Government has reignited its plan to turn Namasagali campus into a public university offering marine engineering to promote water transport and vocational skills.
The campus is currently an affiliate of Busitema University offering agriculture and general science courses.
In 2015, Parliament passed a resolution establishing Namasagali as a public university. It was expected to begin operations in the 2017/2018 financial year.
During the graduation of 174 vocational and technical skills students of Nawanyago Technical Institute in Kamuli District last week, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, gave an update of the plan.
“We have shared, discussed and agreed with the President on the importance of boosting water transport because Uganda currently imports technicians from Tanzania to repair or service a simple ferry breakdown.
“It was embarrassing when the Mbulamuti ferry developed a ‘simple problem’ and passengers had to wait for more than a week for the technicians to come from Tanzania, thus affecting the economy and social life,” she said.
Last month, several passengers were stranded at Izaniro Landing Site in Kamuli District after Uganda National Roads Authority officials halted services on Mbulamuti ferry following an incident on River Nile.
The ferry, which connects Kayunga and Kamuli districts, almost capsized as a result of heavy sand trucks.
Witnesses said the ferry was carrying two heavy sand trucks and about 50 passengers from Kayunga to Kamuli.
Prof Wasswa Balunywa, the principal of Makerere University Business School (Mubs), said the country needs a technical university that will provide hands-on skills programmes and as such, turning Namasagali into a marine university is a great innovation.
As a member of the Commonwealth Association of Universities, Prof Balunywa said he finds it “uncomfortable” that there are more people in universities than in technical and vocational institutions, “simply because they cannot offer technical courses.”
“You cannot talk of economic transformation without technical and vocational education; so we need a technical university in Uganda because Mubs is for business and entrepreneurship,”
Mr Moses Kizige, the area MP and State Minister for Karamoja Affairs, said Namasagali is ‘long overdue’ for marine engineering because it is not only suitably located, but also strategically positioned across Africa’s continental water bodies.
Mr Kizige said the university will also provide fish farming, swimming pools’ designs, water level studies, climate change and water conservation, among others.
“Marine technology will be vast and inclusive of things to deal with water; from climate change, weather forecasts, water irrigation and harvesting system to swimming pools’ designing,” he said.
Dr Jimmy Muwuluke, an education investor, said Uganda is yet to push for more vocational and technical institutions that will bring in practical production initiatives and increase household income and employability.