At last the two-month long lecturers’ strike has ended following the signing of a new package that gives the academics a cumulative 20.4 per cent pay increase.
All the parties – lecturers union, university managers and the government - have demonstrated that where there is will, there is a way.
We hope those negotiating to end the doctors’ strike can learn from this.
For the universities, losing two months in an academic semester has grave consequences.
The timetable has to be reworked and inevitably, the semester weeks have to be shortened and that has implication on the quality of teaching and examinations.
We have argued several times in the past that part of the reason for the declining quality of learning and teaching in the public universities is the regular strikes either by students or lecturers.
For lecturers, the nagging challenge is poor pay, which in comparative terms, is generally low.
Yet, given the level of their education and the tasks they engage in, namely preparing human resource for the economy, in addition to creating new knowledge through research, they deserve better.
However, it is a fact that the budget for higher education, like other sectors of the economy, remains low.
Yet, it is not practical to raise it substantially and give the lecturers the pay they deserve because of the economic realities.
A main challenge though is the model of university funding, which largely depends on State capitation.
The alternative that has worked is the Module Two programmes started in the 1990s to create a new revenue stream, but which have since got into headwinds in because of poor management.
Matters have been made worse by stiff competition for students as universities expanded without proper plans.
In other jurisdictions, universities draw a lot of resources through research, consultancies, endowment funds and alumni organisations.
Our universities must think of progressive ways of generating income within the knowledge industry without compromising quality.
Lecturers deserve better pay for quality teaching and learning, but this requires new financing models to ensure sustainability.