Pay our dues, part-time lecturers tell varsities

ILLUSTRATION | JOSEPH NGARI

What you need to know:

  • “How do you lecture 500 students in a class every day when no one motivates you at the end of the semester?” asks a disgruntled temporary lecturer at a public university

“I feel very bitter with the institution for taking me for a ride. Why should they contract us if they are not able to pay us?”

This cry of distress, expressed by a part-time lecturer in Eldoret, is not isolated. It represents the feelings of many other lecturers in different public universities in western Kenya.

The ever-growing number of university students have stretched the ability of lecturers to cope. Some universities, therefore, hire part-time lecturers to plug the deficit.

But as it now turns out, some of these part-timers are disgruntled. The common complaint is breach of contract, specifically not being paid according to agreed terms. Many have contemplated downing their tools, and unconfirmed reports are that some have to occasionally be cajoled by students to continue teaching.

“How do you lecture 500 students in a class every day when no one motivates you at the end of the semester?” wonders the disgruntled lecturer in Eldoret.

She, like all the others who spoke to us, requested that her identity be withheld to protect her professional standing.

The part-time lecturer at Moi University says she was contracted in May 2011 to teach undergraduate students, and the deal was that she would be paid Sh1,000 per hour for both regular and parallel classes. That has since been reviewed to Sh750 without consultation, yet she still has not been paid for months.

She teaches three hours a week and is paid a transport benefit of Sh16,000 per month. “The other payments remain a mystery,” she complains.
According to her, some of her peers who taught in the university for three academic years under similar arrangements have since given up after being told that they were not special to demand payment when their counterparts waited patiently.

“It takes the university management three academic years to complete paying us the salary for one academic year,” she says.

“Many other part-time lecturers are suffering the same agony, only that they fear speaking out,” she adds.

Moi University deputy vice-chancellor in charge of academic affairs, Prof  Bob Wishitemi, has dismissed the claims, saying the institution has been paying lecturers who present their claims.

Prof Wishitemi asserts that payment is made at the end of every semester when the claim forms have been submitted. According to him, it takes less than a month to process the payments.

“Those part-time lecturers claiming that they are not paid have not submitted their claim forms for processing by the finance department,” Prof Wishitemi insists.

He points out that there is financial allocation for part-time lecturers and that the university cannot afford to misuse the funds meant for the non-permanent academic staff who assist them in teaching the parallel programmes.

As the professor defends Moi University, several other part-time lecturers have emerged with similar complaints. They are from Maseno University and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (MMUST) in Kisumu and Kakamega counties respectively.

One of them says he was contracted by Masinde Muliro in 2010 to teach both undergraduate and diploma students, but has since learnt a hard lesson.

He says: “My contract letter reads: ‘As per the agreement with this university, you will be paid your dues at the end of the semester, having submitted the examination results.’ The agreement was for Sh1,000 per hour.”

He alleges that it is now three years and that the university owes him more than Sh500,000. He accuses the management of being more concerned about the number of times he did not give lectures than remunerating him for the work he did.

He further claims that whenever he pressures the university to pay him, he gets about half the amount owed at the time. Sometimes it takes up to seven months to prepare payments for a semester, he alleges.

Part-timer lecturers have no union to present their grievances, making it difficult for them to push their case in a coordinated way.

The chairperson of the MMUST chapter of the University Academic Staff Union (UASU), Ms Suzzanne Choge, agrees, saying that while she is aware of the challenges the part-timers face, the union cannot do much to assist them, given that they are not members.

“We have heard about their challenges, but since they have no mechanism to address their plight through unions, it becomes difficult for us to speak on their behalf,” she says.

According to one of the aggrieved lecturers, some of his colleagues have gone to court over similar complaints and are waiting for the outcome.

The university management would neither deny nor confirm the claims, with a deputy vice-chancellor indicating that because of an on-going matter concerning misuse of funds at the institution, it was difficult for him to respond to the “sensitive issue”.

A part-time lecturer contracted by Maseno University says he started work in August 2011, under a deal that stated he would be paid Sh2,000 per student contact hour, teaching four hours per week per unit for Master’s degree programmes, and Sh1,500 per hour for undergraduate classes.

That has not materialised and his decision to continue teaching, he argues, is motivated by the Master’s students, whom he says would lose in a big way if he terminated his services midway.

“As a part-time lecturer at various universities in Nairobi, it is really hectic for me to travel to Kisumu three times a week and pay for accommodation in return for nothing,” he complains.

“We have raised our concerns as students. When lecturers are few, most of them decide to issue hand-outs for the whole semester and will not come to lecture halls until examination time,” says Master of Arts student at Maseno University, Linet Ambijo.

“Why stop students from doing exams when they have not paid tuition, yet the institution’s management is reluctant to remunerate some of our lecturers?” she asks.

Some of the affected part-time lecturers now argue that while their full-time colleagues cry over poor pay, they are mourning not having been paid for many months.

Maseno University’s deputy vice-chancellor in charge of academic affairs, Prof Madara Ogot, denied the claims, stating that his institution remunerates its part-time lecturers at the end of the semester.

Prof Ogot stressed that even though there was no money specifically allocated to the university for part-timers, the institution had the mandate to pay them.

“Those who allege that they have not been paid their dues have not claimed them. They should not complain when they have not signed the claim forms and submitted them to the finance department,” said Prof Ogot.

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