October 8, 2013 (JUBA) – The head of the South Sudan Workers Union has called on lecturers at the University of Juba to reverse their one-week ultimatum in which they called on the government to pay their allowances or they will stop teaching.
“In my view, the complaints raised by the university lecturers and other staff members are genuine but I think going on the strike is not the solution,’’ said Simon Deng, head of the Workers Union.
‘‘These issues should be resolved through dialogue now that the president has intervened and ordered the minister of finance to review salary structures and allowances of the university lecturers and other category” said Deng on Tuesday while attempting to dissuade the lecturers who went on strike in protest against cuts that sliced their pay by 50%.
Lecturers at Juba University, the oldest and the largest public university have been on a sit down strike since Monday.
The strike follows a reduction in lecturers’ pay; for example the gross salary of a professor was reduced from about $2,700 to around $1500. That of a teaching assistant (the least paid) was reduced from $870 to about $500.
In October 2012, a circular from the Labour and Public Service ministry said transport, book, secretariat, higher studies and extra hours’ allowances were retained. But the lecturers said they have not been paid the allowances and are now demanding its payment in arrears for the last 14 months.
“Our take-home pay is very small, that is why we need these allowances to be paid back,” said Edward Momo, Vice president of the Academic Staff Association at the University of Juba.
“We have been patient for too long. We will strike until the government reinstates our allowances,” said Makur Makuac Chinor, the chairperson of the Academic Staff Association at the University of Bahr el-Ghazal.
But the Minister for Education, John Gai Yoh, said the lecturers should be patient and wait for a government decision on their concerns in the next two weeks.
“I am urging them [lecturers] to end the strike and the government will work on their demands,” the minister said.
South Sudan president Salva Kiir Mayardit on Friday last week directed the finance minister to reinstate allowances for teachers, both at lower and higher learning institutions in the country, defusing tension and averting threats by the teachers from all public universities to go on strike.
The directive, according to the minister of education, John Gai, will come into effect in January 2014.
The minister thanked the President for appreciating the concerns of the teachers.
“I would to register sincere thanks to the president for seeing the significance of the issues raised by the lectures who spoke on behalf of all teaching professionals. He (the president) has directed the minister of finance to review and reinstate allowances for teachers at all levels”, said minister Gai in a broadcast on Sunday on the state owned South Sudan Television.
Meanwhile lecturers and staff members at John Garang Memorial University of Science and Technology and other public universities have made similar demands as their counterparts at the University of Juba.