...Over age-old problems concerning welfare condition of Faculty
The Faculty Association of the University of Liberia has shut down the university after its members walked off their job in protest for better working conditions and pay.
The group action, which halted learning activities at the state-run university campus last weekend, might likely continue for a longer period or come to an abrupt pause. In a statement, the University Faculty Association (ULFA) reiterated its earlier demand for better welfare for its members, including social security and medical insurance, salary increment, and a conducive learning environment that is currently unsanitary.
“Given these demands, all efforts to have the UL Administration solve these problems proved futile. The ULFA Leadership, therefore, urges all Faculty members at undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools to disengage and discontinue all academic activities on all campuses of the University of Liberia until all demands are met,” ULFA President, Dr. Edna G. Johnny said.
ULFA leadership disclosed that the strike action was initiated after they had engaged the university administration on countless occasions, which yielded no result.
The statement added that ULFA, at some point, asked the University administrators to have a memorandum of understanding signed in relation to their concerns and even submitted a letter to that effect, but the university never took interest. ULFA statement added that the continued refusal of the administration to address the faculty concerns prompted their decision.
“Wherefore, the refusal of the UL Administration to address the concerns of ULFA, the association has announced that it will disengage from all academic activities on all campuses beginning Monday, September 20, 2021 for alleged refusal of the UL Administration to improve the wellbeing of its members,” Dr. Edna G. Jonny, ULFA president added.
The strike by the faculty association (ULFA), is an age-old problem, especially for salaries and better working conditions and, it seems, the University does not have a long-term solution to fix the problem. However, at every strike, a compromise is found, resulting in the instructors returning to class, followed by another protest if the University administration fails to fulfill its side of the bargain.
The decision by ULFA to disengage was contained in a two-page resolution at the end of an Emergency General Assembly held on Friday, September 17, 2021, on the Capitol Hill campus of the University. Among many counts, ULFA wants the President of the University of Liberia, Prof. Julius Nelson, Jr., to also address disparities in salary and allowances among faculty members, as well as disparities between faculty and administrative staff.
“We, therefore, urge our students to remain calm as this action is in the best interest of both students and faculties alike. ULFA remains committed to a better University that ensures quality for faculty, staff, and students,“ Dr. Edna added.
Meanwhile, the Government, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning urged ULFA to reconsider its decision and asked the Civil Service Agency to investigate and resolve alleged salary disparities at the University of Liberia.
At a special Zoom meeting to address the faculty concerns, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah promised that issues of infrastructural development that the government considers beyond the purview of the UL administration will be taken care of by relevant government agencies and funding will be made available in the national budget to cover them.
However, Min. Tweah did not state when such renovation will take place as the university’s main campus on Capitol Hill is, according to the ULFA, not sanitary for learning.
Dr. Edna said that she would take the request to reconsider their decision to disengage back to the body for discussion and will announce their next course of action after their meeting, which is scheduled for today.
Besides, the faculty protest, the state-run University, since reopening has seen a string of protests from student groups demanding the administration to account for funds generated from entrances and dormitories. One such group is, the Progressive Student Alliance (PROSA), which staged an unannounced protest, disrupting learning activities to call on the UL administration to explain the usage of finances generated from exams and dorms recently.
The student group claimed that they were protesting for the renovation of the schools building on the campuses, electricity, water, internet connectivity, bathrooms, buses to begin commuting students at the Agriculture college, and the availability of student identification cards.
It then says it is in support of the faculty’s action on grounds that it is in affirmation of their previous communications to the school administration. Since the administrations of Samuel Doe regime, to that of Charles Taylor and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the UL students have always stood by their teachers and other instructional staff to ensure that they return to the classroom.
Also, the Student Unification Party threatened to shut down the UL for three months to allow the government and the school administrators to upgrade the University international standards.
But the University's President Dr. Nelson refuted the claims and attributed it to the rainy season and lack of resources.
“I have not seen major renovations going on in the rainy season. We are looking for resources so that in the dry season, we can renovate the buildings,” Dr. Nelson adds. “These buildings are not new constructions. When I came to school in 1977, these buildings were here. we have done all of the calculations, we know how much we need to spend on each building. We are looking for resources so that in the dry season we can renovate these buildings.”
He called on the students, especially undergraduates, to pay their registration fees to raise more funds for the renovation. “I want to encourage the current students to pay their registration fees. I will have enough money to paint these buildings by October 15, 2022.”