Has Makerere university gone to the dogs or the dogs have come to Makerere university? This is the question that has been intriguing me for a good time. How do we reconcile this paradox. Perhaps it’s the task this article intends to resolve and fix.
Makerere university has indeed gone to the dogs since this can be adduced by it’s drastic decline in quality and excellence it used to enjoy in it’s golden days.
Once upon a time, Makerere was the leader of the light of reason to the Black world. The most prestigious carrier of the Pan-Africanist, Anti-Colonial ideas and African intellectualism. Makerere University College was at that time the only university institution in East Africa.
It trained students not only from the three East African countries but also further down from Nyasaland, Northern and Southern Rhodesia. As an academic institution, Makerere boasted of the highest standards.
Entry to Makerere was fiercely competitive.Makerere university Medical and Agricultural schools enjoyed international reputation while the East African Institute of Social Research was a leader in Africa on anthropological and sociological research.
The University College also boasted an excellent Margret School of Fine Arts. The university enjoyed legitimacy across the continent and the globe as the leading provider of Knowledge that knows no boundary. In 1970, Makerere University was among the best 30 universities in the world.
Students and scholars came from far and wide to study and teach there. Makerere University teaching hospital at Mulago was among the top 20 teaching hospitals in the world. Students and patients came from far and wide for specialised medical studies and treatment.
Makerere university was a major symbol of our nation’s pride like Harvard and Yale are to America, Cambridge and Oxford to Britain.
Dharam Ghai-Former Makerere Professor recalls in his memoir “The four years he spent at Makerere were its golden period. The College attracted outstanding scholars to its faculty. A considerable amount of money poured in to strengthen its medical, agriculture and social science faculties.
Many gifted graduate students from prestigious universities overseas came to work on their doctorates. Numerous seminars and conferences held at the campus added to its vibrant intellectual environment.The most exciting being Makerere Africa Lecture Series which brought movers and shakers in Business,Politics,Academia and Science. The social life at Makerere was enjoyable and easy going”.
The campus also hosted many well-known expatriate academics. Colin Leys, a former Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, was Professor of Political Science, and Raymond Apthorpe of the Sociology Department was later to become Professor at the Institute of Social Studies at the Hague. Paul Clarke, who headed the newly created Economic Development Research Project (EDRP), Philip Bell, Professor of Economics and Ian Livingstone, who subsequently became Professor at the University of Essex, were all prominent economists.
Makerere also attracted expatriate literary figures. Paul Theroux, a famous novelist, who was then teaching English in the Department of Extra-Mural Studies. In 1965/1966, Makerere was honored to have as a Visiting Professor no less a figure than VS Naipaul, the controversial writer, who subsequently won the Nobel Prize for Literature.Farah Nuruddin,the great Somalia writer who was awriter in residence at one point in his writing career at the campus. In 1962 Makerere hosted the first ever conference of African writers that brought together leading novelists and poets like Chinua Achebe,Wole Soyinka from all over Africa.
So what was “available” in the 1960s that made the university a world class university? What was available is unquestionably the reverse of the situation today. Today, it is a place where only the desperate seek medical treatment and intellectual development Every nationalist and patriot with in Uganda grieves over it’s collapse. What does Museveni think and feel about her? Despite his weaknesses as a leader, Obote understood the national significance of Makerere to our nation’s image.
During his first administration, he worked hard to sustain her image. Even the buffoonish Idi Amin seemed to admire the institution possibly that’s why he awarded himself the Doctorate of Honours of Law but lacked the knowledge on how to keep the university shining.
It seems that it has been injured and gangrene has set in .However I personally believe that the dogs have come to Makerere.Who are the dogs?The dogs are administrators who neglect their duties with impunity.Acase in point are university officials at the college of Social Sciences and Humanities who have taken it as ahabit to abscond from work.If they bothered to work,they report to office at 10 O’clock leave at mid-day for lunch,come at 3pm and leave before closing hours.An administrator at senate who receives abribe from students to manufacture atranscript.Who are the dogs?
The dogs are lazy and negligent lecturers who deliberately dodge lectures,misplace marks for their students who at the end of the day fail to graduate after spending agood fortune of their money and time,lecturers who take advantage of the girls to demand sex in return for marks.Who are the dogs?The students who dodge lectures and expect to pass.Who are the dogs?The students who don’t demand for their fundamental rights and freedoms.The students who party through out their stay at the university and expect to attain better grades.The students who don’t demand accountability from their leaders and university.
Student leaders who are bent on pursuing self servicing decisions like making their CVS and using the Guild office as an avenue to enjoy endless foreign trips and tours and a launching pad for their future careers.Who are the dogs?Aguild president who uses guild privileges like car,perdition,salary for self agrandisement and personal enrichement.Aguild minister who inflates budget to swindle guild funds
Today Makerere is surviving and being run on shoe string budgets that has made the quality of Uganda’s premier university considerably lag behind those of other prestigious African universities like Cape Town,Pretoria, Stellenbosch, Cairo and Witwatersrand. The reasons the 90 year old institution is alaggard in the continental league are identified. A demoralised faculty and decline of research.and teaching.
Forexample the students of B.com external have not had interface lectures for the last four weeks,the students of IT on Monday held ademonstration and camped at the main building demanding astatement from the university administration why they have not had lectures for the last three weeks.The reasons for this pessimism are sought in the political economy of necessary radical education reforms that are resisted by the politicians whose interests are at stake.I have interviewed across section of Makerere community.
Every Makererean is frustrated and disenchanted from Kikumi-Kikumi,to Kikoni,from Nakulabye to Kasubi.From Lumumba to Mitchel and from Nkrumah to Mary stuart.Agood number of lectures I have interacted with too express similar sentiments.
They feel they are being overworked by the beast of the university bureaucracy.To say that Lectures have turned into public rallies is understatement-even political rallies have apublic Address system.We need lecture theatres of the size of Old traford or Camp Nou to accommodate the ballooning student numbers.Lumumba block C is like Kilembe copper mines.
Tutorials,guest lectures,study trips and expert talks are no more.There is an increasing gulf between theory and Practice.University assisted degrees is asymptom of dire educational crisis.There is amissing intellectual voice. Makerere academics are nolonger visible and prominent in the field of science, literature, the arts, finance and especially, politics where they served as analysts, commentators, advisors and high-level policy makers. Africanizing Makerere’s educational system, making it more relevant to Uganda’s cultural patterns has fell on deaf ears.
Since students who occupy the back seats are unlikely to hear the lecturer, the phrase “learning by rumors” has been coined. It refers to a situation where a student seated nearer the lecturer hears and orally transmitts the message to a colleague who is seated or standing farther away from the lecturer.
Rumours and gossip are the mode of delivering knowledge in a class where student and lecturer ratio is 1:300. Students with disabilities have been left to fend for themselves.Freedom of expression and Academic Freedom has been suffocated since the re-opening of Campus F.M still remains a matter of speculation.
The government is neglecting it’s duty of providing the right to education no wonder that’s why it is still lagging behind the rest of the African countries,Uganda commits less than half of its national resources to higher education relative to the South Africa,Kenya,Egypt and even Tanzania .
The university needs a saviour and this must come from within us to demand for reforms.The Vice Chancellor and The Guild President can’t provide any cure to this ailing institution simply because they are working under a corrupted system. Makerere university needs a human rights based approach if it to reclaim it’s lost glory and reputation.Till next week.
Otafire Henry;The writer is a concerned student and citizen of Ugand;
Dogz hv gone 2 muk
Dogz hv gone 2 muk