Fresh trouble at Makerere Institute of Social Research

Fresh trouble at Makerere Institute of Social Research
Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, Director-Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR), Makerere University. Courtesy Photo.

Fresh trouble is brewing at Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR). Dr. James Ocita, a lecturer in the Literature Department, says the institute could crumble soon due to mismanagement.

In a six page memo emailed to all staff at the institute on September 13, 2016, Dr. Ocita accuses Prof. Mahmood Mamdani, the Executive Director of MISR of undermining his students, staff and the faculty.

He warns that unless something is done to avert the looming crisis, the MISR academic program may collapse pretty soon.

Dr. Ocita, who served as a Research Associate and Assistant Director at MISR, says there is need to check Prof. Mamdani’s management style.

Dr. Ocita claims that 23 students have dropped from the highly rated PhD programme run by the institute over the past six years.

According to Dr. Ocita, the number includes students who left voluntarily and those who lost their scholarships. He says three of the seven students admitted in the first year of the PhD program dropped out.

A similar number reportedly dropped out in the second year out of the ten students admitted on the program.

In the third year, five of the ten students admitted for the program dropped out while five of the 12 students admitted in the fifth year of the program also dropped out.

This excludes a student whose scholarship was cancelled before he reported in 2013 on medical grounds. One of the students admitted in the fifth year of the program lost her funding.

According to Dr. Ocita, although a Good Samaritan offered to pay her tuition, the administration at MISR has declined to clear her to study as a private student for over a year now.

He says two students are studying without any real chance of graduating. Dr. Ocita claims that one of the students has already transferred to another university although he hasn’t officials communicated his withdrawal from MISR.

“One, having had his funding terminated for two years, has resumed and now is at the same stage as the current 4th years, with an unclear funding status,” Dr. Ocita notes.

He blamed the exit of students from the program on malice, discrimination, injustice, abuse of power, examination procedures and administrative ineptitude.

“The only reason I won’t get into the details of specific cases is because at least three of these students have decided to take legal action against MISR and the University for failing to supervise MISR and Mamdani effectively and a good number are still hoping against hope to get some form of justice,” Dr. Ocita told this publication.

Our reporter tried to access Prof. Mamdani through his assistants in vain. However, our reporter was able to get his response to Dr. Ocita’s memo that was sent on the staff mailing list.

He accuses Dr. Ocita of spreading falsehoods, saying he has for long been hoping for the collapse of the program. Prof. Mamdani wants the university to discipline Dr. Ocita for spreading ‘falsehoods’ about the PhD program.

He also denies claims that the Institute has been dragged to court, saying there hasn’t been a case concerning MISR since he took over as director in 2010.

Prof. Mamdani explains that a total of 60 students have enrolled on the PhD program since it started in 2012, 28 of whom have graduated.

According to Prof. Mamdani, from 2012 to 2015, a total of 23 students successfully submitted their PhD Proposals, three successfully defended their PhD dissertation and 19 are writing their PhD thesis. He says another six are currently doing fieldwork while four will begin fieldwork in 2018.

“Now that the facts are pointing otherwise, to a consolidation of the program, it should also not be surprising that he has decided to fabricate his own facts.

Should the university allow him to spread these falsehoods in the public domain with impunity, hoping to bring on the collapse he has all along predicted gleefully?” Prof. Mamdani asked.

This is not the first time Prof. Mamdani’s management style is being questioned at MISR. In April last year, Prof. Mamdani clashed with Dr. Stella Nyanzi, a research fellow at MISR.

It all started after Prof. Mamdani asked Nyanzi to vacate her office at MISR following her refusal to teach under the PhD program yet it was one of the grounds under, which she was confirmed in the university service to the post of Research Fellow.

Mamdani also blamed Nyanzi for not participating in any of the related MISR research programme and asked her to vacate the office and use the MISR library for any activities that she is involved in.

Nyanzi wouldn’t have any of this. She staged a nude protest at the institute defaced walls, vandalized property and hurled insults at the MISR leadership to expose the rot at MISR and show disgust against Prof Mamdani’s autocratic management style leading to her suspension.