How Makerere V.C Contestants Faced Off in First Ever Public Debate

L-R: The three candidates vying for the Makerere University Vice Chancellor position; Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Prof. Edward Kirumira and Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba during Thursday's public debate

In the first of it’s kind, price candidates vying for the position of Vice Chancellor for Makerere University have Thursday faced off in a public debate to present their intended agenda for Uganda’s biggest tertiary institution. The debate comes as the final step of selection process before the Search Committee forwards its recommendations to the university Senate.

The three candidates; Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba who formerly occupied the position, the university’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and Principal College of Humanities Prof. Edward Kirumira took turns to make 20 minute long presentations. Presentations entailed their profiles, previous achievements as well as what they plan to implement once selected.

Moderated by academics, Prof. Celestino Obua and Prof. Christine Drazoa, Thursday’s debate was segmented in presentations, questions from the audience and structured questions by moderators.

It attracted a cross cutting audience, among them former Makerere University Chancellor Prof. Mondo Kagonyera, the outgoing Vice Chancellor Prof. Ddumba Sentamu, Chairman of the Convocation (alumni) Dr. Tanga Odoi, members of the Search Committee, students and the general public.

Submissions majorly centred on proposed financing mechanisms for the university, research and innovation, human resource development as well as strengthening of structures. All candidates pointed out the need to prioritize the operationalization of the college system in order to decentralize services from the central administration system.

Resource mobilization

Despite being ranked 4th in Africa for the last 3 years, Makerere University still grapples with inadequate funding which has often caused perenial staff and student strikes. As a solution, many have previously proposed that government fully takes on the university’s wage bill.

“I will ensure proper and timely accountability as well as restore stakeholder confidence in Makerere’s financial management. Through provision of research and advisory services to government, we shall also be able to generate revenue,” said Prof. Kirumira in his presentation.

He further intends to undertake Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), grow the endowment Fund, ensure every College undertakes flagship projesfs and strengthen convocation initiatives to widen the institution’s resource envelope.

Prof. Nawangwe however looks to embark on infrastructure development such as modern hotels, hostels for students and a teaching hospital as supplementary sources of finance.

“I am naturally a resource mobilizer therefore this will not be a problem. In my tenure as Deputy Vice Chancellor, I have successfully negotiated with KCCA and improved roads, lighting and other infrastructure on campus,” he said.

Nawangwe’s campaign largely dwelt on the accomplishments he has managed to register in his current capacity including the new tuition fees policy for students. He said; “My priority when I take office will be to convince government to hasten the process of taking over the staff wage bill. The salary incentive is draining the university.”

The former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Baryamureeba who received the loudest applause throughout his submissions wants to increase Makerere’s revenue by 25% each year. His ambitious plan involves establishing a grants office at each College by 2018, development of idle land for commercial use and increasing enrollment for short courses.

“We must attract high profile individuals globally by either naming facilities after them or awarding them Honorary Degrees to make them our alumni. This will make it easy to get them to finance us,” Baryamureeba said.

Research and Innovation

Research is critical for an institution like Makerere and it is part of what is considered in its rankings.

Baryamureeba whose background is rooted in ICT stressed the need to have every College host an annual open day as well as an international; conference and journal. He will also link startups to the industry and to continue from where he stopped in boosting Makerere’s visibility.

On his part, Nawangwe will set up a government liaison office to keep the university abreast with upcoming policies and consultancy opportunities.

The main hall at Makerere University was full to capacity during the debate

The main hall at Makerere University was full to capacity during the debate

Student and staff welfare

Students who attended the debate clapped hands in approval when Prof. Kirumira spoke about creating a students’ scheme where they can work and be able to pay their tuition fees. He said the university’s estates and corporate partners would provide employment slots for students to earn some money.

The staff medical insurance policy which has for many years failed to be implemented also came up on all candidates’ to-do list.

“We shall ensure that staff have housing scheme, equitable promotions for both teaching and support staff. In order to maintain supervisory capacity, we need to review retirement age for Senior Staff by pushing it to 80,” Baryamureeba said.

Improving quality of graduates

Over the years, Makerere’s image has been tainted by media reports regarding female students getting good grades I’m exchange for sex with lecturers. This is in addition to allegations that students bribe staff to have their marks changed and their names added to the graduation list.

It is upon this background that the three candidates were asked to articulate how they intend to deal with this problem.

“The university has already strengthened and will continue to strengthen the security of academic credentials. The process of awarding transcripts should be decentralized to the College level,” Prof. Nawangwe responded.

He also threatened to suspend whoever (lecturer) is suspected to have solicited sex from students in exchange for marks.

Baryamureeba said; “More resources should go into teaching. But we must also effectively communicate to the public so they understand that our graduates are of repute which is true.”

Furthermore, he said he will introduce humanresource audits as well as leverage his ICT expertise to deploy e-learning programs to fill the gaps in staffing levels.

Irene Ovonji, the Chairperson of the Search Committee hailed the candidates for debating in a civil manner and appealed to the University Council to choose the next Vice Chancellor well aware of the implications.

According to Ovonji, the Committe will compile the marks awarded to the candidates based on the debate, interviews and their written applications which will then be forwarded to the Council.

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