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Private universities lecturers seek UGX 25 billion from gov’t

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Academic staff from private universities have sought parliament’s intervention to have government avail them 25.4 billion Shillings to create a revolving fund that is aimed at facilitating their members who have been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Under the Consortium of Private Universities Academic Staff in Uganda (COPUASU), they have petitioned Speaker Rebecca Kadaga indicating that the pandemic has deprived them of critical financial resources including their salaries.

“Their request is for government to have an intervention of an emergency financial relief or bailout for private universities staff,” Kadaga said in her communication to plenary sitting on Wednesday. “They also request that the government supplies their SACCO an estimated amount of 25.4 billion to create a revolving fund for members and the phased opening of universities with the observance of SOPs.”

The speaker has referred the matter to the Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni as well as the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija.

There are 44 private universities out of a total of 53 Universities in Uganda. Statistics from COPUASU indicate that they employ over 20,000 teaching and non-teaching staff.

Education institutions were closed in March this year together with other congregational places like churches, as one of the initial measures to control the spread of coronavirus disease-COVID-19. The move was meant to protect learners and other people in high-risk concentration centres. Although the closure was initially meant to last 32 days, these places are still closed seven months after.

With no source of income, administrations of different private universities including Ndejje University, Nkumba University and others openly wrote to their academic staff indicating that they could not afford to pay their salaries and advised them to fasten their belts and plan for the worst.

Nkumba University Vice-Chancellor Professor Wilson Muyinda Mande said that with no cash inflows from students’ tuition and given the fact that they are all away locked down at home; the Universities cannot raise any funds to pay staff salaries and other essential items.

Dr Alon Kimwise, the COPUASU general secretary recently told journalists that there was a need for government to urgently intervene in their situation. He noted that whereas staff in public universities continue to be taken care of through various aspects of government support, those in private universities remain reliant on limited and often insufficient resource envelops available to their employers.

In his recent address to the country, President Yoweri Museveni directed the Ministry of Finance through the Microfinance Support Center to allocate 20 billion Shillings to allow teachers to access loans.

Alfred Eboku Ejanu, the head of Credit and Operations at the Microfinance Support Centre was quoted by media saying that all private teachers right from kindergarten, primary and secondary schools to tertiary institutions will benefit from the program. However, 10.8 billion Shillings released for the teachers was quickly stolen from the microfinance centre account to the chagrin of the teachers. Four people have been charged with the theft.

Meanwhile, Kadaga also received another petition from Casino workers who are equally seeking relief from the government.

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