MAKERERE@100! How upcountry centres have promoted decentralization

By Steven Masiga

In the formative days of introduction to western education, the white missionaries had to offer Africans bribes and other gifts like mirrors and packed food in order to induce them to study as many African traditionalists had rejected western imposed education.

This wide spread deep resistance to the introduction of formal education  led to the killing of prominent Africans like Buganda kingdom Katikkiro (prime minister) Martin Nsibirwa who was assassinated because of being supportive to education when he offered Makerere University land for academic expansion.

But, after the Second World War this resistance softened down as many sons of African chiefs and other royals positioned themselves to take over the leadership when they suspected that whites were losing appetite for colonies. The war had also imbued Africans with lots of experience after travelling to Burma and India etc as fighters. Makerere University which is celebrating 100 years of its existence has done commendably in pushing university education into communities.

As early as 1966, the university embarked on a massive opening of study centres and regional branches to help promote continuous learning. These are spread across-Mbale,Kabale,Fort Portal, Gulu ,Jinja and Iganga. The upcountry study centres were established with the singular vision of promoting community learning since adult learning is from birth up to the tomb.

As depicted in the university mission statement of taking Makerere University to the community and bringing the community to the university, statistics point out these centres as responsible for supplying local governments with 70% of their manpower needs especially at management operation level. The Local governments in these regions have done commendably in supporting university centres and branches. Lira district local government should be singled out for its support toward Makerere programs besides encouraging its staff to study there.

The district even donated land for the construction of lecture theatres and staff quarters. Mbale municipal council also offered Makerere university land along Mabala road around 1994. Kudos to the university management through the vice chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe and Prof Anthony Mugagga of college of education and external studies  who are determined to make use of this land.

Now that most of the employees in government are required to be graduates (like now the case of secondary and primary teachers), upcountry learning is the thing we should strongly plan for now.

While majority of local governments and NGOs have encouraged including sponsoring students to acquire university  qualifications, individual members of Parliament like Mudimi Ignatius Wamakuyu, Bulambuli county ,and Irene Muloni, woman member of Parliament of Bulambuli stand out as those who have sponsored thousands of students to study at Makerere university upcountry centres.

Decentralization as a policy stance under the National Resistance Movement has prospered partly because of Makerere university upcountry branches who have offered technical capacity to local government staff. Data from public service shows that Bulambuli DLG has 90% of the parish chiefs with Makerere university qualifications; Bududa has about 60% trained by these centres and graduate teachers in the old category are Makerere graduates.

Some of these centres like the Mbale once helped some Fronasa functionaries and other Marxist intellectuals like Prof Dani Wadada Nabudere Nabudere, Changa Macho, Minister Magode Ikuya, Prof. Gimoi Kiboma and others.

Using these centres in reaction to the above influence, former president Amin ordered for the removal of Changa Macho who was then Makerere university branch coordinator in Mbale.

The intellectuals were allegedly using these centres to propose alternative governments instead of its core objective of teaching—but that is the nature of all intellectuals.

Mbale branch is one stop centre for Makerere university academic products and has Teso,Karamoja and Bugisu including Bukedi as its catchment areas.

Many councilors and other community members have benefited immensely through its programs. This explains why many councilors are employed as parish chiefs after being flattened politically in their constituencies, while others abandoned political responsibility and joined local governments as middle level employees after acquiring university qualifications from these centres.

The district education officers for Mbale Lydia Musungu and Agnes Lukendo of Pallisa attribute their agility in law and administration to qualifications awarded by Makerere University through its upcountry centres.

In Busoga, the Iganga centre has also done wonders. For instance, Mayuge district human resource officer completed an administrative law certificate under Iganga centre. Steven Kaliba, formerly director community education Makerere University says Toro and Bunyoro regions have benefited immensely in academics because of the upcountry centres of the university, a view shared by Gulu’s VC, Prof Openjeru and Harriet Mwesigwa, the district education officer, Busia.

Makerere University including its upcountry centres have undergone various changes—from colonialist university, to national university and right now to a neoliberal university.

Many of the staff are holders of PHDs representing about 70% of PHDs held in Uganda, according to Uganda National Council of sciences and technology, 2011.

This critical manpower is what the university relies on in its upcountry branches and their impact on policy and research cannot be overstated.

This has encouraged knowledge sharing between Makerere University and the community through its regional centres which has led to knowledge acceleration across the country.

These upcountry centres have chosen or worked through collaborations with organizations like DVV and as a result sufficient adult learning materials have been availed to the centres which the community access at ease.

The partnerships have helped upcountry centres to build capacities of media, cultural institutions including training community groups on financial literacy, bodabodas on management of customers and councilors on statutory roles. The Mbale branch has been at the core of this.

University lecturers have also written extensive learning materials in the areas of law, economics and community psychology and many of these promoters of adult education under Makerere university department of Adult community education are now very senior academicians across Uganda managing other universities in capacities like vice chancellors and other portfolios.

Professor George Ladaah Openjuru who was dean of the community department is now vice chancellor Gulu University, associate professor Willy Ngaka is now in charge of senior academic affairs at Kyambogo and Professor Aaron Mushengyezi is the new vice chancellor Uganda Christian University (UCU).<<<>>>The writer is a researcher and also works for Makerere University, Mbale centre. Tel: 0706655811.<<<<>>> The views expressed here belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the Daily Pepper. Send your opinion, complaint, feedback, and letter to or call/text / WhatsApp 0777959024. Anonymous writers must indicate the reason.


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