Months of delayed pay have proved too much for staff at Muteesa I Royal University to deal with, prompting a row with their vice chancellor, Prof Arthur Sserwanga.
It has not helped that low morale by staff has coincided with a declining enrolment at the Buganda kingdom-founded institution. When we visited last week, the academic registrar was not in office; however, an official in the same office admitted that the enrolment had declined from 5,500 students last year to 2,500.
Acknowledging the same point, a member of the university academic staff association complained to the management, a fortnight ago.
“Although the salary is small, let it come in time. Part-time and fulltime workers should receive their salary regularly … as this affects the quality of services offered by the workers thus tarnishing the name of the university,” he wrote.
For a year now, staff have been paid in installments, sending arrears to over Shs 1.1bn. This complaint last week prompted, the university council chairman, Dr Frank Ssebowa, to pledge to meet the staff arrears at the earliest opportunity.
“Your salaries will be worked upon after discussing the issue with the board of directors… we have ambitious plans for a major fundraising drive that will also look at putting up new a building complex and administration blocks in order to improve on our infrastructures,” he declared.
Dr Ssebowa also pledged that the council was conscious of a need to set up a drive to increase on enrolment. Following Dr Ssebowa’s assurance, the staff received half of their July salaries.
VC IN TURMOIL
It is not certain if these assurances placated the staff. However, some lecturers have been circulating an email purported to have been authored by the vice chancellor.
In the email, Prof Sserwanga is supposedly threatening to sack any lecturers who do not agree with him, following a staff meeting they held at the institution last week.
“Instead of concentrating on your duties and responsibilities as per your respective offices, you have opted to hold meetings in all corners to complain about the VC’s fraud, exorbitant salary, dictatorship, selfishness and failure to run the university,” the email reads in part.
“Some of you think that reporting me to your cheap relatives at Bulange will frustrate my plans, but I dare you! … those relatives are nothing to me as the people with whom we want to accomplish our mission are also in Bulange and bigger than your so-called relatives.”
When asked about the email, Prof Sserwanga denied authoring it, then declined to comment further, as the matter is now under investigation by the university council.
Whatever the situation, all is not well at Muteesa I Royal University. Only on August 27, police were called in to quell a student riot that caused the abandonment of an impromptu university council meeting, called to resolve some of the troubles there.
At least 10 students, including the guild president Jesse Lumu were detained overnight, after they attempted to storm the venue of the meeting at the university's main campus in Masaka.
The angry students initially blocked officials from leaving the meeting room and threatened to lynch them, accusing them of failing to sack the university vice chancellor, who they say has mismanaged the institution.
Muteesa I Royal University was launched by Kabaka Ronald Muwenda Mutebi in 2007 and the current vice chancellor took office in September 2014. Last October 2015, the Kabaka appointed Justice Julia Sebutinde as chancellor, a position he himself had previously held.