Pain and agony of teaching, research staff at cash-strapped Egerton University
When you encounter professors, senior lecturers and researchers at Egerton University carrying placards reading: “# Murife can’t run”, just know that it is not a laughing matter.
Unlike the man captured in a viral social media video running for his life with dogs in hot pursuit, the dons cannot escape the danger they find themselves in as they only get half of their monthly pay.
The expressions on their faces convey a potent message. Drooping eyelids, downcast eyes, lowered lip corners and slanting inner eyebrows speak volumes of the hell that their lives have become at the Njoro-based campus.
The poor pay of the top brains at the country’s premier agriculture university is clearly shown on the placards: “I have been reduced to a destitute by the employer”, “Present half salary” and “Future employer abandoning pension”.
The distraught dons at financially crippled Egerton University are facing hard times as they have been on half salary for two years. Non-teaching staff are in a similar quagmire.
Egerton is sagging under a more than Sh9 billion debt.
University Academic Staff Union (Uasu) Egerton Chapter Secretary Grace Wanjiru Kibue said some lecturers are raising funds from friends and relatives for their children’s school fees.
“One lecturer with three children required Sh300,000 but only raised about Sh70,000,” Dr Kibue said.
She added that a number of teaching staff and researchers have fallen into depression.
“Our social, emotional and material lives have been upended. Creditors have seized our members’ properties. Many cannot even fuel their vehicles,” Dr Kibue said.
“Our members are psychologically troubled. This is dangerous as it reduces productivity in the classroom.”
She added that a lecturer who died of depression was buried last week.
According to Dr Kibue, the don could not service his loans.
“Lecturers are moving to cheaper rental houses while many families are in turmoil as their breadwinners have no steady income. I have transferred my children from private to public schools,” she said.
Another lecturer said his son has been discontinued from Maseno University for lack of fees.
“It is painful to teach other people’s children when I cannot afford fees for my own,” the don said.
Another blamed the government for the financial mess at Egerton.
“I have realised that one can easily die while shouting himself hoarse about his problems. Nobody sees Egerton as a national crisis. Uasu has presented grievances to Njoro MP Charity Kathambi, Nakuru Governor Susan Kihika and Education CS Ezekiel Machogu. Our memorandums have been received at State House. The President knows what is going on,” she said.
Top lecturers at Egerton, mostly professors, are expected to take home Sh400,000 to Sh500,000 as basic pay a month. They are getting half of that and it is still heavily taxed.
“I can’t service my bank and sacco loans, insure my family or seek treatment at a reputable hospital. Private hospitals have blacklisted Egerton university lecturers. My life cover insurance elapsed ages ago,” a professor told the Sunday Nation.
Some dons have had to suspend their studies.
“I put my doctorate programme on hold. I’m torn between feeding my family and meeting their basic needs with half a salary and paying for my studies,” a lecturer said.
“I began teaching in the late 1980s but I have never been in this kind of situation. I have worked with five vice-chancellors and I'm almost retiring. Egerton University owes me more than Sh2.4 million in salary arrears. My pension contributions and statutory deductions have not been remitted.”
Another said he is embarrassed to be a lecturer.
“I’m sharing the house with my teenage sons for I cannot rent them houses,” he said.
The dons’ push for full salaries has become a drawn-out court battle between Uasu and Egerton University management and council. Uasu on Friday issued a fresh strike notice with effect from February 6.
Prof Isaac Ongubo Kibwage, the Vice-Chancellor, blames the crisis on the National Treasury not sending money to Egerton.