Prof Nawangwe olive branch to critics, stern stand on discipline

Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe in an interview last month. PHOTO / FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • Regarding the quality of PhD students the university churns out, Prof Nawangwe said 80 percent of those graduates countrywide are from Makerere.
  • Unlike other universities that graduate between five to 10 PhD students annually, Makerere releases more than 100 in one cohort.

The Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, has extended an olive branch to staff critical of his administration, saying he would start his new term on a fresh slate, but warned against indiscipline.

In an interview with the Monitor yesterday, Prof Nawangwe addressed a wide range of issues, including the quality of education of PhD students passed out at the institution.

Prof Nawangwe said he was ready to work with the staff provided they stick to their mandate of teaching and undertaking research.

Last week, Prof Ezra Suruma, the University Chancellor, extended Prof Nawangwe’s term of office for another five years on the recommendation of the University Council. Prof Nawangwe’s current term expires at the end of this month.

Some of his staff have opposed his re-appointment, citing irregularities.

They had petitioned the University Council, saying the professor’s age contravenes the current cap in the human resource manual, and that his promotion to professor in 2013 was done irregularly.

“His re-appointment was irregular and the whole process was a sham. We cannot accept this. Our decision to work with the professor will be negotiated along the way,” Mr Robert Kakuru, the Makerere University Academic Staff Association chairperson, said yesterday.

However, Prof Nawangwe accused the group of being ignorant about the law governing all public universities.

“Some people have been saying I was irregularly re-appointed. My first advice is let them study the law. They do not know it and they are making mistakes and talking with ignorance,” Prof Nawangwe said.

“It is good for them to understand the law, adjust and work with me. My hands are open. I will work with all of them but I will not tolerate indiscipline,” he added.

All public institutions are governed by the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act which stipulates the qualifications, term and the appointment of the vice chancellors, among others.

This means that the internal human resources manuals and any other laws for these institutions should be in line with the supreme law.

Prof Nawangwe also said his reappointment is a vote of confidence for his work, and dedicated the next five years to making the university a top research hub on the continent.

Several officials, including the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, congratulated him upon his appointment.

“Congratulations Prof Nawangwe. Count on our support as you embark on transforming Makerere University,” Mr Tayebwa tweeted.

The chairperson of the Makerere University Endowment Fund, Ms Margaret Kigozi, said his reappointment was a reaffirmation of the confidence university stakeholders have in his management and stewardship.

Regarding the quality of PhD students the university churns out, Prof Nawangwe said 80 percent of those graduates countrywide are from Makerere.

Unlike other universities that graduate between five to 10 PhD students annually, Makerere releases more than 100 in one cohort.

Prof Nwangwe added that the country has only 1,400 PhDs and more are needed, saying countries with more PhDs have developed tremendously.

However, the quality of research produced at the institutions has been questioned, something Prof Nawangwe defended.

“Who assessed the quality of those PhDs and what parameters did they use? I do not think the quality of PhD can be assessed by the public. It is erroneous to subject the quality to public opinion,” Prof Nawangwe said.

“Although I agree that the public should say that “if we are producing all those PhDs, what is their impact on the economy and social public of Uganda?” But you cannot expect somebody defending a PhD today and the following week you ask for the impact,” he added.

Prof Nawangwe asked the public, especially the business sector and government, to implement recommendations of PhD students to realise the impact.

On the iconic main building that caught fire in 2019, Prof Nawangwe said it will be completed before the century celebrations slated for October.

“The government availed all the Shs21b required for reconstruction of the building to its former state. We expect to get more money from alumni and partners to equip it with computers, Internet, among other services,” Prof Nawangwe said.


On guild elections

While commenting on the suspended university guild elections, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe said the students will have to wait until the committee that was put in place completes its work. “We shall only conduct the guild elections when we deem it safe. We do not take the death of a student lightly and we want to ensure this does not happen again,” he said. The University Council last month suspended the Students’ Guild, and indefinitely deferred polls to elect its 88th president after a second-year law student at Uganda Christian University, Kampala Campus, Betungura Bewatti, was killed in clashes during last-minute campaigns.


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