Parliament has tasked the Government to present a statement explaining why Gulu College of Health Sciences was closed.
The Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah told the State Minister for Higher Education, John Chrysestom Muyingo that, the statement detailing why the College was closed and responding to some of the issues raised against the institution should be made during a plenary session on September 15, 2021.
The directive follows a matter raised by Betty Aol Ocan, the Gulu City Woman MP who said that the management closed the school on Thursday last week, following a demonstration by students over the revised fees structure, inadequate teaching staff and poor feeding.
According to the circular issued by the school, diploma students under Government sponsorship would pay Shillings 1.47 million up from Shillings 1.27 million while private sponsored students would pay Shillings 2.5 million from the initial Shillings 2.077 million.
Ocan said that on September 13, 2021, members of the Acholi Parliamentary Group led by their Secretary General John Amos Okot (Agago North MP) visited the school on a fact-finding mission and established that, “the closure of the school has greatly affected students who come from other parts of the country since they do not have anywhere else to go to.”
She observed that the closure of the school had exposed a lot of female students to the danger of sexual exploitation by older men in exchange for food and accommodation and called upon Government to respond expeditiously.
In response, Muyingo confirmed that indeed Gulu College of Health Sciences had been closed but a team of officials from the Ministry of Education had travelled to Gulu, and they were doing everything possible to resolve the matter.
Muyingo recounted that the problem started in June 2021 with students protesting an increase in fees, inadequate teaching staff as well as poor feeding.
He said that upon receiving the concerns, the Ministry together with the school management started to investigate the matter at the height of the second COVID19 wave.
He informed the House that during the Second lockdown, the Principal Gulu College of Health Sciences, Aninge Grace unfortunately passed away and subsequently Ministry of Education deployed a new principal and deputy principal.
He explained that when schools were allowed to reopen in mid-August 2021, the students returned to the unrest, boycotting classes. He said the Ministry dispatched an officer to establish the facts on the ground.
“The officer listened to the students and appealed to them to resume studies as the ministry addresses their grievances. The students did not accept and continued with the strike,” said Muyingo.
He noted that after all efforts to resolve the matter with the students, the Ministry of Education at the request of the governing council decided to close the College. He, however, decried political interference by the political leaders who he accused of interfering with decisions from the Ministry of Education.
“My Ministry worked with RDC Gulu and the Police Commander to enforce the directive to close the College. Unfortunately, on Monday 13 September 2021, the leaders from that sub-region, stormed the college and purported to reopen the college, by calling back the students to school.
He assured the House that the Ministry was working closely with all the stakeholders to resolve the matter to allow the schools to reopen.
Kilak South MP, Mr Gilbert Olanya, contested the ministers’ reports that the political leaders from the subregion stormed the college and attempted to reopen the school. He said that they visited the school and engaged the management to allow the students access the hostels since most of them were stranded in the streets.
His Kilak North counterpart, Anthony Akol was concerned by the move of the management to increase the fees amidst the COVID19 pandemic. He pointed out that the closure of the Institution caught many students unaware and most of them did not have transport to travel to their homes.
The MP Gulu East, Rev Fr Onen Charles said that the statement by the Minister was an insult to the MPs, with allegations that they stormed the school. He demanded an apology from the Minister.
The Speaker has directed the State Minister for Higher Education John Chrysestom Muyingo to present to Parliament a statement on 15th September 2021.
“I would like the Minister to respond to the specific issues raised in very clear terms and provide guidance on the way forward. And then we see how to conclude this matter,” said Oulanyah.