Egerton University Grapples Under Sh6 Billion Debt.
Egerton University faces a bleak future due to a debt of more than Sh6 billion. The debt is partly to blame for the lecturers’ ongoing two-month strike.
Prof Isaac Kibwage, the university’s vice-chancellor, says that underfunding has resulted in a monthly Sh77 million deficit for payroll alone.
Following a meeting on Friday last week, the University Senate announced the institution’s immediate reopening, which had been closed on November 26 last year due to a lecturers’ strike.
The dons, who have been on strike since November 12, are demanding the implementation of a nationally agreed-upon Collective Bargaining Agreement for the period 2017-2021. (CBA).
They are also requesting salary arrears from last year, when the university slashed their pay by 40% as part of an austerity measure during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kibwage stated that a number of lecturers have expressed a willingness to return to the classroom as the agricultural university seeks solutions.
The move comes just days after the university suspended 14 lecturers, all of whom are members of the University Academic Staff Union (UASU), for leading the strike.
He denied claims that suspending union leaders was weakening the union, claiming that those returning to their duties were not under pressure.
He explained that the university was negotiating with the Ministry of Education for more funding, which would allow it to reduce the number of employees who earn millions of shillings in salaries.
“We wrote to the Ministry requesting Sh1.5 billion for right-sizing our staff. Payroll is our biggest expenditure. When contracts expire, we no longer renew them,” he said.
Reduced budget allocations to institutions of higher learning, according to Kibwage, are partly to blame for Egerton’s problems. He pointed out that they could continue to incur more debts.
He went on to say that the university went off the rails in 2017 when it understated its enrollment through the Kenya Universities and Colleges Placement Service (KUCCPS).
Prof Richard Mulwa, the university’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Administration, Planning, and Development, stated that the university’s income-generating units (IGUs) have also lost productivity.
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“Some IGUs went into disuse and we need money to modernise them. We are trying to revamp them to increase our own source revenues to bridge the gap arising from underfunding,” said Mulwa.
The IGUs are the results of student practicals, a dairy plant, a turtle park, and student housing, among other agricultural activities.
Dr Grace Kibue, Secretary of the UASU Egerton chapter, refuted claims that some of their members had offered to resume duties. “We thank our members for heeding our call and advising them not to teach until the strike is resolved,” Dr Kibue said.