By ZACHERY PER
THE National Court has ordered striking students at the University of Goroka (UOG) to return to classes.
The UOG administration obtained the court order last Friday, after the boycott of classes entered the third week.
The court order directs the student representative council (SRC) to end the boycott of classes.
When the order was served on defendants Benzamin Michael (SRC president), Herinu Kanina (male vice-president) and Martina Arawe (female vice-president), the students decided to fight the order.
Yesterday they broke into their respective provincial groups and contributed up to K2,249.50 to engage a lawyer to represent them when the matter returns to court on Thursday.
In a meeting yesterday, the students reaffirmed their solidarity to remain together and press their demands for Minister for Higher Education Michael Ogio and director of the Office of Higher Education Dr William Tagis to dissolve the UOG interim council and establish a full council.
The SRC was to present a petition to Mr Ogio and Dr Tagis yesterday but the duo did not go to Goroka.
The court order restrains the students from boycotting classes, conduct forums, holding meetings, uttering, publishing, announcing and inciting boycott of classes or unrest among staff and students.
They are not to interfere with the administration of the university.
To avoid contempt of court proceedings, the student leaders named in the court order have stepped down and other student leaders have taken over to continue the boycott.
“The boycott will continue until they submit to our demand.
“We did our research and conducted ourselves within the University Act.
“We are not returning to classes,” Mr Michael said.
He said the administration should engage in dialogue with them instead of going to court.
Some students told The National they were not criminals to be taken to court, adding that whether they returned to classes would depend on the outcome of the court hearing on Thursday.
“The court order only directing them to return to class without addressing the substantive matter to remove the interim council and appointment of a full council,” a student said, declining to be named.
He said if the administration used the university money to engage lawyers, the SRC funds which are withheld should be released so the SRC should use it for legal cost as well.
The main gates to the campus were shut with notices “We want full council now” and “Interim council must be dissolved now,” while visitors were restricted as police and media gained entrance through the back gates.
The students are alleging that an extraordinary meeting of the interim council on Jan 4-8, in which a council member was flown from Fiji just to make the quorum, made some questionable decisions.
They claimed this meeting endorsed a second list of first year intakes to the UOG, a list dominated by children of academic staff, and students from one Highlands province.