Striking varsity workers loot food in kitchen

Tuesday March 18 2014

University teaching and non-teaching staff enjoy kachumbari after raiding the kitchen. Photo/Kevin Odit.

University teaching and non-teaching staff enjoy kachumbari after raiding the kitchen. Photo/Kevin Odit. 

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Chaos reigned at Mombasa’s Technical University on Tuesday when striking workers forced their way into the kitchen, chased away the cooks and looted food.

The workers had found the gates locked but jumped over, snatched the keys from the shaken gateman and opened it for their riotous colleagues.

The workers then marched to the kitchen, chased away cooks, distributed and ate chapatis, bread and kachumbari, among other items, that had been prepared for students’ lunch.

Leading the pack was Kusu secretary-general Patrick Ogutu who and colleagues thereafter marched to the neighbouring Kiziwi campus and chased away workers who were not on strike.

The university was shut indefinitely in the afternoon after domestic workers joined striking lecturers and staff in their second week of work boycott.

Vice-chancellor Josephat Mwatelah said students were given until 9am Wednesday to leave the campus following a senate meeting on Tuesday.

“The senate, in collaboration with chancellor Prof Douglas Odhiambo have resolved and approved that the university be closed,” said Prof Mwatelah.

“We have allowed the students to stay until morning because of the night travel ban,” he said.

Three groups consisting University Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) and Kenya Union of Domestic Hotels Educational Institutions and Hospital Workers (Kudheia), taking part in the strike chanted slogans around the library and human resource offices.

Learning in public universities in western Kenya remained paralysed after lecturers defied a court order and a call by vice-chancellors for them to return to work.

The lecturers and non-academic staff work boycott started last week. They are demanding pay amounting to Sh3.9 billion which is part of Sh7.8 billion negotiated in 2010.

There was no learning at Masinde Muliro, Kisii and Jaramogi Oginga Odinga universities. Maseno University senate was locked up in a meeting for the better part of on Tuesday  as the workers protested at the Kisumu campus.

Vice-chancellor Dominic Makawiti distanced himself  from the accusations by striking workers that he misused part of funds released by the government.

Jaramagi Oginga Odinga University vice-chancellor Stephen Agong’ pleaded with the workers to call off the strike but his pleas fell on deaf ears.

However, learning continued at Rongo University College in Migori County. The principal, Prof Samuel Gudu said most of their students would be resuming studies next week from a semester break.

“We only have part-time tutors who are teaching the available second-year students. We have no major problem,” he stated.

Masinde Muliro pushed forward examinations which were to start last Monday.

And on Tuesday senators adjourned sittings to debate the stalemate.

In a motion moved by nominated Senator Agnes Zani, (ODM) the lawmakers regretted that the government was silent on the matter when students were missing out on classes.

They blamed Education Cabinet Secretary Jacob Kaimenyi for taking too long to handle the matter yet he was part of the university management before being appointed to the Cabinet.

The senators want the vice chancellors summoned to appear before relevant committees of Parliament to explain why the Sh 3.9 billion was not paid to the the workers.

Meanwhile, the lecturers were yesterday evening expected to finalise a back-to-work deal with the vice-chancellors after a day-long meeting at the Ministry of Labour in Nairobi. 

The deal centred on how the lecturers would get Sh3.9 billion after the VCs agreed to pay the money back but by last evening there was no agreement. 

Union officials said they had succeeded in forcing the VCs to pay back the money owed them but were yet to agree on the modality of payment.

University Academic Staff Union chairman Sammy Kubasu said the talks centred on how the Sh3.9 billion would be paid back.   

Reported by Rebecca Okwany, Everline Okewo, Nelcon Odhiambo and John Shilitsa