Parties involved in the negotiations over the re-opening of Makerere University yesterday held a make or break meeting which will determine when the institution resumes normal operations.
But sources on both sides confirmed to this newspaper yesterday that some progress had been made and a senior government official expressed confidence that the university would re-open within the government-set deadline of 14 days.
It was understood that the university had made two critical concessions to aid a quicker reopening. The striking lecturers and the university council, which ordered the institution closed following the strike, are understood to have agreed to a forensic audit and a look into internally-generated revenues to cover for part of the lecturers’ demand for a salary raise. But more importantly, the Daily Monitor has learnt that an agreement has been reached to reopen the university as negotiations continue.
The lecturers seem also to be receptive to the idea of an increment that will, however, not reach their 100 per cent demand. Education minister Jessica Alupo said she was confident the university will open for business within the 14-day deadline the government set earlier. “At least the university council agrees that the university can open and resume normal business as the negotiations continue. They are keeping us updated on their negotiations,” Ms Alupo told this newspaper.
Another well-placed source confirmed that the university was receptive to a demand that a forensic audit of its finances be conducted as well as a look into its internally generated revenues, two thorny issues that have been central to the on and off strikes, negotiations and closures that have ruled the biggest and oldest public institution for nearly 10 years.
The spokesperson of the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (Muasa), Mr Louis Kakinda, said a meeting of the negotiation committee today and its feedback to the various parties will be critical on the way forward. “Tomorrow (today) is the most important meeting to determine whether we resume work or not,” Mr Kakinda said, adding: “They will give us their scenarios (but) from the look of things, it looks like there might be a breakthrough.”
The chairman of the Makerere University Council, Dr Charles Wana-Etyem, chairs the committee. On August 7, Muasa announced it was resuming a strike it had earlier suspended complaining that the university council had reneged on an earlier promise on remuneration and general welfare demands.
The council responded promptly by announcing the institution would be closed, which meant it would not open for the first semester of the new academic year. The university had earlier been set to open for first year students’ orientation week on August 17. It is understood a new schedule will be issued to compensate for the time lost.