Mak graduates highest number of PhD students

Makerere University Chancellor Prof Ezra Suruma confers a Doctorate degree on one of the 14 staff members who graduated on May 17. PHOTO/STEPHEN OTAGE 

What you need to know:

  • However, there was disquiet among graduands who said the delay in printing of the documents would disadvantage them in the job market and in applying for scholarships for further study.

Makerere University yesterday kicked off its 71st graduation ceremony with its largest number of doctorate degrees ever. The university Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, said there were 108 graduates with PhD out of the 12,000 expected to get their Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees until Friday. 

The country’s oldest institution of higher learning had previously graduated between 70 and 75 PhD holders.

“The capacity to supervise PhDs has grown. We have very many people who can supervise them. Also, the number of students has grown. At the moment, we have 600 people who have registered for PhDs. If we were even more efficient, we could be having over 200 people graduating with PhDs but we shall get there,” he said.

Mr Nawangwe  said there are 280 professors and associate professors slated to supervise PhD students.
However, the ceremony was without fanfare due to the few graduands invited because of the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions that necessitated standard operating procedures. 

Makerere University academic registrar Alfred Namoah leads the Chancellor’s procession to the Freedom Square for the 71st hybrid graduation ceremony yesterday. PHOTO/STEPHEN OTAGE 

The graduands were also told that they would not walk home with their academic transcripts. 
 “Due to Covid-19 effects, we were unable to process transcripts for our graduates before the ceremony. However, I am happy to inform all our graduates that we have now received all materials required for production and they should be able to collect their transcripts within a couple of weeks,” Prof Nawangwe announced, confirming our early story on the transcripts’ crisis.

However, there was disquiet among graduands who said the delay in printing of the documents would disadvantage them in the job market and in applying for scholarships for further study.

Mr Ivan Tukei, a graduate of Bachelor of Petroleum Geosciences and Production, said he had missed several scholarships in China and would lose more if he did not get his transcript on time.

“I have applied for some scholarships for further studies in some universities. Some admitted me but are waiting for my academic documents to confirm that I graduated from Makerere, so the earlier the better,” Mr Tukei said.

Ms  Joy Nakato, a  graduate of Bachelor of Science Physical, shares a similar plight.
“This issue of transcript is going to affect us who had started applying for various jobs and scholarships. The university should work hard and ensure that our papers are ready in one week’s time,” she said.
Mr Emmanuel Ssendikwanawa, a Master’s graduate of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, said he would not upgrade his qualifications on his Curriculum Vitae until he gets his transcript.

Low key ceremony
Previously, Makerere graduation ceremonies would be filled with jubilations and fanfare as students and parents celebrated their achievements.

However, this year a large number of graduates and parents attended the ceremony via Facebook, Zoom and television since only undergraduate students with first class, Master’s graduates and PhD holders were invited for the do.

Outside the newly fenced Freedom Square, there was no evidence of the usual buzz of business on graduation days ranging from sale of snacks to photo booths and special hire services.

Some of Makerere University academic staff who received Doctorate of Philosophy degrees and graduates from other disciplines with first class  jubilated. PHOTO/SSTEPHEN OTAGE 

The campus of Uganda’s oldest and largest public University was calm and the graduation went on almost unnoticed for a visitor who was not aware about the ceremony.

The University Chancellor, Prof Ezra Suruma, urged graduates to have a transformative impact on the future of Uganda and the East African region.

“Life is a journey through various stages in space and time. The fact that you have reached graduation today suggests that you already have a plan and direction for your life. While your success today as a graduate is a great accomplishment that deserves a truly joyful celebration, it is also a continuation of the journey of your life,” Prof Suruma said.

He added: “As you celebrate your achievement, do not forget to thank God and all the people who have helped you to get here. You will continue to need their support as you move to your destiny.”  Earlier, Prof Nawangwe said they have a Shs3b budget to rebuild the iconic main building that was gutted fire last year in September.

The bell at each tower did not toll at the top of the hour as it has been at the past graduations.

Today, students from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and College of Education and External Studies will graduate.

What they say...

Dr Sanya Richard Edwin, PhD (Medical Research Council)
 “I investigated the impact of parasite worm infections on metabolic health in rural island communities in Lake Victoria and urban communities in Entebbe Municipality. I established that people with parasite worms may be at lower risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and heart disease due to the effects that helminth infections have on the body’s immune system.”

Dr Athur Bagonza, PhD Public Health 
“I investigated the feasibility and effectiveness of letting drug shop operators choose from among themselves a suitable supervision team that would ensure appropriate treatment of children under five years with Malaria, Pneumonia and diarrhoea since none exist. This has improved supervision in most drug shops in rural areas where I conducted my research. I have also supervised 10 master’s students and 30 under graduate students with about five publications.''

Dr Robert Opoka, PhD Health Sciences 
 “I analysed management of severe anaemia in children. I found that severe anaemia is a commonly assigned diagnosis but clinical guidelines were not always followed in the management of these children. Some of these children were given blood transfusion yet it could have been avoided if the guidelines were followed.”

Dr Alfred Andama, PhD Health Sciences 
 “I conducted research on how doctors can diagnose TB patients who turn up to hospitals without cough. We designed two new diagnostic tubes where doctors can either use urine and some one’s breath to diagnose. These are called urine LAM and breathe sensor for TB, and are less costly.”

Adia Madina Mohamed, PhD Chemistry
 “I conducted a study to identify substitutes from selected medicinal plants used by the traditional herbalists of Rukararwe and Prometra to treat malaria. The findings provide the scientific evidence of the efficacies, safety and identified substituents of some plant species used in malaria treatment by these traditional herbalists. The findings indicate that the selected plants are efficacious and non-toxic which justifies their use in malaria treatment.''

Jacob Stanley Iramoit, PhD Health Sciences (Busitema)
“I studied the molecular epidemiology of antimicrobial resistance at a human interface in a pastoralist community in Kasese District. I established that the prevalence of multi-drug resistance among bacteria isolated from both humans and animals was high. I also established that consumption of lakeshore water and carriage of multi-drug resistant bacteria in cattle were associated with carriage of multi-drug resistant bacteria in the human population which suggest a possibility of transmission of multi-drug resistant bacteria between humans and animals.”

Justine Bukenya, PhD Public Health
 “I assessed pregnancy planning and utilisation of maternal health services among female sex workers in Uganda. The London Measure of Unintended Pregnancy (LMUP) tool was validated and used to measure pregnancy planning. I established that 11 per cent of female sex workers have planned pregnancies and about 90 per cent did not. This was driven by rape, substances abuse and modest use of dual contraceptives. I will roll this across the country. I have also since supervised 16 graduate and five under graduate students at this school.”

Rhona Baingana, PhD Natural Science
“Having been at the institution for more than 28 years now, I have supervised hundreds of graduate and undergraduate students, majority of whom are graduating today. I have also contributed to a number of health surveys which government has based on to make various polices on nutrition, anaemia and infections, among pregnant women.”

Florance Nantaba, PhD Chemistry 
 “I investigated the occurrence of emerging organic chemical pollutants in Lake Victoria and the potential environmental risk of their presence to aquatic organisms. My study revealed that the lake system is contaminated with pharmaceutical drugs residues (mainly antibiotics), as well as personal care products, plasticizers .The residues have been found to pose a high eco-toxic risk to aquatic organisms in the lake although they have been predicted to have a relatively short residence time.”

Masila Veronica Mutindi, PHD Chemistry
“My study was aimed at synthesizing compounds for treatment of malaria and skin infections. It yielded potent results against malaria causing parasites, pathogenic fungi and bacteria. The compounds were found to have reduced toxicity against the human solid tumor cell lines. This research will contribute to addressing sustainable development goal three through the development of less toxic drug agents to stem recurrence of malaria and skin infections.”

Steven Tukwasibwe, PhD Health Sciences
“My research addressed the question of why some patients have severe malaria while others do not. We established that there are some genetic factors associated with protection from severe malaria. We shall be able to develop therapy and vaccine candidates to this effect. I have also been giving tutorials to both graduate and undergraduate students and have attracted a number of collaborations.”