Yesterday, Makerere University’s 70th graduation ceremony closed after a week of celebrations. We congratulate everyone who graduated in their various disciplines. However, we would be remiss not to cite the mess that cropped up in the run up to the graduation ceremony.
Days to the ceremony, it was discovered that the university did not have enough graduation gowns for everyone on the list. Some tried to downplay this problem, saying they were “just gowns” and, therefore, would not affect anyone’s success at completing a course at the university. Fortunately, these few voices gained critical mass to illustrate why it is a big deal for our premier public university to run out of graduation gowns.
Like the bridal party takes pride in what they wear on the wedding day, the graduation gown is a special adornment people look forward to wearing when they complete their studies. After those long study hours, forfeiting time with friends and family, the anxiety of examination week and its cousin, results week, not to mention meticulously paying the tuition, the gown, mortarboard and hood are the graduands’ crown of victory.
Besides the prestige of wearing the gown, it is a requirement for every student to pay Shs98,000 for the gown. Failure to do this means a student will not be cleared to graduate.
Makerere University’s clearing process has so many bureaucracies involved in getting a stamp or signature that many people block off days or a week to get it done. One will need almost every receipt the university has ever issued to get cleared. All this is done in the name of meticulousness. It is, therefore, unacceptable that after going through all this, the university fails to provide a gown.
That the university monopolised the supply of these gowns was met with scepticism in the first place. Eyebrows were raised at the move, with speculation that this might have been a move meant to benefit whoever got the tender to make the gowns.
However, this died down when it was assumed that the supplier would be a Ugandan who would in turn hire fellow Ugandans. Last week, however, it came to light that the gowns are actually imported.
There is, therefore, no ‘Buy Uganda, Build Uganda’ happening. As a last resort, and after the Vice Chancellor apologised, tailors who operate in the vicinity of the university were commissioned to make the gowns. This gowns mess should serve as an eye opener for the university about the value of having collaborations with the community in which it operates.
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