By Ndey Sowe
The University of The Gambia Staff Association has given the Gambia Government an ultimatum to respond to their demands before September 15, when they plan to begin a sit-down strike.
The association convened a congress that brought together over one hundred staff from different units of the university to discuss pertinent issues affecting the tertiary institution.
The demands by the staff are; for the re-composition of the Governing Council of the University of The Gambia; 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, the Vice President of the staff association, said institutional reform was 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 institutions become better than they were in the past.
“All the ministries and institutions have embarked on that necessary step and make efforts on that except the Ministry of Higher Education,” he said.
He said the University Convening Council is one of the key structural elements in the university management and regulating the administration.
“The minister should have constituted a substantive council, he refused to do that and he appointed an interim council,” he said.
The history lecturer said having a substantive council is very important, without which the 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.
Mr Touray said the association previously embarked on a sit-down strike, but it was short-lived following the intervention of the Government and National Assembly. Touray said they came to an arrangement and signed an agreement which brought the strike to an end. He said the mediation team from the Government included the Secretary General and Head of Civil Service, two permanent secretaries and some other government officials. Also, the team from the National Assembly was headed by Sidia Jatta from the Select Committee on Education.
“We agreed on terms in terms of implementation of the resolutions (demands). One of the resolutions was to dismantle or dissolve the council and reconstitute another one with new members and chairman,” he said.
Touray said the minister responsible for higher education refused to attend the meeting with the mediation team on condition that was known to them. The lecturer said 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 resources,” Touray said.
Touray said 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 fund. 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 and presented the council to him.
“Our 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 until all the demands and resolutions are fully implemented,” he said.
Touray said they don’t think the minister deserves to continue with his position.
“We are not coming back to work if the implementation is not manifested. We are starting the sit-down strike on the 15th of September, 2021 if they don’t respond before that time,” Touray said.