Muscat: Staff at the University of Nizwa in northern Oman went on strike on Tuesday due to alleged lack of salary payments.
Dozens of staff gathered at the university premises with banners demanding payment of salaries, pictures of which spread quickly on social media. One of banners read: “We don’t want promises. We want action”.
Rumours circulated on the internet the ten-year-old university was unable to pay employees due to bankruptcy, and that students would have to find other universities.
The university chairman was quick to deny the rumours in a statement, saying the university was a public service establishment and a non-profit venture.
“The university of Nizwa’s bankruptcy is a baseless rumour,” said the chairman of the university, Dr Ahmed Al Rawahi, in the statement.
Al Rawahi said that the news that was being circulated about a joint meeting between the University of Nizwa, Ministry of Higher Education and the Education Union was untrue.
He told local radio station Al Wesal that the university had only paid staff their salaries last month, adding that the Ministry of Education owed the University of Nizwa many unpaid dues, such as the tuition fees of students on government scholarship, which has impacted the university’s ability to pay the salaries of its employees.
“We are in contact with the Ministry of Higher Education about the tuition fees of students at the university. The Ministry of Higher Education has ordered the dispensing of the same but we haven’t yet received anything,” he said.
Al Rawahi added that over the years, the number of government-backed students had dropped significantly as scholarship students chose to go to other universities.
He said the university was committed to pay its employees’ salaries if the ministry cleared its dues.
The University of Nizwa was established in 2004 as a faculty governed not-for-profit private university. It is located 140km from the capital of Muscat, in the interior region of Al Dakhiliya near the historic former capital of Nizwa.
Decline in the oil prices has a significant impact on the country’s economy. Oman is under pressure to pump more oil to make up for the drop in prices.
Oman has also been cutting state subsidies and introducing other austerity measures to curb a budget deficit of 4.02 billion rials in the first seven months of 2016, up from a deficit of 2.39 billion rials the previous year. The Ministry of Finance has issued 20 circulars so far this year aimed at controlling and managing spending.