Makerere, Kampala: The leaders of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) and Makerere Administrative Staff Association (MASA) have challenged the Vice-Chancellor (VC) to explain the circumstances under which they were suspended from the University’s webmail, saying the move undermines their ability to perform their University duties.
theCooperator has learned that on 2nd August 2019, Makerere University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe issued a directive ordering for the removal of Mr. Bennet Magara and Prof. Edward Nector Mwavu the chairperson and acting chairperson of MASA and MUASA respectively; from the University webmail system, allegedly following staff pronouncement of a sit-down strike on 1st Aug.
On 6th Aug 2019, the two staff members wrote to the Director of ICT support (DICTS), who is in charge of the webmail communication system at Makerere University over what they then considered an anomaly, after they failed to log into their accounts on the University webmail.
However, in a surprising twist, on 13th August 2019, the two received a reply from the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe instead, noting that it was him who had directed their suspension from the University mailing system. “This is to inform you that the directive to remove you from the webmail list was made by me due to your misuse of the privileges accorded to you in contravention of the communications policy of the University. Please note that the directive will remain in force until further notice,” Nawangwe’s letter reads in part.
In an interview with the Cooperator yesterday, Prof. Mwavu decried what he called the Vice Chancellor’s use of “underhand methods” to curtail free communication at the University. “It’s surprising he calls it a privilege when it’s everyone’s right within the University that they’re on the webmail. When I come to work, these are the tools of my trade in my performing duties as a lecturer and researcher,” a frustrated Mwavu lamented.
Mwavu revealed that the webmail remains the official communication channel for all University matters, and that for now three weeks, he and Magara have been kept in the dark on University matters, only depending on colleagues for information.
Now, they want the Vice-Chancellor to explain to them how they abused their “privilege.” In a joint letter dated 19th August 2019 which theCooperator has seen, the two write thus: “We are humbly requesting you to educate us on how we misused the privileges of using the University webmail and the specific provisions of the University Communications Policy we contravened. This will be very useful in guiding us in the use of the webmail in the future when you finally rescind the directive,”
The webmail is the University’s official mailing system and lecturers are supposed to use it to conduct all official business of the University, from giving instructions to students, receiving their coursework, doing academic study/research, to pursuing strategic projects and collaborations for the University nationally and internationally.
Mwava says they’ll remain civil and patient in seeking redress from the university authorities, but warned that their suspension sets a dangerous precedent for the University: “He may think he is affecting Mwava and Magara, but there are certain things you cannot simply because you have been annoyed. The University should a place where we try to understand society and devise solutions for amicable disagreement and problem-solving,” he said.
Asked for their next course of action in case the Vice-Chancellor remained reluctant to rescind his order, Mwava said, “Depending on his reply, we shall see our next step to take.”
We were unable to reach Dr. Muhammad Kiggundu Musoke, the Director of Communications and International Relations at the University for Comment, as he was still held up in a meeting by press time.