By Francis Kagolo
ABOUT 500 academics at Makerere University are to lose their jobs in the ongoing restructuring, the university announced yesterday.
The process, expected to be concluded in May, involves a comprehensive review of the curriculum and workload per lecturer, according to vice-chancellor Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba.
The exercise, he said, is aimed at boosting academic standards. "A committee is reviewing our academic programmes. Some courses will be merged; others revised or stopped. But we may also come up with new ones," Baryamureeba told a press conference at the campus yesterday.
"We are going to do away with many part-time lecturers. In some departments, we shall remain with none," he explained.
However, no permanent academic staff will be retrenched. Indeed, he argued, more will be recruited in understaffed departments.
With about 36,000 students, Makerere employs only 1,700 permanent academic staff and 490 part-time lecturers, according to the directorate of human resources.
But a source in the academic registrar's department said up to 850 academics may be laid off since most faculties recruit part-time staff without the knowledge of the top administration. Almost three quarters of the permanent staff teach for half the minimum of 10 hours a week.
Baryamureeba said the restructuring was also aimed at eliminating duplication of courses, optimal utilisation of staff and cutting down expenditure.
Baryamureeba said the restructuring is also intended to propel the 88-year-old institution back to the top three in Africa.
Last year, Makerere passed a policy which bars academic staff from doing private consultancies and to teach for 10 hours per week.
The university spends sh45b annually on paying staff, over 90% of which goes to the lecturers.
Its staff/student ratio is 1:33, as of 2006, which is above the national average, according to the National Council for Higher Education.
The ideal ratio, according to council, is 1:15, although 1:25 is acceptable, while 1:50 is unacceptable.
The university depends on part-time lecturers for lack of money to hire permanent staff.
A part-time lecturer earns sh15, 000 per hour. However, part-timers recruited by faculties earn up to sh50,000 per hour, or about sh1m monthly. In comparison, permanent lecturers earn between sh900,000 and sh2.2m. Professors earn a gross monthly salary of sh2.2m, associate professors get sh1.8m, senior lecturers sh1.5m, while lecturers receive sh1.3m. The university pays assistant lecturers sh1.1m and sh980,000 to teaching assistants.
This is significantly lower than what universities in other East African countries pay their staff.
Prof. Livingstone Luboobi, a former chairperson of the Inter-University Council of East Africa, said a professor in Kenyan public universities gets sh7m.
The pay for part-time lecturers is not catered for under the Government subvention; it is raised from the internally generated funds, mainly fees from private students. Part-timers reportedly mind more about building their CVs than the pay and put in just a little in terms of teaching.
Besides, due to budgetary deficits, the university has not been paying them promptly. This caused most of the strikes that plagued Luboobi's reign.
With the ongoing restructuring, officials hope to curb such challenges.