By Venenscias Kiiza
Makerere University last Thursday launched year-long activities that will climax with its 100th anniversary in November next year.
At a stakeholders’ mobilization meeting held in Freedom Square—Makerere, various speakers reflected on the university’s past, present and future prospects. The Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe who gave a historical perspective of the institution said the institution that began as a college with 14 learners sitting in grass-thatched classroom learning carpentry and masonry has come to have an immense global impact.
And as the British colonial government saw the impact Makerere was having, when it was still a college, Nawangwe said, they decided to invest more money in it. Makerere rapidly expanded in the 1930s and 1940s. But as it expanded, it needed more land that the landlords around it were not willing to give. No one, except the then Katikiro of Buganda Martin Lurther Nsibirwa was willing to assist Makerere in getting land. “Katikiro Nsibirwa signed a document which allowed the colonial government to annex land in public interest. Nsibirwa was apparently assassinated for that decision on the steps of Namirembe Cathedral where he had gone for morning prayers,” Nawangwe said.
Government Chief Whip Thomas Tayeebwa, who represented Jacob Oulanyah pointed out the university’s illustrious alumni such as Ngugi Wa Theogo whose work shaped the minds of Africans in the early years of post-independence. “Everywhere, Makerere played its role in shaping the continent,” Tayeebwa said, referring to many students from African countries who studied at Makerere in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
CROSS CUTTING RESEARCH, MORE RESEARCH
Prof. Nawangwe said the university has produced edge cutting research and technology such as the electric car—the first on the continent, tuberculosis rapid testing kit which is used globally, the anti-tick vaccines which is undergoing mass production among others. He said the university has produced more than 200 innovations during the pandemic. “We will leverage our successes of the past to solve new societal problems,” he said.
Going forward Tayeebwa challenged the university to do more research that can help the government to transform Uganda by bringing more people in the money economy. He pledged more research and innovation funding from the government but also urged the university to make use of its intellectual property.
Apart from reflecting on the university’s history, Lorna Magara, Makerere Council Chairperson said the year-long celebration presents great prospects for Makerere and her stakeholders “to renew their commitment to make the University more impactful in its activities in the years to come.”
She revealed that the Makerere@100 organising committee through its history, culture and future documentation sub-committee has embarked on a book project for centenary celebrations. The book, she said, provides insights on how the university has produced skilled human resources for East African Society, contributed to knowledge through research and innovation, contributed to democratic governance and the building of social institutions in East Africa in the past century.