Student boycotts at nursing schools are getting more common and school heads are to blame

On Thursday 19 April, students at the Masaka School of Comprehensive Nursing began a boycott of the school’s meals citing poor quality. The school’s principal, Mr Mark Kalanzi thought otherwise. That was before the boycott. The boycott was just beginning.

By Friday 20 April, the list of student demands — grievances bottled-up and accumulated over time — had grown to include; poor sanitation at the school, inadequate security, tutor absenteeism coupled with a lack of internet at the school campus. But most importantly, the looming deadline for registring for unmeb‘s examinations. The list was presented to the school administrators, as a petition, on 20 April.

Masaka School of Comprehensive Nursing Student leaders April 2018
Photo: Malik Fahad JJingo / Daily Monitor

It’s reported the school’s Principal, Mr Mark Kalanzi, failed to inform the students’ body of the pending deadline for registration of unmeb exams that was due Friday 20 April despite receiving a Thursday 5th April circula stating the above. The students were informed Tuesday 17 April, 2days to the deadline.

Sadly this is a practice too often deployed by school administrators who choose, deliberately or otherwise, to inform their students of crucial deadlines just days prior to expiration of such deadlines.

The students were required to raise shs. 120,000 (unmeb‘s registration fee for it’s exams) within 2days, something that proved difficult for many a student to take-in prompting a sit-down boycott of most school activities from; meals, lectures to attending to their allocations at the Masaka Regional Referral Hospital. The hospital servers as the practicum site for the nursing school.

Mr Mark Kalanzi was correct in stating his limited ability to adjust or extend the deadlines set by the unmeb. That said, it was ill advised of him to have waited 2days to the set deadline before he could deliver the news. His failur to act in a timely manner precipitated the events — boycott — at the school. He was quick to recognise the error and effected corrective measures. Not so many principals are that proactive and honest.

In equal measure, the students’ body at the Masaka School of Comprehensive Nursing should be commended for their choice of peaceful protest — the boycott coupled with a petition to the school administration. It contributed to condusive atmosphere necessary for problem solving that led to the conserned authorities to implement swift and proportionately corrective measures.

And as Ms Joweria Nakirigya, the students’ Guild secretary saidwe have accepted to give the administration a benefit of doubt. We will not hesitate to resume our strike of the promises made are not fullfilled,” the ease with which this episode was resolved shouldn’t taken for granted and quickly forgotten. It should be a learning curve for all involved.

In the age of nurses and midwives at both the national and international level threatening industrial action or going on strikes as a way of demanding better terms and conditions of service, it’s increasingly becoming difficult to disuade student nurses and midwives not to do the same.

Students too are learning to demand for what’s rightfully theirs and it’s a good thing. Training institutions such as the Masaka school of comprehensive nursing, and many like it across the country, are a good place for them to start.

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