Senior journalist Charles Onyango-Obbo has likened what the army is doing at Makerere University to what former President Idi Amin Dada’s soldiers did in the past.
He was responding to military raids in halls of residence, flogging students and forcing them to roll on tarmac as well as endless teargasing in their reign of terror.
According to Cobbo, in 1952 Makerere College (later university), Kampala, Uganda, staged a “food strike” demanding the Britsh colonial administration provide better conditions and nutrition.
It was a small, but significant moment of student anti-colonial/government activism.
In May 1968, during former president Milton Obote’s rule, Makerere University students held anti-British protests after three Rhodesian Africans were hanged.
Another anti-British protest in 1969 was broken up by the army before it left campus, Cobbo narrated.
In March 1976, a strike by Makerere University students sparked the largest anti-government street protests in Uganda under military dictator Amin.
“He sent the army to invade student halls at night. Charismatic Law student Serwanga was killed, several fled to exile.”
Cobbo said on the night of October 24, 2019, 43 years and 7 months later, the President Museveni government also sent troops to invade Makerere University residences at night and beat up after they protested a fees hike.
“Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.”
These are the three issues the Students Guild raised for action before the strike started:
Makerere University Management wishes to make the following clarifications on the current fees policy now being contested by the students.
1. There has been no tuition increment this academic year. The students continue to pay the fees as per the structure given to each student at the time of admission.
2. The policy being contested by the students was approved and implemented in July 2018.
3. The policy was approved after a thorough report presented by the special committee of the Guild representatives appointed by the Guild leadership whose work started on 4th June 2018.
4. The appointed Students Guild committee presented the following recommendations to Council on 6th July 2018. They have been quoted verbatim.
Instead of increasing fees by the tune of 49% and 91% as it were in the earlier Management proposal there should be a uniform and moderate 15% increase in tuition fees across all programmes effective 2018/19 for the next 5 years. This however means that a student who joins the University at a given fees structure that has a 15% factored in, shall continue to pay similar fees until he completes the Course duration.
While the Visitation Committee recommended that Public Universities should charge a unit cost per program, our Committee has only considered a reasonable and moderate 15% to cater for annual inflation. This was mainly considering our unique social –economic conditions as a country.
The increment of 15% should only apply to first year students (effective 2018/19) going forward and not continuing students.
There should be a feedback framework where all matters/policies that affect students are discussed by student leaders beyond the two student representatives that sit on the Council and its Committees.
The Guild President and his Vice should be allowed more participation on committees of Council that relate to student issues including quality assurance and student welfare committees.
The revenue accruing from the above proposal if approved and implemented should reflect a change in student services especially in areas of student hygiene, Laboratory facilities, teaching facilities, WiFi, health services and customer care.
5. The University Council upon receipt of the recommendations from the Students Guild committee discussed and agreed as follows:
To increase fees on all undergraduate programmes for first year students by 15% beginning with the 2018/2019 academic year.
That the 15% fees increment be successively continued for each cohort on the fees for the previous academic year over a five-year period.
That every cohort of students continues with the fees structure upon which they are admitted until they complete their programmes.
There will be no fees increment on continuing students
That Management sensitizes the student body on the new fees structure accordingly.
Management therefore wishes to inform all our students that we are ready and willing to meet the Guild leadership so as to address the complaints at hand, in line with the aforementioned recommendations.
Dr. Muhammad Kiggundu Musoke (PhD)
MANAGER COMMUNICATION AND INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS