Part-time lecturers go without pay as financial crisis at universities bites

Lecturers salary delay

Egerton University dons protesting the slashing of their salaries by 40 percent on November 4, 2020.

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

Being a part-time lecturer was once a prestigious job for most young graduates of Master's degrees and PhD.

Not anymore. The financial crisis in universities has killed the morale of hundreds of young scholars who depend on tutorial jobs to earn a living.

Many of the lecturers in public universities have been teaching without receiving their salaries for  many months, sometimes for even two years.

The situation is not any better in private universities and colleges as hundreds of part-time lecturers opt to abandon their units.

With the number of students joining universities increasing each year, the demand for teaching staff in both public and private universities continues to rise.

Salary arrears

In most universities, a part-time lecturer is paid as low as Sh1,000 an hour, with the highest paid don receiving Sh2,000. The normal rate used to be Sh3,000

Public universities pay lecturers between Sh60,000 and Sh80,000 per subject for each semester. Those teaching more than two courses receive between Sh180,000 and Sh240,000. However, the money is never paid on time.

Speaking to the Nation, a part-time lecturer at Jomo Kenyatta University said some lecturers have ended up bribing finance officers to get their accumulated salary arrears released.

“The officers demand as much as Sh50,000 as incentive to release Sh3 million the university owes us dated back to 2018 and 2019,” the lecturer said..

Universities take advantage of fresh graduates and Masters students who are yet to find jobs.

“ Some universities are notorious for exploiting fresh graduates. They teach and never receive their salaries on time,” he said.

Even with their unpaid dues, most lecturers continue to teach because they need the work experience before they can venture out to seek other opportunities.

The increasing number of part-time lecturers is attributed to the high unemployment rate in the country.

“We continue working even without pay, hoping that we will soon get employment at the universities,” he said.

One part-time lecturer has written to his employer demanding his salary arrears.

“This is to inform you that I am alive to the fact the deadline for submitting the exam marks for the Fourth Year students is due. However, as earlier communicated, all my belongings are locked up in my rented house. This is due to rent arrears that I owe the landlord. Take note that the scripts, laptop, and other personal items are locked up in the said house,” wrote the lecturer.

Numerous letters

The lecturer complained that despite writing numerous letters to the university, no action has been taken .

“Please note that as a part-timer I have no other source of income other than from the service I’m rendering to you. Your urgent positive consideration of my letter for payment will go a long way in helping us save the situation at hand so that the class can graduate without much interruption,” he said.

According to a source, universities have not paid salaries for long, some dating back to 2017 and 2018, due to lack of funds.

Dr Onesmus Maluki Mutio, the Universities Academic Staff Union (Uasu) National Executive Secretary, said the plight of part-time lecturers is disheartening as the majority are teaching with no pay.

He said universities must come up with ways of addressing the issue, adding that quality is affected if lecturers are not motivated.

“Most of these part-time lecturers end up failing to release students’ examination results until their salaries are paid. This is the main cause of missing marks in universities,” said Dr Mutio, adding that some of them even fail to turn up for their classes.

He explained that universities currently have no policy on the employment of part-time lecturers.

“Some lecturers are living miserable lives while others cannot sustain their families because of lack of money. Teaching at university has been lowered drastically, with some attending only two or three classes in a semester and giving piles of assignments to students as a cover.”

He said some of the lecturers have been blacklisted at CRBs for not clearing their loans while the majority have no medical cover.

The most affected are the younger universities. Sixty per cent of their academic staff are part-timers.

Other  universities have 40 per cent of their lecturers as part-time lecturers. Some universities have 30 permanent lecturers while others have only 100. The rest are part-time.

There are two types of part-time lecturers; new graduates and permanent staff who opt to take up extra classes to enable universities to meet the education needs of all students.

Public universities are facing a financial crisis due to a large debt owed to them by the government.

For years, universities depended on Module Two programmes popularly known as “Parallel” degrees.

However, since the government started admitting all students who score C+ and above in the national examinations, universities were left with limited sources of funding.

Most of the universities are facing a financial crisis and are unable to remit statutory deductions from their employees such as National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Social Security Fund, and Kenya Revenue Authority funds.

Many universities have since 2014 accepted part-time lecturers to reduce the wage bill.

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