By Katagira Tom
I would utterly agree with you if you found this laughable! Makerere University is the oldest and perhaps the most prestigious university in the not-so long history of Uganda’s formal Education. It was mothered in 1922 as a tertiary institution known as Makerere Technical College. In January of that year, the school opened its doors to 14-day students who began studying Carpentry, Building and Mechanics. The College soon began offering other courses in Medical Care, Agriculture, Veterinary Sciences and Teacher Training. It expanded over the years to become a Center for Higher Education in East Africa in 1935. In 1937, the College started developing into an institution of higher education, offering post-school certificate courses. In 1949, it became a University College affiliated to the University College of London, offering courses leading to the general degrees of its then mother institution.
With the establishment of the University of East Africa in June 29th,1963, the special relationship with the University of London came to close and degrees of the University of East Africa were instituted. On July 1st, 1970, Makerere became an independent national university of the Republic of Uganda, offering undergraduate and postgraduate courses leading to its own awards. Makerere University offers not only day but also evening and external study programmes to a student body of about 35,000 undergraduates and 3,000 postgraduates both Ugandan and foreign and it is also a very active centre for research.
From then up to the late 1990’s Makerere has been an academic bully not only in Uganda but also throughout the East African region. This saw it branding itself as the celebrated Ivory Tower; a brand it rightly merited, thanks to its prestige and nobility.
Just like any other institution, Makerere has gone through a number of transformations such as: In 1990, the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA) argued that the dire consequences of the Underfunding secured a steady Institution regression with potential disastrous multiplier effects on national development. In addition to the financial crisis, governance issues, both within Makerere and between Makerere and the state were a major feature of the decades of problems at the university.
Financially unable to provide the minimum requirements to facilitate teaching and learning; the administration was rendered ineffectual, unable to demand or receive the cooperation of students, staff and faculty, the transition from Faculty-based to the Collegiate system hence having 9 Constituent Colleges including the School of Law, all operating as semi-autonomous units of the University. This transformation has seen The Ivory Tower changing from manual processing of transcripts and certificates to e-processing, a process run electronically. This was received with open arms as it tremendously simplified the student’s acquisition of their academic documents.
However, this innovation, which was introduced during Professor Venansius Baryamureeba’s tenure as Vice Chancellor came with quite a number of drawbacks. First, the automated processing of transcripts caused fraud and award of certificates to ghost recipients. Forgery at the registrar’s office became an everyday affair. Students, who would have failed, due to one reason or the other, to qualify for the transcripts saw this as a ray of hope. They parted with large chunks of money to pay their way around for a transcript or certificate.
Another cancer that has eaten into Makerere’s flesh is the emergent trend of political mafias in the system. These have seeped through all institutions of learning, Makerere not exclusive. Their scheme is clear, i.e., to downplay the sitting Vice Chancellor’s activities, rendering him irrelevant. It is preposterous; the consequences of the above observations are enormous. The current state of affairs has put the image of the University in a colossal jeopardy. The graduates from the once exalted Ivory Tower are received with scoff. They are deemed irrelevant in the job market visa-vie those from other Universities like Uganda Martyrs University – Nkozi, UCU and IUIU. As a result, Makerere graduates are left to wear the soles of their shoes thin in a futile search for jobs.
In conclusion, my submission tries to answer the question I posed in this article’s heading. The University awards 14,000 degrees and more andwithin a short while recalls them!! Such a situation lacks adequate choice of words to describe. I think there is a need for the government to make intervention into the matter; set commission of enquiries to delve into the core of this predicament. I believe someone reading this article shares sentiments with me on the issue.
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