By Adama Tine
The University of The Gambia (UTG) staff association during a congress that brought together over 100 staff from various departments of the UTG to discuss issues affecting the institution at the school auditorium hall announced that they would go on a sit-down strike from September 15 if the government fails to respond to their demands.
The demands by the staff include the re-composition of the Governing Council of the University; for the review and enactment of the University of The Gambia Bills; for the University to do away with acting Vice-Chancellor; for the Registrar of the University to relinquish his current position as his fix-term has expired with immediate effect; for the Ministry of Higher Education to lift all bans, including travelling bans currently imposed on UTG and its management; and for the implementation of all other pending resolutions agreed with the Ministry, Office of The President and the UTG Management.
Dr. Ensa Touray, Vice President of the staff association, explained that institutional reform should be central for the current government in different sectors including the University of The Gambia. He said institutions were supposed to embark on reforms to ensure them becoming better than they were in the past.
“Our primary demand is, if the new council is not reconstituted with new members, we will not negotiate with them. We are not going to engage in any negotiation again until all the demands and resolutions are fully implemented,” he said.
“All ministries and institutions have embarked on that necessary step and made efforts on that except the Ministry of Higher Education,” he added.
“The minister recycled the same people in the governing council for a purpose and that purpose is to ensure the creation of a condition that will respond to the needs of a group or individual but not to the needs of the entire university,” he stressed.
According to Dr. Touray, having a substantive council is very important, without which members would do things to please the one who appointed them – the Minister. The Congress resolved that the Governing Council of the University should be recomposed as agreed in their signed agreement.
“We came to an arrangement and signed an agreement which brought the strike to an end,” he went on, saying the mediation team from the government included the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, two permanent secretaries and some other government officials while the team from the National Assembly was headed by Sidia Jatta from the Select Committee on Education.
“The Higher Education minister failed to attend the meeting with the mediation team, he further said, noting that the minister put aside the agreement and went on to “recycle” the same members into the Council.
“The minister recycled the same members in order for him to continue to manipulate the council in order to get access to the university’s resources,” Touray said.
However, Touray added that the structure that the minister created is weak and is not helping the university. He said the minister’s interest is to put in people at the Governing Council that he can manipulate and get access to the university funds. He said the President’s lack of understanding of the structural setup of the university made it very easy for the minister to manipulate everything.