Kisii University is broke. The dire financial situation the university finds itself in has grossly affected service delivery, with lecturers threatening to go on strike over non-implementation of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
Recently, lecturers at the university took to the streets, demanding payment of their dues allocated in the 2013-2017 CBA. The dons vowed to paralyse learning at the university if their dues are not paid, accusing the institution’s management of ignoring their grievances.
All the 32 public universities were allocated Sh8.8 billion for implementation of the CBA but the government only released Sh6.6 billion, with the remaining Sh2.2 billion expected to be paid out this year. Kisii University received Sh212 million and has already paid out Sh190 million.
The protest was one of many that lecturers, auxiliary staff and students have been holding, in a clear demonstration of the financial challenges the public university is undergoing.
There is also anxiety at the university as students demand to sit examinations.
"We are always told that the university does not have money. Where do they get money to pay those huge allowances," asked Dr George Andima, the University Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Kisii University branch secretary.
Attempts to hold talks with the vice chancellor, Prof John Akama, had failed, he added.
"The decision to get this far is largely due to the failure by the university to honour the pact on paying us the money," said Dr Andima.
The university administration is further accused of failing to remit staff deductions to saccos, banks, insurance companies and pension schemes, something that the vice chancellor did not deny.
“Due to lack of sufficient funds, we have been unable to make prompt payment of employees' bank loans, sacco and NSSF contributions among others due to increasing pending bills. But we will settle this once the situation is better,” said Prof Akama.
The vice chancellor said, just like other public universities across the country, the institution was facing financial challenges due to the collapse of Module II programme which used to generate revenue running into billions of shillings.
“We currently have pending bills close to one billion shillings. We used to make more than that annually through parallel degree programmes several years ago, which supplemented the capitation that the institution received from the national government,” said Prof Akama.
He noted that underfunding of public universities was affecting their service delivery and that most of them were struggling to stay afloat. The vice chancellor called upon the government to come up with a long term solution on funding public universities.
Last year, the university laid off more than 300 members of staff and slashed employees by 40 per cent as it took a hit from the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the affected employees have moved to court to contest their dismissal and the Employment and Labour Relations Court in Kisumu halted the dismissal of about 80 varsity staff.
“The issue of dwindling economy is something that has affected the whole country and entire world. There has been a lot of restructuring in the private and public sector. We cannot have staff whom the university is unable to pay at the end of the month,” said Prof Akama.
He explained that based on the advice of the government and the university council, management and the senate, the institution had started looking for alternative strategies of resource mobilisation.