More than 2,000 fourth year students at Egerton University may not graduate next month owing to the ongoing academic staff strike.
As the strike, which kicked off on November 4 continues to bite, the university management has indefinitely suspended phased resumption of physical classes.
“Egerton University wishes to inform the following groups of students that phased reporting which was to take place from Sunday, November 15, to Tuesday, November 17, has been suspended until further notice,” Prof Seth Owido, the Academic Affairs Registrar, told the affected learners in first, second and third years of study.
Also affected are all continuing students in the Faculty of Law at the Nakuru town campus whose classes have also been suspended.
Subsequently, in a bid to force the more than 500 striking lecturers back to class, the university has filed a suit in the Employment and Labour Relations Court.
“The ongoing strike is unlawful, unwarranted and amounts to bad industrial relations,” argued the university through their lawyers, Seth and Wathigo Advocates.
However, the court on November 11 dismissed the university’s request to declare the strike illegal. A similar attempt was also dismissed by the court on November 3. The matter will be heard inter-partes on November 18.
When they began their strike on November 4, the lecturers vowed to resume teaching if their 40 per cent salary deductions, which were effected from April this year, are restored in full.
In court papers, the university says the strike was “intentionally and maliciously calculated to coincide with the start of the exams on November 2.”
“Should the strike continue, learning will be disrupted and this will jeopardise the future of students, in particular those students who are about to sit their final examinations and are due to graduate in December 2020,” University Vice-Chancellor Prof Rose Awuor Mwonya said in a signed affidavit dated November 9.
Prof Mwonya, whose term of office ends in January 2021, further pointed out that the university’s financial position will worsen if the strike is allowed to continue.
“The fees due from students will not be collected following disruption of learning as lecturers will have withdrawn their services,” said Prof Mwonya.
“The university has promised the dons that they will be paid their deficit of 40 per cent subject to the availability of funds from the government,” said Prof Mwonya.
“The university has been closed since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic which has made it difficult for the institution to raise funds to run its operations considering that part of its funds are from collection of fees from students,” said Prof Mwonya.
The university’s recurrent capitation from the government has been reducing over the last three years. The debt-ridden institution has a cumulative net deficit in excess of Sh2 billion which it owes to pension funds, Kenya Revenue Authority, university sacco and suppliers.
The lecturers have accused the university management of misusing resources by paying police officers guarding the university gate Sh1.2 million to block them from holding their meeting at the institution.
“The management of Egerton university gets its priorities upside down. It is ridiculous the university is shouting at the top of its voice that it has no money to pay lecturers yet it finds money to pay police officers to block University Academic Staff Union members from holding a legitimate meeting,” said Dr Wasonga.