Kampala | RedPepper – Parliament has approved a motion by the Ministry of Education and Sports to takeover the Mountains of the Moon University in Fort Portal in Kabarole district, a move closer to fulfilling President’s Museveni’s directive made in 2015.
This followed a motion tabled by John Muyingo, State Minister for Higher Education during Tuesday 7 plenary sitting in which he asked Parliament to approve the motion so as to ensure that the Rwenzori region gets a public University.
Muyingo told parliament that the takeover move will help to address regional balance and equity as well as help address the inequitable distribution of higher education services in the region.
However, there was protest from MPs from the Busoga region who questioned how the motion from Mountains of the Moon University jumped the queue, yet Busoga University was the first to express interest in having the institution taken over by the government.
Solomon Silwany (Bukooli Central) told Parliament that leaders in Busoga have been demanding the government several times to bring the same motion for Busoga University. He also reminded everyone that the Ministry of Education had earlier promised to consider the two varsity motions at the same time.
“The people of Busoga are watching, it would be so sad if I don’t rise on their behalf. I am asking if it isn’t procedurally right for you [Speaker] to ask the Minister to go back and include the motion for Busoga University so we handle the matter once and for all,” he said.
However, Oulanyah told off Silwany that he wasn’t about to abandon his duties as Speaker and go on hunting expedition for motions for Busoga University.
“The Speaker processes and prepares order papers. I am not going to shop for the document that isn’t ready. There is no way I can produce and make it. The minister has heard, instead of coming in piecemeal, why not bring all motions,” remarked the Speaker.
Minister Muyingo informed Parliament that there is a procedure the government follows before such motions are brought to Parliament and the process is still being studied for the government to take over Busoga University.
However, Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality) wasn’t convinced with the Minister’s explanation arguing that the issue of Busoga University has been here earlier than Mountains of the Moon.
“How the minister says they are preparing for Busoga yet Mountains of the Moon is ready, how come this is overlapping. I beseech members to reject the motion,” said Basalirwa.
Tom Butime, Minister of Tourism who was one of the founders of Mountains of the Moon University told Parliament that the University was founded in 2005 as a non-profit University and if taken over by the government will be critical at meeting the knowledge need of the people of Uganda and Rwenzori region inclusive.
The University according to Butime currently has 2500 students and got its first graduation in 2008 and has had 12 graduations.
“President Museveni directed that the University be taken over in 2015 and is currently sitting on 360 acres of land with a title and also have 200 acres where we want to do agriculture and farming in Kyambogo and has 16 PhD holders lecturing at the moment.”
Elijah Mushemeza (Sheema South) backed the motion for the government to take over the University arguing that after perusing the University’s academic policy, governing manual, you see a high level of preparedness.
The decision by Kira Municipality’s Ibrahim Ssemujju to back the motion shocked NRM MPs who clapped after he announced he was backing the motion, but their happiness was short-lived after he followed up by criticising Minister Muyingo for turning the proposal ugly by tainting the motion with tribalistic notions.
“I support this motion. The justification that the minister gives is wrong one. There are students every year who sit A-levels. The justification is creation of space for those who are graduating. The Minister says this region must have a University for God’s sake this is a tribal institution. But to say you establish a University in Tooro there is no guarantee that people will go. Please don’t make it ugly by giving tribal reasons as if we are creating tribal kingdoms. It is a crime to tribalise education, students even go to Kenya to study,” said Ssemujju.
However, Alex Ruhinda informed Ssemujju that the Rwenzori region isn’t tribal as it combines Tooro, Kasese and even has Indian and white Ugandans and the people from the region only know knowledge and wisdom.
Ssemujju fired back, asking Rugunda to fetch his apology from Minister Muyingo who turned the matter into a tribal affair, “Now you are inviting an apology from the mover of the motion.”
Mathias Mpuuga, Leader of Opposition asked Parliament to ensure that the Ministry of Education comes up with a policy on how the government can take over private education institutions instead of having an input from National Council of Higher Education and motion from Parliament, saying these policies alone don’t offer enough scrutiny.
He also called on Parliament to ensure such motions are scrutinised by the Parliamentary Education Committee to provide technical guidance to Parliament.