Riot police yesterday battled students at both Kyambogo and Nkumba universities after they went on strike over poor hygiene and meals at Kyambogo, and a sudden change in examination grading at Nkumba.
Five students of Kyambogo University were injured and rushed to near by clinics after police used rubber bullets and tear gas to break the demonstration. They included three female students, who suffocated after inhaling tear gas. Business around the university came to a standstill and police blocked the road leading to the campus from Banda, a nearby trading center, after students lit a fire in the middle of the road and erected a roadblock using logs and boulders at the varsity entrance.
Students attempted to block the Kampala-Jinja highway at Banda, but the police dispersed them. The students were angry that the university’s administration had neglected their consistent complaints about poor hygiene (dirty toilets and halls of residencies) and poor quality meals. They also accuse the administration of delay in releasing faculty allowance for government sponsored students and examination results, and in issuing identity cards.
A fortnight ago, Makerere University students staged a strike over poor hygiene in their halls or residence, bad food and complaints about faculty allowance.
Meanwhile, at Nkumba University, students shattered glass doors and windows, and set ablaze makeshift kiosks around the campus. The students, who engaged in running battles with the police, vowed to continue with the strike until the administration heeds to their demands. Their action was sparked off by the announcement of changes in the grading system. Under the new system, each grade point has gone up by five percentage marks; for instance, grade A, which was 75% and above, is now from 80%.
The students, who complained that they were not consulted, argue that the change affects them, especially those that are completing their studies. They want the administration to introduce the new system at the beginning of the next academic year in August, not now.
Kampala Extra police spokesman, Ibn Senkumbi, said the police had been able to break the Kyambogo strike, but was still battling with the chaos in Nkumba by press time.
“For Kyambogo University, the police have been able to get the students and administration to discuss the way forward on how to settle issues,” Senkumbi said. He added that the strikes were not planned to take place simultaneously; it was mere coincidence.
Last week, Kyambogo University students staged a strike over a weeklong power blackout. The university bought a new generator, a move that calmed the students down and convinced them to end the strike. The university’s neighboring communities are unhappy with the administration for failing to solve the students’ problems. They have complained that the endless strikes expose them to violence, teargas and loss in business, as students destroy merchandise in surrounding areas.
Nkumba is a private university in Wakiso district, while Kyambogo is a public university in Kampala.