By Aja Musu Bah Daffeh
The impasse at the University of The Gambia has been surmounted and classes have resumed. The Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MOHERST), Hon Badara A. Joof had a tripartite meeting with the University of The Gambia Administration and the Executive of the Faculty and Staff Association (UTGFSA) at the conference room of the Ministry on Wednesday 8th March 2017, with the aim of resolving the ongoing sit-down strike.
After intense discussion between the parties, the Minister prescribed some action points and committed to implementing important reforms which would solve most of the problems at the University and meet the demands of the Faculty and Staff Association. A directive, subsequently agreed by the concerned parties, has been communicated accordingly.
“That the Senior Management Team (SMT) of the University of The Gambia is dissolved with immediate effect, that all vacant senior positions within the University be advertised nationally and internationally by the University Governing Council in order to attract the best candidates and those positions that are not reflected in the current Budget of the University are abolished. Also those senior appointments made by any person/authority other than the University Governing Council/Senate be revoked, equally the University Governing Council will be reconstituted according to the provisions of the University of The Gambia Act 1999, and that new members of the Council will be sworn in as a matter of urgency”.
The MOHERST Minister laid conditions that the said Governing Council should meet every two months-barring emergency meetings thus, the Governing Council and the University Senate should meet every three months, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) should meet with Deans of Faculty every month. However he added that the Ministry of Higher Education, the Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellors, Registrar, Director of Finance, Senate and the Executive members of the Staff Association should meet at the end of every Semester to discuss how to advance the progress of the University.
He further went on to say that an Independent Audit of the University Finances should be undertaken as a matter of urgency and that the Acting Vice Chancellor, University Registrar and Finance Director should consult latest Friday 10th March, 2017 to facilitate the procurement of 50 computers to be distributed equally between the Schools of Business, Arts and Sciences in Kanifing and Brikama campuses. He said that the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) should expedite the procurement process for laptops earmarked for University Staff and students. “This assignment should be accomplished latest 22nd March 2017, for logistical reasons, the distribution of the said laptops should begin with the Academic and Administration staff and later the students, noting that the Ministry insisted the sit-down strike should end and regular classes should begin latest Monday 13th March, 2017,” he asserted.
Finally, the Minister inter alia, asks the University authorities in collaboration with the University Governing Council to put in place a committee that would review the Pay/incentive Structure of the University within the available resources of the University. He promised to use his contacts to assist the University authorities in leveraging additional resources for the University. He asked the new Governing Council to confirm the appointments of all staff deemed qualified who have served the University for more than one year and to constantly engage the University Authorities (Administration and Academic) and the Staff Association in constructive dialogue on the way forward for the University. The Minister’s next meeting with the group is scheduled for the week of the 20th March 2017.
In light of the prevailing circumstances, the UTGFSA convened an extra-ordinary congress on Friday March 10, 2017 at the MDI, to scrutinize and deliberate on these action points. The Congress unanimously decided that the actions taken by the Minister were satisfactory in so far as the demands of the Faculty and Staff Association are concerned. It was therefore decided that the strike action be called off and that both faculty and staff of the University should resume work on Monday, March 13, 2017.
The Executive of the staff association appreciated the Minister’s role in solving the crisis and commended their membership for their support.