Oklahoma State University has transformed lives in communities in Oklahoma State, America. They take extension workers in communities to share improved research and allow farmers to hold community exhibitions in the university. The university also offers public transport system that has supported many people in the area.
Brigham Young University also in the USA offers immunisation, wheel chairs, water tanks to communities in America near them. The university sends students to preach to nearby communities, offer free voluntary testing and counseling that has helped transforming communities around them.
In Uganda, communities near universities do not benefit directly from being near higher institutions of learning save for those who can afford setting up hostels and small businesses.
Mr Robert Asiimwe is a farmer at Saaka village in Fort Portal Municipality. He says they suffered pineapple wilt for some years until Mountains of the Moon University came out to provide chemicals to wipe out the wilt.
“They send us agricultural students who give us expertise on better farming methods of vegetables like egg plants, cabbages, greens that has enabled us improve our yield and enhanced production to boost our incomes,” he notes.
Mr Asiimwe says they are advised on best seeds to plant and chemicals that are less hazardous and always inspect them to see their progress to offer more assistance.
“They also buy our products and when we go to their farms during harvesting time, they offer us their products at prices lower than the market price,” he says.
He says people have started setting up hostels and others settling near the university.
According to Ms Ritah Kembabazi, a small holder shop owner in Fort Portal town, some students from the university always visit communities to offer them free voluntary testing and counseling.
“They give us free public health lectures to help communities against common diseases like diarrhea, typhoid among others,” she says adding, “They are resourceful on advising us safe water handling and preparing”.
She adds that the school offers outreach educational services for in service teachers wanting to either upgrade or get better papers by training them in Fort Portal town and surrounding areas.
The University spokesperson, Ms Grace Karungi Mugasa says the institution is a community institution built by the community for the community.
“No single person or external organisation benefits financially from the university. Any surpluses generated by the university are reinvested into the university or directed for the benefits of the community,” Ms Karungi said.
She says the directors only hold the university in trust for the community who include local government, religious leaders, business representatives and kingdom officials who are represented on the university governing council, that is the supreme authority over the university.
Prof John Kasenene, the University Vice Chancellor says the university says the university uses a practically oriented pedagogical approach to produce graduates who are equipped for success in the job market with emphasis on particles and comprehensive field attachment scheme.
“Community engagement activities, the students get exposed to real life working environments and experiences,” he said.
He says the community support and cooperate with the university will enhance the university to meet the education, research and community service needs of the people for the social-economic and ecological development of western Uganda and beyond.
Prof Edward Rugumayo says Kabarole local government gave them 75 acres of land at Lake Saaka and Uganda land Commission gave them another 75 acres to kick start the community university purposely to aid people in Rwenzori region.
“MMU as a community university is a reality as seen in its discerned origin and its courses are demand driven because the founders had vision, courage, tenacity and conviction about the timeliness and success of their idea,” he says.
He says the government has given them a Shs1bilion grant and other stakeholder that is helping the university reach greater heights.