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The Rise and Fall of Makerere University



It used to be praised, glorified and exalted. But today Makerere University is the reverse of its past.

From teaching carpentry, building and mechanics, Makerere gradually became an epitome of knowledge that attracted applicants from as far as Great Britain.

This triumph, however, retraced its steps during the civil wars of the 1970s and ‘80s.

Signs of a recovering Makerere unfolded in the 1990s, tempting Nakanyike and Nansozi (2003) to conclude that “the sorry state of affairs at Makerere has been reversed”. It was a conclusion rashly made. The perceived revival of Makerere was rather like a dieing patient who gained some strength to ask for a glass of water before he fiercely coughed and breathed his last. Relatives jubilated when the patient asked for water but only to end up in tears.

Whereas Makerere recovered from the problems associated with the pre-Museveni political instability, the recovery lost meaning when the university bumped into greater calamities, which Prof. Mamdani attributes to reduced government expenditure on higher education.

Now The Campus Journal, on account of three-year first-hand experience the author went through as a student, penetrates every corner of Makerere to reveal even the most concealed deterioration of the university.

The Journal opens by recounting the glorious days of the university when, in the words of Vice Chancellor Prof. Livingstone Luboobi, everything was available. Then it explains what the VC meant when he said that those who were at Makerere in the 1960s “would be shocked if they returned now”.

Happy Birth Day Dear Makerere

The 22nd year of the 20th Century saw the birth of one of the admirable children of colonial rule in Uganda. Whereas colonialism is inherently evil, at least in the eyes of its strict critics, the fact that Makerere University is a product of colonial rule fortifies the observation of a Ugandan scholar Muhammad Muhammad Ssekkadde that nothing is utterly bad or entirely good, excluding hellfire and paradise, respectively.

While the academic institution is a blessing to Uganda and Africa at large, few would doubt that it was established to serve British interests as opposed to empowering black people. For many historians have maintained that the positive developments Africa gained from colonialism such as roads, railways and schools were established primarily to help exploit Africa -- the continent only benefited accidentally.

Thus as Karen Theroux reports in The Carnegie Reporter in a story, Makerere at the Crossroads, the British government decided to establish Makerere when the “demand for local craftsmen far exceeded the number of skilled workers available” to facilitate colonial administration.

And as directed by the then British Secretary of State, a technical school emerged in 1922 five kilometers north of Kampala ’s heart on a hill amidst rolling lawns and groves of trees and bushes, to borrow Dr Vali Jamal’s description. The school that first admitted 14 male students was named Makerere Technical College.

Irrespective of the motive of its establishment, Makerere Technical College developed into a formidable regional university whose legacy survives its downfall.

The Golden Age of Makerere University
A fabled Mecca for aspiring youth, it trained many of the regions first generation of intellectual and political leaders -- Carol Sicherman

Prior to the Second World War, only those who risked being ignored as wishful thinkers dreamt seeing Makerere College becoming an epicenter of knowledge that could, as Emily Wax notes, attracts applicants from Europe as well as Africa with a distinguished list of alumni. Yet the dream ceased to be just a dream by the early 1960s.

Nurturing materials that later developed into novelist Ngugi wa Thiongo, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and former Tanzanian Head of State Benjamin Mkapa, Makerere was, accurately but most likely exaggeratedly, referred to as the “Harvard of Africa”.

“Makerere seemed as far as East and Southeast Africa was concerned,” writes Eckhard Breitinger of the German University of Breireuth, “attracting students from the whole region and beyond, very much as the University of Ibadan did for West Africa or the University of the West Indies for the Caribbean.”

“As an academic institution, Makerere boasted of high standards,” recalls Vali Jamal, a former Senior Economist at the UN who taught at the university in the 1960s. “The graduating students were awarded London University degrees, which also reviewed the course content and examination papers and student grades. Its medical and agricultural schools enjoyed international reputation while the East African Institute of Social Research was a leader in Africa on anthropological and social research.”

The East African Institute of Social Research, which later became Makerere Institute of Social Research, blossomed. As Nakanyike and Nansozi observe in their 2003 Makerere University in Transition, the rise of the university farm at Kabayoro, the Medical school research programme at Mulago hospital and the rampant research in botany, zoology, chemistry and physics demonstrated the extent to which the university was not just a university, but a world class.

“Many gifted graduate students came from abroad to work on their doctorate for prestigious universities,” continues Jamal in his Memoir. “Numerous seminars and conferences held at the campus added to its vibrant and intellectual environment. The social life at Makerere was relaxed and easy going.”

Makerere was thus named Harvard of Africa, according to Narciso Matos, chair of the Carnegie Corporation International Development Programme, because both universities (Makerere and Harvard) were seen as premier institutions in their home countries. And that both institutions had high profile graduates.

It is this triumphant position of Makerere that Prof. Luboobi recalls when The Carnegie Reporter quotes him remarking, “The late sixties were the best of times at the university when everything was available”.

So what was “available” in the 1960s that made the university a world class university? What was available is unquestionably the reverse of the situation today, as succeeding pages reveal.

The First Downfall of Makerere
Makerere was a university teetering on its final legs, an ivory tower that had virtually lost touch with its environment -- Nakanyike Musisi and Nansozi Muwanga.

Vocal liars among unethical historians have described the period 1971 -- 1979 as Uganda’s darkest period. They claim that the country’s achievements, including but not restricted to Makerere University, collapsed under the leadership of former President Amin Dada.

The claim that Amin was a curse to the country has been exposed for what it is -- half truth -- by Daily Monitor columnist Timothy Kalyegira.

But whether the former President restored or ruined Uganda is not the topic under scrutiny for now. Relevant here, however, is the fact that Uganda under President Amin suffered international hostility for not dancing to the tune of the West, a situation that could not leave the country’s institutions like Makerere University unaffected.

“Makerere became a place with bare laboratories,” writes Nakanyike, “empty library shelves, chronic shortages of scholastic materials and overcrowded halls of residence…Libraries and common rooms, toilets and washroom facilities were converted into additional student rooms, leaving students to make their own alternative toilet arrangements”.

The worseness of conditions prompted lecturers to flee classes and drive taxis to earn a living, Nakanyike recalls.

The situation worsened when a rebel called Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched his 5-year destructive war in the 1980s.

“When I first came to Makerere as external examiner, in late 1986,” narrates Eckhard Breitinger, “the Department of Music, Dance and Drama was in shambles. The grand piano rested on empty crates – the legs had been put to better use on wheelbarrows, the lamps, the sockets, the electric wig had completely disappeared, windows and doors were missing, the floor in the dance rehearsal rooms was gone.”

The Mistaken Revival

Various writers have erroneously stressed that Makerere, by the evening of the previous century, had embarked on rediscovering its lost glory. In fact, this is the crux of Dr. Nakanyike’s Makerere University in Transition.

Reviewing Being an African University, Eckhard Breitinger exaggerates the ‘revival’ as the “miraculous resurrection” of Makerere. Proponents of the revival argument highlight a number of reasons to defend their position.

“Although much remains to be done,” Dr. Nakanyike, for instance, argues, “steps have been taken to improve students’ learning, living and boarding conditions on campus. Efforts have begun to upgrade equipment in the main university library and the departmental libraries.”

She writes that classes have been split into “smaller, more manageable groups”. And that examination malpractice is steadily being eroded.

But as we reveal, Nakanyike and her comrades-in-thought were too impatient to scrutinize the so called revival of Makerere before making conclusions.

Whereas Makerere may have overcome the harsh consequence of the political instability that preceded the 1990s, the institution was not allowed to exploit the subsequent relative peace and stability to prosper.

As the Journal explains, Makerere outlived political turmoil and landed in greater problems that, more than any other factor, have reduced it to rubble.

So what is there to prove that the alleged revival of Makerere was actually an optical illusion?

The Total Demise of Makerere

Students attend lectures sitting on window ledges, their legs dangling outside -- Emily Wax.

The current wreckage of Makerere University can hardly be traced from the chaos that devastated Uganda in the 1970s and ‘80s. The downfall of the mighty academic institution starts in the 1990s when President Museveni adopted IMF Structural Adjustment Policies of cutting government expenditure on higher education, giving way to commercialization in the university (Mamdani,2005).

The quest for profits, as it has repeatedly been argued, led to the admission of unmanageable numbers of privately-sponsored students, rendering the university as failed as Somalia.

As promised in the introduction, the Journal does not simply reiterate the now indisputable fact that Makerere is no more. This is because Mahmood Mamdani and the press have done enough of it. What The Campus Journal accomplishes here is uncovering the innermost components of the failures of the institution that make it a dead university whose burial has only delayed.

The Death of Faculty of Arts
The Faculty of Arts, categorized by Mamdani among the “wet” or merely money making faculties, has shared significantly of Makerere’s deterioration. The largest faculty accepts almost every student who applies for a course. Welcoming freshers in September 2004 at the faculty quadrangle, one of the deans of the faculty remarked that Arts had more students than all other universities in Uganda combined.

To analyse how the huge number of students chasing scanty resources at the faculty has suffocated academic standards, the Journal explores Bachelor of Mass Communication.

Daydreaming in Mass Communication
Bachelor of Mass Communication has the smallest number of students after Bachelor of Drama in the faculty. And it is still one of Uganda’s most prestigious courses.

But conditions at the Department of Mass Communication do not allow the training of competent journalists or public relations practitioners. During the 2004/2005 intake, for instance, the department admitted over 130 students, including the author. They were divided into Day and Evening classes of over 40 and 80, respectively.

But each of the classes had to join thousands of other students from Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration, Bachelor of Arts with Education, Bachelor of Arts with Economics, Bachelor of Population Studies, Bachelor of Statistics, among others, to attend first-year core course units of Introduction to Micro and Macro Economics. For two consecutive semesters, this multitude had to occupy the Main Hall located in the (administrative) Main Building.

Even after the class had been divided into two, the hall remained too small to accommodate the students. As a result, the first and last fifteen minutes (that is to say 30 minutes) of a one-hour lecture were always left for students to fight to enter and leave the hall. Thus a lecture supposed to run for 60 minutes ended up with half the time.

But even the 30 minutes could not be appropriately exploited as the lecturer’s microphone was always on and off. Since students who occupied the back seats were unlikely to hear the lecturer, the phrase “learning by rumors” was popularized. It referred to a situation where a student seated nearer the lecturer heard and orally transmitted the message to a colleague who was seated or standing farther away from the lecturer.

This is still happening. As the lecture goes on, students of the next class are already assembled on the door waiting to enter as soon as the current lecture ends in order to secure seats. Those who fail to find seats march away and miss the session. It was against this background that the Washington Post reported in 2005 that students get to class an hour earlier simply to secure seats.

In such courses where students are completely unmanageable, the concept of retaking a poorly performed course unit scarcely applies to avoid having much more students in the same class the following year. Thus, while marking examination scripts, lecturers, apparently, have to ensure that almost all students score at least slightly above the pass-mark (50 percent) to avoid retakes. The situation, in other wards, is similar to Uganda’s Universal Primary Education programme in which repeating classes by failed students is prohibited.

What is unimaginable is that these thousands of students were taught by only two lecturers who also had other classes to teach. If that congestion applied to Mass Communication, which had a smaller number of students, what about Bachelors of Arts, Environmental Studies, Tourism, Commerce, Social Sciences and Business Administration that each admit ten times the number of Mass Com students?

Indeed the problem of unmanageable numbers of students is a salient feature of almost all programmes at Makerere. Dr. Maria Gorreti Nassuna of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine complains, “We have two lecturers where there should be seven, they once taught two courses and now teach 30 hours a week or more. How can they give all those exams?”

It is because of this alarming student-to-lecturer ratio that some lecturers choose not to mark tests and coursework, and instead, award marks by estimation. The criteria used to estimate marks for each student, however, is not clear. It seems an answer sheet bearing a ‘nice’ name gets more marks.

Observers say that such lecturers read only the introduction and the conclusion of essays and award marks basing on that.

Yet despite the nonstop rhetoric by university authorities that they are gradually cutting student intake, congestion is worsening. Given the continuing prevalence of such a state of affairs, on which basis does the book Makerere University in Transition claim that large classes were split into “smaller, manageable groups”?

Yet that was just the beginning of the mockery faced by a student seeking to attain the knowledge of Mass Communication. Drama intensified in the second-year class of Introduction to Photojournalism. During the course unit that was mainly taught from outside classroom, Day and Evening students numbering over 120 combined to share two cameras in a two-hour weekly lecture. 120 students, most of whom had never touched a camera before, were required to learn, practice and do coursework and final exams using the two cameras in 32 hours. Yet it was not uncommon for one of the cameras to run out of batteries.

The situation worsened when Mass Com students got to their final year to study Radio Production. Both Day and Evening classes of about 30 and 50 students, respectively, had only one computer installed with Adobe Audition software for audio editing. A practical class thus turned wholly theoretical. Students were largely taught how to edit by word of mouth instead of participating in pressing the keyboard and moving the mouse. The use of the computer was monopolized by the lecturer as if he was training himself.

The same happened when we came to the Television Production class that ended without any student being equipped with video editing skills. Only one computer had Adobe Premier editing software, yet access to it was strictly restricted. It was kept in the postgraduate lab at Campus FM. In most cases, undergraduates only sneaked in ‘illegally’.

When such a class goes for internship, what is expected? Second year students were unleashed to do internship for only four weeks in media and public relations departments. No lecturer supervised any of the students. The absence of supervision gave some lazy students, including some known to The Campus Journal, the chance to dodge internship and forge internship reports that were presented to the department for marking.

Absence of supervision is caused by the small number of lecturers in relation to the interns. Yet the Department of Mass Communication is not alone in failing to have enough lecturers for its students, most of whom sacrifice huge sums of money to attain education. In the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology, lecturers hire undergraduate students to mark undergraduate examinations.

Not all that Glitters Is Gold: The Rot in Faculty of Computing and Information Technology

The immaculate structures near the main entrance of Makerere gives an impression of a university regaining its glory. But a scrutiny of the Faculty of Computing and Information Technology justifies the cliché, never judge a book by its cover.

It is another “wet” faculty that blindly admits students irrespective of the availability of human and non-human resources to handle them. The Faculty Dean, Prof Venacious Baryamureba dreams of seeing it becoming a leading centre of ICT in Africa. But only those who have not penetrated the faculty would hesitate ignoring the professor as a daydreamer.

This is the most explored faculty by the writer after his former Faculty of Arts. The writer, on account of his repeated visits to the computer labs that are theoretically restricted to ICT students, is considered a student of either Computer Science or Information Technology by lab attendants.

But the state of affairs in the computer labs is appalling. All undergraduate students of the faculty are required to undergo a practical course known as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) CSC 1301 and CSC 1302 in first and second year recess terms. To study CCNA, students are divided into groups. But the size of each group is three times the number of seats and computers in most computer labs.

Containing less than 100 computers and seats, the now defunct Ground Floor lab in the old ICT faculty building would be packed with about 300 CCNA students during lectures. Many of those who failed to find seats would sit on computer tables. In the process they would obscure the seated students behind them from seeing the demonstrations of the lecturer. The whole class, consequently, decides to stand to see the demonstrations of the instructor. And the class turns into a rally, in line with Andrew Mwenda’s description of lectures at Makerere.

In the morning of January 18, 2008, the author sneaks into the lab where he finds hundreds of second-year undergraduate students of Computer Science and Information Technology attending a CCNA lecture. He moves closer to the lecturer whose ignorance about his students does not allow him to identify the undercover reporter. Remember that the reporter finalized his Mass Communication degree the previous year, but he penetrates the CIT class as he wills. As he moves around the chaotic class, the reporter notices that what existed when he was still a student at the university is still intact - only one router in a class of 300 students, majority of whom have neither seats nor computers.

The recent extension of the faculty, however, had provided hope for relief. But the extension was merely in building. Computers in the new CIT building are either not functioning at all, or not online, or lack certain essential functions like recognizing USB, or use Linux Operating System, which Makerere CIT students are not conversant with. Thus the new labs have not reversed congestion.

Madness in the Computing Faculty is further exhibited by the faculty’s hatred for excelled students probably owing to tribal and religious sentiments. Whereas the faculty produces an average five first-class graduates per academic year, it has always retained as teaching assistants graduates whose CGPA is moving towards Third Class Degree. This has happened despite the application for retention by First Class graduates known by The Campus Journal.

Alex (not real name), graduated October 2007 with Bachelor of Computer Science, with the highest CGPA in the whole university. Having repeatedly but unsuccessfully applied for retention as teaching assistant, he unleashed his mother who shed tears in the (Faculty) Dean’s office pleading for the consideration of her son. The Dean intervened and called for the retention of the whiz kid. But his call encountered heedless administrators.

Fortunately, driven by determination, Alex decided to ‘appoint’ himself an employee of the faculty by stubbornly sitting in the staffroom until the authorities finally included his name on the teaching timetable.

But none of the other six First Class graduates of the September 2007 Graduation have been retained despite their sustained application for retention. The same is true of excelled students of the previous academic years.

Whereas academic excellence may not be the only consideration in retaining students, it can not be that the other considerations such as discipline are monopolized by averagely-performing students.

Institute of Statistics Where Religious Hatred Overrides Academic Standards
In 2005, the author of this report wrote a lead investigative report in the Weekly Message newspaper narrating how authorities at Makerere University Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics mistreated Muslims. Makerere Varsity Mistreats Muslims featured complaints of Muslim students from the institute who, during the Open Forum organized by Makerere University Muslim Students Association, said their marks were being cut maliciously by lecturers. The intension of the malicious lecturers, the students elaborated, was to throw Muslims out of First and Upper Second degree classes.

When their ears tapped the news, authorities at the institute panicked but neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.

Largely passing undocumented, the Institute’s hatred for Muslim students is fortified on a daily basis. Every single Muslim student in the Institute contacted by The Campus Journal has confirmed being persecuted. The Open Forum heard that several Muslim students of the Institute were dismissed from the university over concocted cases of indiscipline.

In 2008, however, the Institute, to the surprise of its Muslim students, retained a Muslim as teaching assistant.

But discrimination against Muslims is not restricted to the Institute of Statistics. On 20th May 2008, Members of Makerere University Muslim Students Association peacefully demonstrated at campus after female Muslim students were unveiled by some lecturers in the School of Education and the Faculty of Arts.

The lecturers claimed that they wanted to prevent the smuggling of notes into examination rooms. No student, however, is known to have ever used the veil to smuggle unauthorized materials into the examination room.

To irritate Muslims further, the university has insisted on organizing examinations on Eid holidays despite numerous complaints. Nasser Kimbugwe, an alumnus of Makerere University sent his condemnation of the provocative practice to the ICT Faculty mailing list on November 27, 2008. His email reads in part:

“My worry and condemnation is ABOUT the CONTINUED and INTENTIONAL practice BY THE HEADS OF THE UNIVERSITY to make MUSLIM STUDENTS SIT PAPERS ON IDD DAYS...SOME PEOPLE I TALKED TO said that 'it is because your IDD Day is not clear' That the exact day is not known'. If we buy his 'WRONG ARGUMENT’, the principal is clear either today or tomorrow. 2 days only. Why is it possible to give 14 days of Xmas break? Am not saying that this break should not be there but Why not give MUSLIMS only two days where IDD is expected?”

School of Education: Lazy Professors and the Loss of Marks
To appear on the graduation list in time is the biggest worry of a finalist in the School of Education. Many aspiring teachers take years before graduating because their lecturers often lose marks and misplace examination scripts. If a student produces proof for having sat the exams whose marks is missing, some lecturers decide to negotiate with the student about the marks they could accept.

Desperate for graduation, the wronged students are often ready to accept any ‘offer’. The problem is explained by laziness on the part of lecturers but also by the fact that they are overworked. Overworked given the unbelievable number of students handled by a handful of lecturers.

School of Education, on top of that, is dominated by the most unsettled students at campus. They are ever moving long distances, chasing lessons from one lecture room to another. Their classes are distributed allover the 300 hectare campus. They attend lectures in dining halls where they often clash with feasting students.

Life in Halls of Residence

The Sinking of Lumumba Hall

The downfall of man is not the end of him; so Lumumba [Hall] will stop stinking -- Lumumba Hall resident.

On April 11, 2007, the Executive Editor of The Campus Journal -- and the author of the report -- who resided in Lumumba Hall during his studies at Makerere wrote a story in the Weekly Observer exploring how risky the males' dorm had become to its inhabitants.

Named after a captivating Congolese nationalist executed 47 years ago, the students’ dormitory has been an epicenter of chaos at the university and surrounding areas.

When it was opened in 1971, recalls the Dean of Students John Ekudu-Adoku, the dormitory was filled with ill-mannered students expelled from other halls of residence. It is the legacy of these first generation residents that probably continues to shape the behaviour of some Lumumbists, as the residents call themselves.

But carelessness of university authorities has now rendered the dormitory as risky as mineral mines in Africa. “The walls of Lumumba have been weakened because of poor plumbing,” said Joseph Ondyer, the former hall Chairman. “There are cracks and some of the toilet flashes no longer function.”

Though these characteristics apply to the entire Lumumba, the university decided mid 2006 to close only a third of the hall. Surprisingly, Block C, which was declared to be closed because of what the Dean of Students called its “poor shape”, still accommodated about 100 students by the time this Journal went to press. And the warden of the hall, Ben Mugisha, is apparently aware of the existence of occupants on the Block because the matter is not a secret.

There are two possible explanations to this horrific contradiction. The university administration either fooled students, parents and stakeholders when it announced that part of the hall had been closed to safeguard the lives of students. Or, actually the administration intended to close Block C but only to be frustrated by the warden of the dormitory who, in greed for money, allowed some students to occupy it. None of the two explanations exempts university authorities from neglecting the safety of their students.

And never be misled that the poor shape, as the Dean of Students calls it, is restricted to Lumumba. For over a month of Recess Term of 2005/2006 academic year, the writer lived in Nsibirwa Hall. But the flooding and stinking in the hall’s bathrooms and toilets exceed by far that of Lumumba. It is only that Nsibirwa’s predicament has escaped publicity.

And to describe the situation in Mitchell Hall is to reiterate what is mentioned of Lumumba and Nsibirwa dormitories.

In the female students’ Complex (CCE) Hall, residents fiercely compete for oxygen. Four residents are congested in each smaller-than closet-sized room. Lack of adequate space compels students to sleep with their suit cases on the bed. The plates, spoons and books are piled in a basin and pushed under the bed.

Yet those who live four in a tiny room count themselves lucky compared to what the rest experience. When there are no more rooms to squeeze four, the rest are bundled in groups of twenty and piled in open hall-like rooms. The writer once asked a former schoolmate residing in CCE to mention her room number. With a disappearing smile on her face, she said, “our room has no number. I am among a group of twenty piled in a big room.”

When he visited the “big room”, it was actually big but too small for twenty inhabitants. “Most students, however,” writes Nakanyike and Nansozi, “sleep three or four to a room designed for one or two.”

And in the Kitchen, Everything is Messed Up
Only dry tea is served four days a week. The other days, a tiny slice of bread and quarter a liter of packed milk is supposed to be added.

However, milk, fish, chicken, beef and eggs that are supposed to be served on rare occasions are often stolen by dormitory authorities, giving flimsy explanations like the “supplier delayed”. They promise compensation, which in most cases never comes. Thus, beans soup containing insects, maize floor and stone-dominated rice unceasingly dominate the food menu. A student lamented after being served supper, “We have not been served rice containing stones, but we have been served stones containing rice.”

The possible explanation behind the dominance of such quality of meals is the clandestine addition of excess students by some hall wardens, custodians and food ministers. It is irrefutable that any interested privately sponsored non resident student can unofficially buy residential space and/or meal cards from certain elements among dormitory authorities. In order to feed these excess stomachs above the registered ones, as much water as possible is added to the beans. While milk has to be sold to increase the quantity of maize floor.

Yet this is better compared to what is coming next academic year. Resident students, instead of being fed, shall be given Uganda shillings 2000 ($1) per day to cater for their breakfast, lunch, evening tea and supper!

Apportioning Blame

The government unleashed Chandi Jamwa to trace financial mismanagement at Makerere following the university’s aborted unilateral decision to almost double tuition fees starting with the 2005/2006 academic year.

The reason behind the blocked increment, according to the university website, was to produce productive and market oriented graduates and improve sustainability for facilities like ICT.

This move alarmed politicians who feared losing support of the populace. In a populist move, therefore, President Museveni, who has repeatedly claimed to champion peasants' rights, blocked the increment by decree. He, instead, unleashed Mr. Jamwa to establish the cost of training a student at the university.

In an interview with the Weekly Observer, Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of finance partly blames government interference, as witnessed in the blocking of the increment, for relegating the university to the valley of near-bankruptcy. The same opinion was held by the former Chancellor Professor Apollo Nsibambi.

But whereas government may have based on flimsy grounds to block the increment, the Makerere administration is active in mismanaging its financial resources as reflected by its lack of auditing, transparency and accountability.

In fact, some donors of the university such as the Carnegie Corporation, dispute the claim that Makerere’s problems originate from lack of funds, as The Carnegie Reporter reports, “On The Foundation Center’s most recent list of the top fifty worldwide organizations receiving philanthropic support, Makerere came in seventh,” says Andrea Johnson, program officer in Carnegie Corporation’s International Development Program. “When a university in a small country is getting that much money, and is still in such bad shape, there’s reason to be concerned.”

It is against this background that the donor agency thought of withholding its support for Makerere. “I’m not convinced the university has what it takes to deserve continued support,” says Narciso Matos, chair of Carnegie Corporation International Development Program. “For example, in the past when we’ve asked what Makerere’s priorities were, they turned around and asked what the Corporation considered most important. It’s a sign of a weak center.”

In The Carnegie Reporter, Matos continues that even when a project is not performing, Makerere won’t end the program. “There’s a culture of not making waves,” he says. “It’s distressing. While some programs are good and we may be willing to support them to completion, it’s difficult to justify overall support.”

The donor argues that Makerere has been overwhelmed by the huge sums of donations it receives. If Makerere is to improve, the donor recommends, donations must be reduced. “Instead of having greater impact, big sums of money can be overwhelming and the university just doesn’t know how to spend it well.” says Johnson. “The initial project idea should come from grantees, who have to be able to tell us exactly what they’re doing with the funds and whether the project works...”

Makerere University Timeline
1920: The British Secretary of State Winston Churchill approves the establishment of a “native technical school at Kampala”.

1921: The building of temporary classrooms and living quarters begins.

1922: Makerere Technical School emerges with 14 boys learning carpentry, building and mechanics.

1937: Makerere Technical College expands into the Higher College for East Africa, awarding diplomas and certificates.

1945: Six women students are admitted to the institution.

1949: Makerere Higher College becomes a University College of East Africa, awarding degrees of the University of London.

1963: Makerere joins universities in Kenya and Tanzania to form the University of East Africa (UEA).

1970: An Act of parliament dissolves the UEA and declares Makerere an independent National University of the Republic of Uganda. The Act, which provides for massive government interference in the running of the university, also ends the special relationship between Makerere and the University of London.

1971: Lumumba Hall opens, welcomes and hosts students expelled from other dormitories over indiscipline.

1972: Makerere University Muslim Students Association (MUMSA) is formed.

1975: Government bans the Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA).

1978: Government abolishes the Makerere University Students’ Guild.

1989: The weighted point system that awards female students an additional 1.5 points in admission to public universities is introduced.

1989: Makerere University closes following a severe strike.

1991: Makerere University becomes one of the first universities in Sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) to begin the systematic use of email.

1992: President Museveni announces during his Commencement Speech that he intends to step down as University Chancellor. This opens way for the rise of a non Head of State Chancellor.

1992: Government allows Makerere to charge fees from students in Evening and other special programmes. Consequently, the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education inaugurates an external degree programme exclusively for fee-paying students, marking the beginning of private sponsorship at Makerere University.

1994: The University Council announces that faculties with places remaining after accepting government-sponsored students could fill them with private students.

1995: Council allows all faculties to run revenue-generating evening courses.

1997: Makerere University Consultancy Bureau (MUCOBU) is established to offer research, training and consultancy to private and public institutions.

1998: The Semester System replaces the traditional Term System that was based on quarters. Under the new system, students are examined on fresh material as opposed to the term system where examinations emanated from work of the whole year.

1998: Government defaults payment of fees for half of its sponsored students.

1999: The University successfully presses government to guarantee the support of the students it sponsors.

1999: Faculty of Forestry emerges out of NORAD funds.

1999: The University Council approves the formulation of the Strategic Plan for the academic year 2000/01―2004/05, which leads to the adoption of the university Vision and Mission statements.

2000: The Vice Chancellor establishes a joint university-government ‘Committee of 14’ known as This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (Innovations at Makerere Committee). It is entrusted with undertaking research in districts on labour demand and planning a programme to meet the needs for graduates at district level.

2001: The University and Other Tertiary Institutions Bill becomes law and abrogates the University Act of 1970. It is also supposed to provide Makerere University and other tertiary institutions greater autonomy over the choice of Chancellor and Vice Chancellor.

2004: Infectious Disease Institute opens for treating HIV/AIDS and other diseases and nurturing a new breed of African health care leadership.

2006: Makerere University closes for two months after students joined a strike by lecturers over low pay.

January 2008: Makerere starts Faculty-level graduation that lasts for a week. Each major faculty organizes graduation on a different day. The graduation week happens once (January) every academic year. The founder, owner and editor of The Campus Journal Yahya Sseremba becomes one of the first students to graduate under the new system.

April 2008: MUASA General Assembly passes a vote of no confidence in the university top executives, including Vice Chancellor Livingstone Luboobi, his Deputy in Charge of Finance and Administration Prof. David Bakibinga, University Secretary Sam Akorimo and the Bursar over “financial mismanagement”. MUASA demands that the named persons resign within 14 days.

May 2008: Students of Makerere University Business School sit for exams in Namboole stadium due to insufficient space at campus.

May 2008: Makerere University suspends MUASA chairman and senior academic staff Augustus Nuwagaba over alleged insubordination and negligence.

May 2008: Members of Makerere University Muslim Students Association peacefully demonstrate against the unveiling of female students by some lecturers in the School of Education and the Faculty of Arts.

November 2008: Alleged Kenyan students attempt to burn the Main Building using petrol in the course of their strike against paying more university fees than their Ugandan counterparts. Their leader is later expelled from the university.

December 2008: Parliament upholds Makerere’s introduction of Library, Development and Technology fees. A group of students had earlier petitioned the legislature against the introduction of the fees.

This story was first published by the print version of The Campus Journal in 2009.



0 #1 CC 2013-07-12 14:52
0 #2 John B. Walugembe 2013-11-24 10:07
Makerere is just one among about 42 universities in Uganda today: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_universities_in_Uganda
We desperately need a University Quality and Examinations Council (call it UQEC) to restore public confidence and value from these institutions. The UQEC could be regional (EAC) or even continental, which is not impossible, given the current advancement in ICT and data security solutions. An external QUEC would force the universities to improve their performance, just as competition to be among top UNEB performers has forced many secondary schools to improve.

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Tel: +256777078131
0 #3 John B. Walugembe 2013-11-24 10:10
......In addition, university education is divorced from realities and the internships are too superficial. While people are complaining about unemployment, those with jobs are dying of overwork due to inability to find Ugandans with the right skills and the right work ethic/attitude to employ. We would do well to entrench a dual-education system whereby students at all levels spend half the time in class and half the time working as apprentices, learning from experiences of countries such as Germany and Switzerland.

John B. Walugembe
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Tel: +256777078131
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