Dr. Merchach: Why Ankole W. University Has Deployed the Right Gun
By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
This week, TELEPATHY takes a brief break from the ‘Age Limit Bill’ series to celebrate a childhood friend of mine who has been entrusted with the responsibility of running a university at the young age of 40.
On Friday July 21, Dr. Merchach Katusiime was inaugurated as the Vice Chancellor of Ankole Western University (AWU) by newly consecrated bishop of West Ankole Rt. Rev Johnson Twinomujuni. The new bishop is the automatic chancellor of the only Church of Uganda-leaning University in this diocese.
The university is located in the municipality of Kabwohe– Itendero, in Sheema District, Western Uganda. It started in 2002 having metamorphosed from a budding institution named Ankole Western Institute of Science and Technology.
With a total enrollment of over 500 students, the university is emerging from an acrimonious period that lasted around four years. During this period, a section of Christians in Sheema accused the former prelate, Bishop Emeritus Yona Katonene, of scheming to shift the university from Sheema District to Katungu in Bushenyi District and also mismanaging it. But it was only until his retirement last year that the standoff ended, giving way to the installation of a new bishop who has seen a transition to normalcy at the institution. It is this transition that Dr. Katusiime is confronting.
Dr. Katusiime, who takes over from Rev. Canon Dr. Edidah Mujinya, is a well-known childhood friend. His academic journey is a true story of struggle and an inspiration to young people especially the students of this young university. It is also an opportunity for the university to seriously return to its state promise of being the ‘Light of the World.’
Here is why;
I met a young Katusiime in 1994 as we were both preparing to join senior Five. He was leaving Nganwa High School (the current location of the university) to join Mbarara High School, while I was rejoining Kitabi Seminary in Bushenyi District for my A ‘level.
His passion for education and teaching was over the moon by then. He liked to ‘present papers’ to students’ associations in Sheema during holidays. While he rolled, I did the same across the River Rwizi in Rwampara County. We both believed that since we were studying from relatively elite schools, it was our duty to share tips and knowledge with our fellow students back home who were attending poor schools. We did this every holiday and throughout our time at Makerere University. We twined Rwampara and Sheema students on an ‘Academic Standard Gauge Railway’ and many students passed their exams with ease. We never asked for pay.
At Makerere, we found ourselves in the same Faculty of Social Sciences. In first year, we both enjoyed Political Science classes. We dreamt so big partly because we were orphans. This is because back home, we had struggling mothers that were excessively passionate about giving education to the unfortunate.
Around 1998, during our second year, when the country was agitating for a return to the multiparty political dispensation, we both cheekily formed a movement. We called it Front for Multiparty Democracy (FMD), ready to participate on the national front. We formed it inside one of the lecture theatres of the Political Science section from where I wrote the concept note and he worked on a constitution. But because classwork was calling, we buried the idea to this date.
In third year, while I decided to pursue a career in journalism, Dr. Katusiime told me he was going academic and he would not rest until he earned a PhD.
Indeed, after our final exams in June 1999, as we shared a small room in Kakajjo below the Law Development Centre in Kampala North where we jointly paid Shs. 25,000/= worth of rent a month, he kept in touch with the faculty while I walked the streets looking for stories for The Monitor (Now Daily Monitor). We parted ways on graduation day, March 17, 2000, when following our joint party worth about Shs. 300,000, I was deployed in Kanungu District to pursue a breaking story that turned out to be a 13-month extensive coverage of the infamous ‘Kanungu Inferno’ in which a cult leader of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God, Joseph Kibwetere and his colleagues, murdered over 1,000 of its on an inferno.
On Friday last week, Dr. Katusiime was inaugurated Vice Chancellor from a ground he pursued his secondary education from, now home of Ankole Western University. I am not surprised because I know him to be a man of strong passion, character, conviction and loves teamwork. In his Fridayspeech he promised to take AWU to the world and bring the world to AWU. Dr. Katusiime is a true ‘glocalisation’ and ‘globalization’ enthusiast. Dr. Katusiime has so many academic accolades to his name that space won’t allow me to divulge here. No wonder the Orator of the Day, Prof. Elijah Dickens Mushemeza had this to say:
“Dr. Katusiime. He is a social critic. Typical of University Professors, he calls a spade a spade. He cherishes accountability, transparency and integrity. In short he believes in democratic governance of African states and their societies. He is not selfish. His philosophy is “to serve others unselfishly.” He runs a private school in his home village – the school is “Rwebiita Preparatory School”. Dr. Katusiime for the last two years has been popularizing the go back to home ‘giving back’ projects and has inspired many to give back and support various projects especially related to the involvement of the alumni in the development of their schools. His vision has led to the revival of many schools around the region.”
This column believes Ankole University will be a real light to the world.
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