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Wafula Malik

Janet Museveni was appointed Minister of Education (2016) at a time IGP Gen Kale Kayihura was increasingly becoming powerful in the running of Makerere University. His closeness to the President (who as Visitor has the last word virtually on everything) had made the clearly constrained Mak bosses to construe whatever Kayihura did or said to be indicative of where the President stood on a matter. At the height of his power, Gen Kayihura drove to Makerere one afternoon and re-admitted back students the Vice Chancellor Prof Ddumba Sentamu had suspended for striking & general indiscipline. Not that Gen Kale acquiesced to indiscipline. No. In his estimation, the suspension would only incite more strikes yet to him, a riotous Makerere amounted to politically weakening his master YK Museveni. Well intentioned as he was, Gen Kayihura’s unpredictable meddling was increasingly making the University difficult to govern prompting Ddumba to threaten to resign at some point. In order to pacify the University, Kayihura gave audience to all characters including lecturers and student leaders who management considered to be troublesome. So at the time Janet took charge at Embassy House, a perception was beginning to emerge that some people in the central government were on a mission to make Mak ungovernable.

Janet with Makerere officials Wana Etyem (Council Chairman), Bruce Kabasa & Thormas Tayebwa with Israel officials


On being told about this frustration among Mak officials, Janet immediately acted. She reached out to Gen Kayihura and asked him to keep off Makerere for as long as she was the Minister of Education. She asked him to always seek her consent before meddling in the affairs of one of Mak. Being the loyal cadre he is, Kayihura instantly complied. This actually is the reason Prof Ddumba, who had earlier on indicated it was time up for him, reconsidered and tried to seek reelection for 2nd term. He only pulled out after seeing his Deputy Barnabas Nawangwe (who to his chagrin had worked well with Gen Kale) was too popular not to win the VC race. The “de-Kayihura-rization” of Mak by Janet excited many students and lecturers who felt the Kayihura-era routine interference was making it hard for stakeholders (students/staff vs. management) to comprehensively dialogue on issues that were causing disagreements often resulting into strikes. Each time they went on strike, Police brutally moved in and this (sweeping of things under the carpet) would only postpone the strike to another day. Yet Janet didn’t stop there. She started having dialogue with Mak stakeholders: Council, management, staff & students. These meetings enabled the new minister to hear from all sides and thereby deepening her understanding of Makerere’s problems. She loved listening to all the different groups-high and low. A story is told of a meeting at Nakasero State House where she showed extra-ordinary leadership to the extent of risking being misunderstood by some high level Mak officials. In attendance was her and all the other leaders of her Ministry-political and technocrats. She returned unexpectedly early from the lunch break and quietly sat in the room. About 30 minutes later, some of the least senior members of the Mak delegation returned. On seeing her seated, they got overwhelmed and tried to run back. “It’s okay come and be telling me something,” she said signaling them to come in. “No that’s very far. Come sit near me here.” The Mak staffers couldn’t believe having the opportunity to sit so close to the First Lady. They freely confided in her some of the inside information that she used to guide the subsequent session better-for the benefit of everyone in that afternoon meeting. The big bosses were shocked coming back only to find their new boss (Janet), who they initially feared very much, calmly seated having a chat with their subordinates. “Hon. Minister I must confess I have learnt a lot from this,” one Mak official casually remarked prompting Janet to say “That’s how those of us God has placed in leadership should lead: consultation and being a good listener is the way to go.” From such meetings, Janet helped Mak bosses to overcome the phobia they initially had towards her. In subsequent meetings, people spoke freely. They told her their hurdles as Mak managers and she encouraged them to propose solutions. With the lines of communication now clearly opened, Museveni too started to understand Mak more deeply. It was now easier for Mak management to secure much more financial concessions from Museveni than ever before. It also now became easier to access him directly unlike before when solely had to rely to Gen Kale to reach him. Central government started taking up more financial obligations including Museveni personally ringing the Finance Ministry directing that close to Shs5bn be quickly found to boost Mak’s preparatory efforts to host the just ended 3rd World University Netball Championships (2018). Museveni also ordered the UPDF engineering department to take up the construction works-and this was two weeks to the event. The games are done but Mak is remaining with a huge sporting facility on the vacant plot between Mitchel Hall and Swimming Pool below Senate & MDD grounds. Even after the games, the UPDF engineers remain at Mak taking on additional works to turn it into a world class facility. Each time there are presidential meetings which Janet feels are in anyway beneficial to Mak, she ensures there is representation. Recently Muasa was up in arms and voted to expel the governing council which is the apex of governance at Mak. They wrote to Janet giving reasons why Eng Wana Etyem and his entire team must leave. She managed the situation by responding in a manner that de-escalated (as opposed to escalating) things. Mak these days easily accesses Museveni who regularly travels there. The last citing was Saturday when he inaugurated the Nyerere Center and signaled fundraising efforts. There is now certainty that the promptness with which Janet has previously acted will enable her quickly constitute a new governing council to avoid vacuum in December when Etyem’s tenure expires. There is great expectations that she will constitute it in a manner that ensures cohesion and continuity of the progress that her leadership has so far inspired at Mak.

The exterior view of some of the new infrastructure at Mak delivered under the AfDB/HEST project


Yet the biggest visible benefit so for Mak under the Janet tenure at MoES has been the delivery of additional infrastructure enabling the Ivory Tower to overcome inadequate lecture space (16,000 meters in additional lecture space). This has come under the African Development Bank (AfDB)-funded $29m HEST project aimed at strengthening research, teaching & learning of science & technology disciplines. Truth is this project began much earlier but stalled and a lot of time was lost (to the chagrin of AfDB bosses) because of the infighting that characterized Embassy House in the pre-Janet era. Under the old leadership was Jessica Alupo as senior Education Minister and PS Rose Nassali who lost the opportunity to work and deliver things on time because she believed everybody was out to get her (we documented this elaborately in our earlier article titled “How Janet Delivered Where Predecessors failed”). The Janet-supervised MoES technocrats stabilized the Ministry bureaucracy, concentrated and finally completed the project. Otherwise a lot remained uncompleted on those HEST site because of the inept leadership reigning at Embassy House then! Taking the US dollar to be trading at Shs4,000; this $29m roughly comes to about Shs400bn.

The interior view of the new infrastructure at Makerere


Some years ago, GoU secured $100m funding from AfDB which came under an intervention called AfDB HEST program (aka AfDB V). Of this money, $29.2m (roughly Shs400bn) was allocated to Mak and the remainder went to other Universities and Degree-awarding institutions. According to John Omeke, who until recently was overall Program Coordinator in the MoES, the AfDB HEST program overall objective is to improve the teaching of science and technology in Higher Education Institutions. And for Makerere’s case, this has been done through construction, rehabilitation and refurbishment of key physical infrastructure and laboratory facilities at a number of Colleges. Much of the money had to go into physical infrastructure because Mak authorities rightly believed infrastructural development is of great importance as it supports the performance of the core function of the University which is learning, research and innovations. Existence of appropriate infrastructure boosts the supporting environment for the core function to be performed.  According to Dr. Florence Nakayiwa, the University’s Director Planning, the AfDB HEST program has enabled Makerere to realize the infrastructure component as contained in its Strategic Plan (2009-2019). Whereas the 10 year Strategic Plan had targeted creating additional new lecture space of 20,000 square meters by the end of 2018, the AfDB HEST program has created for Mak an additional 16,000 square meters of lecture space. This is just 4,000 less than the 20,000 square meters target which the University Strategic Plan set for Mak before the end of the year 2018. Dr. Nakayiwa, from whose Planning & Development Department we obtained much of the information for this article, is also Makerere’s Project Coordinator for AfDB HEST program. This makes her one of the most appropriate officials to talk to regarding the ways in which the AfDB program has changed Makerere regarding its lecture space needs which remained unaddressed for many years due to financial constraints. Yet it’s not only Dr. Florence Nakayiwa who is full of praises for the AfDB HEST program.  The other commendation came from Governing Council Chairman Eng. Dr. Charles Wana-Etyem who remarked as follows: “The AfDB HEST program hasn’t only changed the landscape of Makerere University but will also go a long way to improve the learning environment. The renovations of the laboratories in the various Colleges provide the appropriate environment for both undergraduate skills and post-graduate research.” Etyem adds that: “Areas such as biotechnology and plant breeding as well as Geographical Information Systems [GIS] deserve mention under the [AfDB HEST] Program. These will underscore Makerere as a premier University in Uganda and a force to reckon with at the international level.” Eng Etyem’s views were complimented by the Vice Chancellor who said the following about the AfDB HEST program: “This is a major reform aimed at improved performance in the teaching, learning and research [of science and technology programs].”

The exterior of Central Teaching Facility 1 snapped at different angles


Two huge Central Teaching Facilities (CTF1 & 2) have been constructed under AfDB HEST program in order to cater for large student numbers. The two huge structures are named CTF2 & CTF1 respectively located near CoBAMS/behind the Main Library and near the School of Social Sciences/opposite Senate House. The space at the two CTFs is already being shared/used by students and staff from various science-based Makerere University Colleges. It should also be stressed that all the facilities constructed, renovated and refurbished under AfDB HEST program have state of the art interior equipment. Because managing large student numbers had for long been a problem for Makerere, when the $29.2m was availed under the AfDB HEST program, officials in the University’s positions of authority were unanimous physical infrastructure had to be the priority.

The different labs that have been refurbished, renovated & re-equipped under the AfDB/HEST project at Botany department


In total 9 specific and centralized laboratories (at least one) in each of the science-based Colleges have been rehabilitated under the AfDB HEST program. The 9 labs include: (1) The Diagnostic Laboratory hosted by the College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), (2) Biotechnology Laboratory hosted by the College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences (aka CAES to have interior equipment worth $1m), (3) Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Laboratory hosted by the College of Engineering, Design, Art & Technology (CEDAT), (4) Computer Laboratory hosted at College of Computing & Information Sciences (CoCIS), (5) Physiology Laboratory hosted by College of Health Sciences (CHS), (6) Chemistry & Diagnostic Laboratory hosted by College of Natural Sciences (CoNAS), (7) Science Laboratories in College of Education & External Studies (CEES), (8) Bio-Security Laboratory hosted at College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources & Biosecurity (CoVAB) and (9) Metals & Hydraulics laboratory hosted at CEDAT. All these facilities, giving rise to additional 16,000 square meters of new lecture space, are ready and the civil works were done by Excel Company Ltd and supervised by Arch Designs Ltd.

The photographic representations showing AfDB-supported transformation at Mak Botanical Gardens. The red arrow shows the old dilapidated screen house that has since been replaced.



The impact of AfDB HEST program has also been felt at Makerere University Agricultural Research Institute (MUARIK) based in Kabanyolo (several kilometers away from the main campus) where the Diary Value Chain facility has been rehabilitated. Onto this facility, a number of extras have been installed including milking parlor, feed mills, an indoor feeding structure and the calf barn. Courtesy of AfDB HEST program, the MUARIK Kabanyolo diary unit is now equipped to handle the entire value chain from harvesting, feeding of animals, preparing for milk production, the milk itself, packaging materials and marketing.


The structures housing Chemistry laboratories too have been refurbished & replenished


Besides physical infrastructure expansion, Mak is also using the AfDB HEST program to improve on its academic staff profile. The AfDB HEST-enabled merit-based scheme has sponsored 10 academic staff (5 of them females) to do their PhD and another 12 (5 of them females) to do masters programs. Another 31 bright but needy students (8 of them females) have been sponsored at the undergraduate level. Yet that isn’t all. A total of 33 middle level management staff have also been sponsored for refresher courses aimed at making them better managers. 

E-LEARNING: The AfDB HEST program has also boosted e-learning activities at Makerere through the School of Open & Distance learning whose staff members have been trained to develop e-content for online audiences/learners. This e-content comprises of the 40 business courses that have been fully developed and made electronically accessible. The 40 courses will soon be launched whereafter Ugandans will be sensitized about their suitability and availability at Makerere.


 The AfDB HEST program has also enabled Makerere to consolidate its linkages with the private sector and thereby transitioning students from class room to the practical work environment. A special internship program is being implemented between Makerere and Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA). The overall aim is to improve the practical skilling of Makerere graduates and thereby enhancing their employability. This skilling is critical for students’ transition from class room to the actual work environment. It’s all funded with the support coming under the AfDB HEST program. Dr. Nakayiwa’s Planning & Development Department shared with us facts detailing the impact this UMA partnership has had for Mak students. In the first batch/cohort, 292 students from various Colleges were sent to UMA for appropriate placement in different agencies and private sector companies. And of the 292 students, 164 (56%) were placed by UMA and subsequently retained for employment by 83 placement companies and agencies. In the 2nd batch/cohort, 480 finalist students were trained/oriented under the program and forwarded to UMA for placement.  And of the 480 students, 195 (42%) had been placed with different agencies and private sector companies as of September 2016. Today the total number has grown to something much bigger because last August, students under the 3rd cohort were forwarded to UMA and did undergo hands-on training at the different agencies and private sector companies partnering with UMA. To benefit under this Makerere-UMA skills development program, one must be a finalist student who has completed University education but awaiting graduation.

These student toilet facilities (for the CTF2) testify to the infrastructural transformation that has lately come to Makerere University


 Under the AfDB HEST program, Makerere has also been able to implement activities and interventions aimed at catering for students who would otherwise have been vulnerable because of gender, HIV/Aids pandemic or even physical disability; giving rise to a special needs situation. Under the AfDB HEST program-supported interventions, gender-based vulnerabilities are to be addressed through the University’s Gender Mainstreaming Directorate and Special Needs-based vulnerabilities will be addressed through the Dean of Students’ office. The University-wide HIV/Aids prevention activities will be implemented through the University Health Services. All in all, the University top authorities are grateful all these activities and interventions are to be implemented courteousy of the AfDB HEST program with the strong involvement of the officials at the MoES.





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