For thousands of students at Njala University their holiday which started in October last year is still on, much to their chagrin and frustration.
The academic year that was to have started in November 2016 is in limbo owing to a long-running sit-down strike by lecturers over pay and conditions.
The President of the Academic Staff Association, Dr Samba Moriba says they feel scorned by the central government which has allegedly refused to even meet with them to discuss their grievances.
“We have not received allowances for several years now – our emoluments and so forth. Secondly we have our colleagues who have retired…many of them are beggars [because] they have not received their benefits since 2012” Dr Moriba told Politico.
He said some of the academic staff who died in service had still not had their inheritance paid, with their children no longer going to school as a result.
Dr Moriba said that salary increase agreed in 2011 had still not been fully implemented with the timeline due to end this year.
He accused the authorities of brinkmanship saying that in the past when they had agreed to call off their strike, the university administration reneged. He said that if the government made an undertaking to look into their demands they were happy to return to class, but that they were being ignored by the ministry of education.
The ministry would not talk to Politico about the matter nor would the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof Ernest Ndomaina. But the aggrieved students whose union is banned are nevertheless speaking out.
Alpha Umaru Barrie, a third year student said they were frustrated by the “never ending” strike, saying it had impacted them negatively.
“Imagine all of these students…at the various campuses sitting at home doing nothing” the distraught-sounding student told Politico. He went on: “Time is very paramount in the life of every human being. Final year students that were to be preparing for their comprehensive or primary exams are sitting at home doing nothing… not taking lectures”.
He accuses the President Ernest Bai Koroma who is the Chancellor of the university of “not doing anything” to resolve the situation.
Several students told Politico in Bo that they felt neglected by the central government for "turning a blind eye to our plight".
One of them, a second year female student said “we feel very neglected by the government”. She said she’d been stuck in Bo for months in anticipation of resumption of classes but no joy.
Njala, like all other academic institutions, was affected by the Ebola outbreak which ate deep into the academic year. And the strike comes as they were striving to adjust to the lost time. The angry students have held a series of meetings with the authorities, and embarked on protest marches none of which have yielded anything.
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