Written by Pa Nderry M’Bai
The acting Vice Chancellor of the university of The Gambia Professor Pierre Gomez, has told a Banjul high court that the ongoing students strike is likely going to cause instability in the country, as there are other students planning to organize a counter protest march. “I verily believe that failure of the students to attend classes and receive lectures is likely to cause serious instability in the University of The Gambia as information received by the management of the university is that some quota of the students are very likely going to embark on a counter protest which would have serious consequences on the fragile security of this country, particularly as we approach election season,” Professor Gomez told the high court in a six page sworn affidavit deposition.
His statement followed a lawsuit filed by the University of The Gambia and the Attorney General’s Chambers, both plaintiffs, against the University of The Gambia Faculty and Staff Association.
The striking UTG Faculty staff association said until the demands are met, they wouldn’t resume work. Their demands include the following:
- The Chairman of the Governing council of the university Mr. Mathew P. Ndure, be removed from the governing council.
- The Registrar of the UGT, Dr. Momodou Lamin Tarro should relinquish his current position as his fixed-term had expired
- The UTG should do away with Acting Vice Chancellor appointments and the current Vice Chancellor, Professor Arjun, should remain in position
- Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology must lift all bands including traveling bans currently imposed on the university and its management and the implementation of all other pending resolutions agreed with the ministry, office of the President and UTG management.
- The Governing council of the university of The Gambia must be reconstituted.
- The university of The Gambia Bill must be reviewed and enacted.
In response, the UGT Governing Council says the above resolutions were not communicated to them. They said they only “became aware of these demands following their circulation on social media and publication by the FOROYAA Newspaper edition of 9th September 2021 captioned “Gambia University Staff to begin strike in Mid-September.”
Professor Gomez also argues that the grounds for the industrial action do not constitute a trade dispute between the parties concerned. He also said the striking faculty staffers never gave them notice about their planned strike.
Gomez also says the removal of the members of the governing council including the Chairperson of the council and other members council is vested in the President Adama Barrow, who is the Chancellor of the UTG.
Prof. Gomez warns that any protest march during an electioneering year could spread across other schools across the country, as he sought the court’s intervention to declare such industrial actions as illegal.
“I have been further informed by Counsel Kimbeng Tah and I verily believe same to be true that being an election year, any protest by the students of the university is likely going to spark violence in other tertiary and higher education institutions in The Gambia,” Gomez told the court.
Gomez says “the industrial strike action will adversely affect provision of essential services in the form of registration, teaching and learning by the students who are prepared to begin the semester. Now produced and shown to me marked “UTG3” is a signed copy of the academic calendar of the university for the academic year 2021/2022.”