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The Islamic University’s thorny journey


Summary: In this edited version of a Power-Point presentation that Dr. Ahmad K. Ssengendo made Sunday in the first of a series of Ramadhan seminars organized by the Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly at Kibuli Primary Teachers College, the Rector recounts how his university endured enormous challenges to establish four campuses across the country. Of these continuing challenges, he says, Muslim hypocrites pose a vast hazard.

Author Biography: Ahmad K. Ssengendo is the Rector of the Islamic University in Uganda.

Universities are the pinnacle of the education ladder. They are expected to teach already available knowledge, create new knowledge through research, save the social good and produce graduates who possess human values that can make them good citizens.

The Islamic University in Uganda, or IUIU, was conceived in the 1974 Lahore Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to provide education to African Muslim communities that had no access to school during the colonial and post-colonial era. The then Ugandan President Idi Amin Dada requested that his country hosts the institution of higher learning.

It was initially resolved that the university be located in Arivu, Arua District. Following the fall of Amin in 1979, plans for the construction fell into uncertainty. The Education Minister in the Obote II government vowed that an Islamic University could only be built “over my dead body.”

The same period saw the change of the proposed location of the university from Arua to the then Uganda Peoples Congress stronghold of Mbale. Milton Obote’s government influenced the development to reward its supporters.

In November 1987, following strong advocacy partly by Al-Hajj Moses Kigongo and Abu Baker Kakyama Mayanja of the new NRM regime, a bilateral agreement between the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Government of Uganda was signed to establish the university. A joint committee met shortly after and agreed that the university be established at Nkoma Secondary School and starts operating in December 1987. It eventually started in 1988.


  • Renovate facilities
  • Convert a day school – Nkoma Secondary School – into a residential university.
  • Decide on what to teach
  • Recruit staff
  • Convince the people that the IUIU was indeed a university.
  • Overcome internal Muslim wrangles. A group of Muslims wrote to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation requesting that the university shouldn’t be opened because it was ‘full of Baganda’.


  • The Organization of Islamic Cooperation wanted the IUIU to start
  • President Museveni and his government wanted the university to start
  • Makerere University couldn’t admit all the qualified students (Makerere was the only university in the country by then).
  • There were people prepared to make sacrifices to get the university going.

The IUIU starts

  • The university finally started on 10, Feb 1988, with 80 students – all Ugandans.
  • It started with two programmes: B.A. Education (3 years) and B.A. Islamic Studies and Arabic Language (4 years).
  • Many people wondered whether this was indeed a university. Even students often asked whether they were really in an institution of higher learning.


  • Today the university has 6,738 students
  • Four campuses: the Main Campus (Mbale), Kampala Campus, Arua Campus and Females Campus at Kabojja.
  • 56 academic programmes, largely in the humanities and theology. Also offered are programmes in Information Technology and Food Science.
  • The centre for post-graduate studies offers programmes in Business Administration, Public Administration, etc.
  • The university has produced 11,398 graduates, about 40 percent of whom are female.
  • It has 718 staff members, including 54 on Staff Development Program in universities oversees, 16 of whom are doing PhD.
  • The university attracts visiting academicians from various countries


  • The university established a Quality Assurance Committee headed by the Rector.
  • There are also Quality Assurance committees at faculty level
  • Student evaluation of academic staff
  • External examiners
  • External assessors


  • Members of staff have accomplished various research projects
  • The university has received research awards from the World Bank, European Union, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Rockefeller Foundation, etc.

Research projects

The university is undertaking research on Oral Muslim History in Uganda funded by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

The IUIU, in collaboration with the Uganda Muslim Teachers Association, is researching on Muslim education in Uganda.  Part of this research gave rise to the National Conference on Muslim Education held in 2010. The Conference proposed the formation of the Uganda Muslim Education Fund. The second such conference is scheduled for December 2012.

Some of the findings of this research include:

  • 52 percent of the teachers in Muslim primary schools are non-Muslims.
  • In Busoga Region, 32 percent of the teachers in Qur’an schools are non-Muslims.


  • Daawa (teaching and preaching Islam) activities
  • Immunization programmes by university nurses
  • Training Muslim leaders
  • Scholarships for needy students
  • Housing for the elderly
  • Financial help to imams, women, low cadre staff


  • Shortage of physical facilities – lecture rooms, staff houses, offices, student residences, etc
  • Finance
  • No government funding
  • Limited grants and donations
  • Fees from students contribute 80 percent to the university budget
  • 20 percent of the students fail to pay fees.
  • One endowment – King Fahd Plaza, which contributes about US $300,000 annually

Staff welfare

  • Salaries not the best
  • Statutory obligations – the university pays sh160 million monthly to government bodies
  • We need at least US $1.5 million to increase salaries by 50 percent
  • Staff retention is a challenge
  • Student related challenges: discipline, some students fail to pay fees, language problems by some international students, etc
  • Competition from other universities – there are 31 licensed universities, including 5 government universities, 5 businessmen-owned universities, 20 faith-based universities and 1 Islamic university.


  • Consolidate gains
  • Improve on financial base
  • More endowments, e.g. developing our land at Nsambya
  • Attracting more grants and donations
  • Establishing income generating projects
  • New programs in medicine, engineering, masters in Information Technology, among others


The Muslim community faces many challenges. There is need to focus on:

  • Quality of education
  • Building institutions
  • Identify the enemy within and rehabilitate them. Those who cannot be rehabilitated should be isolated and paralyzed.
  • What should our children learn?
  • Focus on four dimensions of mankind: soul, heart, mind and body.
  • We need a curriculum that addresses these challenges
  • What we want to see is “a child in pursuit of knowledge, and not knowledge in pursuit of the child.”
  • Sufficient funds needed to guarantee quality education

Education and religion

“Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind,” Albert Einstein.


0 #1 nasser kimbugwe 2012-07-24 19:49
None can stop what Allah has already ordained . Built over my dead body!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!1.Lana ya Allah okutuukeko Mr.Minister!!!
0 #2 rehema namanda 2012-10-19 23:54
if god says yes no one has the ability of saying no
so may ALLAH help IUIU live longer .
0 #3 NABISAARU JARIAH 2013-02-20 09:39
I am proud of you IUIU as a University and its Management especially