Disband Makerere University’s Administration

I am a proud Alumni of Makerere University Reg No. 93/572. My time at that institution of learning is one full of memories that can’t easily be shared save with those that belong to Wawa. I recall with nostalgia adventures like the time we marched to Parliament protesting some Faculty Allowance related issues. As we approached the gate of the Parliamentary building, it was gracefully opened and we stupidly thought that as members of the Ivory Tower, a red carpet welcome awaited us. In no time, a swarm of riot police chaps appeared from the compound of the parliament, running through the gate towards us. Being one of those at the forefront of the march, your guess is as good as mine about what happened next, Kagana. Oh my!!! Long story short, the next time I came to my senses, I was being hidden by some generous basubuzi women under a shop counter on Luwum Street as Police searched for traces of Makerere students.

Anyway, Makerere University has always been dogged by wrangles, one after another. They have largely been centered around lecturers and the University Administration. If it isn’t salary, it is allowances or some form of benefits. When the Private student scheme was established, I thought that this would reduce on the cat and mouse games that seem to have become a permanent feature. Wapi!!

When one looks at the level of corruption and abuse of office in the University Administration, you shudder to imagine how such an institution is still standing tall to-date. During the last decade, there was an issue of the perimeter wall costed at UGX 6 Billion that collapsed prematurely. It didn’t have any foundation and the cement/sand mix was very poor, only fit to build a temporary chicken house.

In 2004, there was a strike by the lecturers over the money collected for Evening classes which was then estimated at UGX 24 Billion. Over the years, numerous strikes either by the students or staff have been recorded and it all seems like a tape being replayed. The infighting among the administration staff makes the Israeli–Palestinian conflict child’s play. Judging from the sidelines, I seem to be gravitating towards the following conclusions:

  • Makerere University is riddled with incompetent leaders at the helm. Not only have their mindsets become static but they seem to be stuck in a historical time warp.

  • The university, is filled with crooks whose pre-occupation is to rob it dry of any possible income it can lay claim to.

  • The administrative structure of the university is flawed and cannot stand the times. Kind of like trying to use a wooden canoe to cross the ocean.

When the president ordered its closure, while I pitied the students and parents whose money has been put to waste, I also empathised with His Excellency. In Makerere University, you have an institution that has failed to wean itself of the mother’s breast milk and at 94 years of age is still crying for colostrum from that boob. When I compare it with universities like Uganda Christian University and see how much traction the latter has obtained while relying purely on student financing after the start-up boost, I can hardly imagine what kind of brains walk into those University offices on a daily basis under the guise of working.

The problems afflicting this university are known. We have had reports from various visitation committees before and unfortunately no action has been taken. I doubt if the findings of the currently instituted Visitation committee will vary significantly from those of the past.

For long the general public had been fooled into believing that all the money collected at the University in the Private scheme was handed over to the Government of Uganda. Blame was then heaped on the government for giving the university peanuts to run its affairs. When I contacted an official at the Ministry of finance, I did get the following response verbatim:

That’s wrong information, the releases to Makerere for the 1st and 2nd quarter for the FY 2016/17 were made 100%. Remember it’s mainly the wage bill, which is never slashed. The Lecturers’ strike emanates from MUK [Makerere University] Mgt [Management] scrapping the 1.4 M [Million] consolidated allowance/incentive that was being given to the lecturers from the Appropriation in Aid (AIA) call it NTR (Non Tax, Revenue) generated from internal revenue that’s spent at source by MUK. All the fees that’s [that are] collected by Makerere is [are] not remitted to the Consolidated Fund but MUK is authorised by Parliament to spend it at source. And the scrapping arose as a result of government increasing salary for lecturers in all public Universities. So Bruce Balaba Chairman the University Council and Ddumba [The Vice Chancellor], out of their arrogance scrapped the allowances citing shortage of resources but it was in bad spirit saying, since they had got a salary increment, it would be obnoxious for the lecturers to get the consolidated allowance as well. I speak this on authority after speaking to …, the Commissioner Budget Policy and Evaluation, one of the three people that allocate budgetary funds to all MDAs.

I now beg to ask the questions:

  • How much money does the university collect in the Private Scheme?

  • How is this collected money spent?

  • If the staff salaries are paid by the Government, why then does the institution fail to meet other cost centres effectively?

  • If lecturers have a primary responsibility of teaching, why are they paid extra allowances?

There-in lies the problem. There definitely is a cabal of thugs that seem to have ring fenced this university and turned it into their gold mine. Enough is enough. While some suffering may have to be endured as the committee works on a lasting solution, we need to support the move made with the hope that a longer lasting solution is in the works.

What is my proposal?

I believe that it is time we had a total structural redesign of that University’s Administration. I propose a dual approach be undertaken. Split up the administration and have one arm dealing with the Academic staff while a second arm deals with the general administration of the university.

The Academic arm can be managed by the glorified PHD holders who have been able to prove their abilities in people management. It should oversee all the Colleges and Schools of the university including any affiliated institutions that deliver degrees on its behalf.

The General Administration arm (for lack of a better term) should be headed by a CEO or Executive director. It should be run under proper corporate guidelines and principles with the aim of ensuring that:

  • It handles the university sales and marketing

  • Takes charge of Human Resource Management

  • Attracts academic and non academic partnerships to the university

  • Oversees student welfare

  • Financial management

among others.

This way, we can relieve some of those academically brilliant management dwarfs the burden of running such a complex institution and instead allow them to concentrate on their niche areas of competence.

The Challenger Space shuttle made many firsts for the USA. On its first flight, it witnessed the first space walk during a space shuttle mission; Sally Ride became the first American woman into space aboard the same vessel; it also carried the first African American, Dutchman and Canadian into space. Unfortunately, on its tenth mission, three years after it begun its operations, disaster struck. The setback caused by the explosion of the Challenger enroute to space set back the United States Space agenda big time.

In the same vein, Makerere University has registered many firsts. It is Uganda’s largest institution of higher learning; has produced a number of African leaders like Sir Apollo Milton Obote, Julius Kambarage Nyerere, Benjamin Mkapa, Joseph Kabila (DRC) and Mwai Kibaki; writers like Ali Mazrui, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, V.S. Naipaul among others have at one point been at this institution during their writing or academic careers. Unlike the Challenger disaster, we don’t have to wait for this institution to be run into the ground. The time is now to avoid that.

The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. ~ William Arthur Ward

It is therefore my humble opinion that the current leaders at the Ivory Tower be relieved of their duties forthwith. They are just not the type that will lead that institution to future glory. I want to see an administration that will help my son realise his dream of becoming a Martian citizen.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

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