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Makerere lecturers now casuals - Mamdani

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th December 2006 03:00 AM

COMMERCIALISATION at Makerere University has reduced lecturers to casual labourers paid per hour, said renowned Professor Mahamood Mamdani.

COMMERCIALISATION at Makerere University has reduced lecturers to casual labourers paid per hour, said renowned Professor Mahamood Mamdani.

By Elizabeth Agiro

COMMERCIALISATION at Makerere University has reduced lecturers to casual labourers paid per hour, said renowned Professor Mahamood Mamdani.

He, however, disapproves of the ongoing strike, arguing that lecturers don’t own the university.

Speaking during the launch of his new book “Scholars in the Marketplace: The dilemmas of Neo-Liberal Reforms at Makerere University”, Mamdani made a critical analysis of the reforms at Makerere University, which paved the way for privately-sponsored students.

“As lecturers are paid by the hour they are turned into casual labourers. Some work for up to 25 hours a week, which is not right,” the US-based scholar said, adding that lecturers are supposed to be paid a salary and not an allowance.
“Where in the world are lecturers paid per hour?” he asked.

Since the introduction of the private students’ scheme at the university, lecturers are paid top-up allowances, which range from sh30,000 to sh40,000 per hour.

The university collects these allowances from private students to fill the gap created by inadequate government funding.

According to Prof. Mamdani, the pursuit for money is turning lecturers into wage earners, which does not fit their status.
He proposed that the university sets a standard number of teaching hours, with a fixed salary, so that lecturers don’t need to look for other ways of earning money.

He also deplored the fact that the teaching staff spends more time lecturing than doing research or publishing books.

Mamdani, who taught at Makerere more than 10 years ago, argued that commercialisation was affecting the quality of education. “The growth in the student population has not been proportionate to the facilities at the university. This has translated into a heavy work load for the lecturers.”

He criticised some faculties for introducing courses designed to attract private sponsored students for the sake of money.

This, he noted, had put faculties at loggerheads with each other, sometimes leading to duplication of courses. He added that it had also resulted in faculties recruiting unqualified individuals.

Turning to the ongoing strike, Mamdani said although the government had defaulted on lecturers’ salary arrears, the lecturers had no right to strike. “Lecturers do not own Makerere University and therefore have no right to strike over payment.”

He noted that the university is not a government property; neither does the administration own it. “They (Government and administration) are merely trustees who are supposed to look after the property entrusted to them.”

Mamdani in particular criticised the reforms in the early 1990s, guided by the World Bank, which were driven by the conviction that higher education was more a private than a public good.

“The World Bank argued that primary education was more productive than higher education,” Mamdani said.

One such reform was privatisation, where the Government increased its revenue base by admitting paying students.

This, Mamdani said, turned into commercialisation, where each faculty is in a race to admit more students to widen its income base.

The reforms put lecturers in a difficult position. “They had to choose between quality and earning more money,” he stressed.

The World Bank later changed its mind. It realised that Asian countries were very productive as a result of high investment in education. “But the Government of Uganda did not. It remained stuck [to the World Bank’s earlier policy],” Mamdani added.

He concluded that Makerere had lost its past glory as the most reputable university in East Africa.
“Faculties are now teaching subjects they are not meant to because they presented a curriculum first and so got the right to teach the course.”

The Executive Director of the National Council for Higher Education, Prof. A. B. Kasozi, largely confirmed Mamdani’s analysis. He warned about deteriorating standards and argued that the university should have multiple sources of revenue.
Kasozi added that because of commercialisation, market forces regard the university as a commodity, with students as buyers.

“Privatisation would be of use if a legal framework is in place to ensure quality,” Kasozi said.

“If we choose quantity without quality, we may produce doctors who will kill us, engineers who will build collapsing buildings and lawyers who can’t defend us. If not controlled, the market forces may eat the soul of education.”

On that note, he recommended that all the courses which don’t have a research basis should get out of the university.
“They should go to vocational institutions,” he added.

He also suggested that Makerere stops duplicating courses and focus less on attracting and controlling money.

The key, Kasozi said, is for the Government to establish a loan system to cater for poor students.

Makerere lecturers now casuals - Mamdani

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