KAMPALA: Makerere University students led by their Guild President Julius Kateregga and others have protested the ongoing fencing of the university famous Freedom Square, with some threating to hold the strike against the new development at Uganda’s premier academic institution.
The Freedom Square, almost the size of a football pitch, is used for many functions, including graduation ceremonies, academic exhibitions, entertainment and staff assemblies but also some students revise their books and discuss assignments from there as it provides a conducive reading environment.
The university’s administration made a mistake when it took a decision to fence off the ground without involving students leaders, one student said.
Their Guild President Kateregga now wants the university to halt the process of fencing the ground that sometimes is used by students to date especially in the evening hours.
Kateregga argues that fencing the square “alters the name and purpose of freedom square,”
He says that the Freedom Square is a symbol of academic freedom in not just the university but the country at large.
“This metallic fence alters the name and purpose of freedom square. Makerere University freedom square is a symbol of Academic freedom in the university and in the Nation,” Kateregga said in a statement.
He said, “We therefore request you to instruct the welders to stop the ongoing fencing with immediate effect.” One student blamed the university administration for copying government which fenced off the Constitutional Square which is just below the High Court in the heart of Kampala City.
He asked the university administration that going forward, students and stakeholders’ opinions should be captured before making any changes on historical University symbols.
Kateregga also said that they will not sit back against policies that curtail freedom of expression and association.
However an official who talked to this reporter said part of the reasons for fencing the ground is to stop the threat of thieves who converge at the facility to plan stealing the university’s properties.
Another one added that the administration wanted to prevent students from organizing their strikes at the ground. “Over the years students have always organised their strikes from Freedom Square and the administration somehow thought fencing would stop the activity,” he said.