Makerere Strike: Parliament sides with students and scraps 15% fees increment

Legislators from across the political divide supported the proposal for suspension, which was contained in the petition from the Makerere University students, which was read by Jinja East MP Paul Mwiru and Manjiya County MP John Baptist Nambeshe.

The legislators also called for the cancellation of suspension and expulsion of some students involved in the strike.

Yesterday’s debate in Parliament was a continuation of the debate they had started the previous day, during which they passed a resolution to condemn the brutality of the army and Police officers against the students of Makerere University.

The Opposition Chief Whip, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, said the 15% increment would result in sh4.6b for the university, which is a small amount of money that the government can provide.

“Let the government increase the budget for Makerere University because it is underfunded. If the budget for State House could be increased from sh200b to sh450b, how can you fail to provide sh4.6b?” Ssemujju wondered.

Bukooli Central MP Solomon Silwany, who is also the deputy chairperson for the NRM caucus, said: “I condemn the violence against students. Makerere University is a public university which should be the cheapest. There are many individuals in public offices that put pressure on the government. You cannot brutalize students and expect me to come here and defend you.”

The shadow minister for education, Mathias Mpuuga, wondered why the government wants the tuition to be higher at Makerere University other than other public universities.

“For example, a bachelor of medicine in a semester is at sh1.8m at Makerere University yet in Mbarara University, it is at sh1.3m and they are both public universities. Why don’t they apply the same 15% increment to other universities?” Mpuuga asked.

Mpuuga also suggested that whoever deployed the soldiers who brutalized the students must be held accountable.

National Female Youth MP Anna Adeke, accused the vice-chancellor of Makerere University, Barnabas Nawangwe, of using imprudent methods to handle strikes, including expelling students who express their opinions on social media platforms.

Blaming him as the major cause of the problems the university is facing, West Budama MP Richard Othieno suggested that Parliament takes a decision to call for the resignation.

“Nawangwe has turned Makerere University into a primary school. You cannot arrest or suspend a student for expressing his opinion. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right. The suppression of students’ right to expression is unacceptable,” Othieno said.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said she wanted an assurance before the debate could end that the army had pulled out of the university. She also demanded that the commander who deployed the soldiers who brutalized the students be named and held accountable.

Bugiri Municipality MP and a former guild president of Makerere University Asuman Basalirwa said the major problem arises from the government’s failure to adequately fund the government-sponsored students.