to ascertain adequate funds to run a public university efficiently and effectively. Public universities must be subsidised if they are to leave to their mandate of delivery quality education to all.
Besides, these universities are meant to give equal opportunity to all citizens, including right to right to education and ensure equitable distribution of resources.
Military intervention is not a solution to issues pertaining to academic challenges. Involving the military in university affairs may only address symptoms, not the underlying problems the great institution.
Therefore, Parliament must put an injunction stopping army from interfering with university affairs.
Charles Mulozi Olweny,