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Citizen Weekly

Sunday 24 August 2014


Trouble is looming at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University in Bondo as pressure mounts on the Vice Chancellor, Stephen Agong, address the problems facing the institution.

Investigations reveal that under Agong’s leadership, there has been no tangible development. Already, three buildings have stalled as contractors have deserted the site due to what inside sources say is nonpayment. Three buildings which were to be students’ hostel stalled last year and the students are now faced with accommodation crisis. Another building which has since stalled and abandoned by the contractor is the construction of a laboratory block which stalled in 2009.

The university’s library construction has also stagnated and the contractor, according to sources, abandoned the site after the university failed to pay him. The laboratory block was also to accommodate offices and lecture halls.

Tension is high at the university with the local community now threatening to hold a demo after the administration stopped selling water to the community.

The water tank at the university’s main entrance was inherited from Bondo TTC and ever since it has been sold to the local community at subsidized rates but last year, Agong stopped the sale of water something the local community has not taken kindly.

What is surprising is that even the university staffs that live outside the college have been denied the opportunity to use  water something that they have planned to petition through their union officials.

Another bone of contention that is building up tension between the university administration and the local community is a case in which a school worker who was in charge of the college farm was sacked. The local community now demands that his contract be renewed since he has not been told why he has been sacked. Sources say the sacked worker’s father is one of the people who donated the land on which the university stands today.

Agong is also said to be at pains to explain to the non-teaching staff the criteria he used in employing, promoting and demoting of staff. Recently, the university conducted staff appraisal and what has now come out is that only staff from his Homa Bay county benefited from the promotions while those from Siaya county were ignored.

It is alleged that majority of the staff are from South Nyanza region who also are appointed to lucrative and influential positions as compared to their Central Nyanza counterparts.
An example is the appointment of Registrar Academic Walter Akuno who is Agong’s nephew. It is alleged that he does not have academic and professional qualifications to hold that position. He is also the treasurer of Bunista Sacco which is also on its deathbed.

He is known to spend most of his time attending to his private business in Bondo town. He runs a chain of hostels around the university where during new admissions, students are directed to seek accommodation at his premises.

Investigations reveal that most of the income generating activities run by the university are collapsing and are known to either make losses or the money generated ends up in the pockets of a few individuals. Since last year, the staffs have never received any benefits from the projects. The projects are dairy farm and poultry farm.

We have also discovered that the university’s marketing department is non-functioning. The marketing department has not done much to market the university competitively as other universities do.

Already, the lecturers have been complaining because of poor management which has led to the university having three semesters instead of two semesters per year. To make matters worse, the university continues to experience mass exodus of lecturers. We have also gathered that the number of students joining the university is low to the extent that some courses register no students while others have as few as five students per class.

When other universities admit students in September this year, those selected to join Jaramogi are expected to report in January 2015. The sources say this is due to lack of lecture halls and lack of academic staff. It is worth noting that some lecturers operate from a tent due to lack of lecture halls and office space.

The university is said to be totally understaffed by both the academic and non-teaching staff. The available staff are forced to work overtime which the university does not pay them.  Provision of health services is very poor at this institution. At one time, it forced the county health executive to intervene after it was discovered that the man who was employed as a pharmacists was not qualified and was dispensing wrong medicine.

The man in charge is a retiree from Agong’s Homa Bay. Staff complain that the facility is not well equipped and wonder why referral cases are only taken to Aga Khan Hospital, Kisumu. At one time, a staff who visited Aga Khan was turned away because the university had not made payments running to hundreds of thousands of shillings.

Security at the institution is wanting. There have been cases of theft at the students hostels and cases of female students being raped have been reported but no action taken. The blame is on the security officer who also happens to be a retiree from Homa Bay county.

The non-teaching staff also claim that the university has never taken interest in improving their welfare. Most affected are the cooks and groundsmen who have never been issued with protective gear as well as poor pay and poor working conditions. Our efforts to reach the union officials to verify the claims of staff welfare were fruitless.

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