Soroti University is set to start its operations come August this year, an official from the institution has revealed. Once operational, it will be the 9th public university in the country.
Rose Achimo, the university secretary, says the institution’s facilities are almost complete, apart from few parts of the sports grounds that squatters have refused to vacate to allow for its development.
Achimo explained that the university is expected to be a centre for health sciences and technology in the area and assured the public that the 100 students who will be sent to Soroti University on government scholarship will not miss their academic year.
“We will be receiving 100 students when the government universities calendar starts later in the year and we can authoritatively say they will start. The buildings are at 90 per cent completion. We have procured science equipment and we have some staff,” she said.
Achimo added: “We are soon assembling the board of governors who will guide us on how to recruit the remaining staff, and then we will be calling for qualified people to apply for the teaching jobs.”
According to the university’s management, of the 100 bachelor’s students, 40 will study Medicine, 30 Computer Engineering and the remaining 30 will pursue Nursing.
SQUATTERS DELAY SOME WORKS
However, the institution still faces a challenge of squatters occupying its land who don’t want to vacate in time to allow the contactor to complete the works on the sports grounds.
“The contractor’s time is running out and he should be handing over to the university soon, but he cannot complete some projects such as the playgrounds not completed. If the delays are caused by our side, the contractor will charge us an extra fee,” said Achimo.
Juma Hassan Nyene, the institution’s communication officer, told The Observer that contractors say they cannot put their expensive machinery to work on the disputed land because the area has become insecure and have asked Soroti University to guarantee security before they can resume the works.
“Soroti University occupies 288 hectares of land formerly owned by Teso College of Higher Education, a private organization that wanted to put up a private university, but the government, being the owner of the land, moved in and started the process of setting up a public university,” he said.
Nyene added: “The land had been idle for many years. Especially during the insurgencies, nobody cared; that is when people started allocating themselves government land. Now they don’t want to leave.”
Local are accusing the university management of wanting to evict residents without compensation. However, officials say the university offered the squatters an opportunity to be valued by the government valuer but only four accepted the offer. Achimo said the four have since been paid and they have gone ahead and bought land elsewhere.
“Four families have been paid by the university but we still have 11 households to evacuate from the land. The challenge is that they are backed by politicians who encourage them not to vacate the land,” she said.