Egerton University shut down as financial crisis worsens

The 44th graduation ceremony at the financially troubled Egerton University slated for next month hangs in the balance after the institution was closed down on Friday due to a strike by lecturers and non-teaching staff.

The closure comes at a time when thousands of students were looking forward to completing their studies but their hopes were dashed after the university’s management board and the lecturers failed to agree on a return-to-work formula.

Hundreds of workers belonging to three unions at the Njoro-based institution have been on a go slow since November 15 protesting the slashing of their salaries.

On Friday, the university’s management issued a notice to all students and staff informing them of the closure.

This comes as a big blow to the newly appointed Vice-Chancellor Isaac Ongubo Kibwage who is yet to settle down on the hot seat.

“Following the strike by university teaching staff which has disrupted learning in the institution, Senate at its 533rd meeting held on Thursday November 25 resolved to close the university with immediate effect until further notice,” read the notice signed by the Registrar Academic Affairs Mwanarusi Saidi.

Students told to leave

The notice further stated: “Students are expected to vacate the university premises latest by Tuesday November 30.”

However, the notice did not indicate the fate of foreign students who come from various countries in Africa including Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Ghana, Nigeria and Seychelles among others.

The union members drawn from University Academic Staff Union (Uasu), Kenya Universities Staff Union (Kusu) and Kenya Union of Domestic, Hotels, Educational Institutions, Hospitals and Allied Workers (Kudheiha) claimed that their employer had slashed their salaries and other benefits without consulting union officials.

The university is facing one of its worst financial crises since it was founded 82 years ago and there is lot of pressure from creditors, including state agencies like the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) who have threatened to attach its property and freeze its accounts.

Statutory deductions

Egerton University has an accumulated Sh6 billion in outstanding statutory deductions which continue to accumulate every month while it owes creditors more than Sh6 billion.

On Thursday, Uasu met the university’s management board in a bid to end the stalemate but the board insisted that it was not possible to implement the 2017-2021 CBA due to lack of funds from the exchequer.

“Our internally generated funds are not enough to pay the workers’ full salaries,” said Prof Kibwage.

However, Uasu stood its ground and rejected an offer to return to work with a pay of between nine and 10 per cent of the withheld 40 per cent monthly salaries.

“Members demand full and unconditional payment of their owed dues as per the 2020 return-to-work formula and the 2017-2021 CBA in accordance with the January 15, 2021 court ruling,” said Uasu Egerton Chapter Secretary Grace Kibue.

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