MasterCard Foundation has directed Makerere University to halt the admission of students on its scholarship programme for the academic year 2018/19 due to sexual harassment reports at the institution.
The foundation set out to offer scholarships to 1,000 academically bright but economically disadvantaged youth to study at Makerere University through a USD 20 million project partnership running from 2013 to 2023.
But sources told this publication that the foundation has asked the university to furnish them with a report on why sexual harassment cases continue to surface within in the university and what they are doing to eradicate the vice.
The source added that Makerere University Vice-Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe is working on the report and is already in talks with MasterCard Foundation officials to reinstate the programme. Prof Nawangwe was unavailable for a comment.
However, the University as issued a notice informing the general public that the recruitment of students to MasterCard Foundation Scholars’ Program for Academic Year 2018/2019 has been suspended until further notice. In the same notice, the university asked the general public to disregard the scholarship announcements that had been made earlier.
But Makerere University Spokesperson, Rita Namisango downplayed reports that the MasterCard had directed the university to halt admissions over sexual harassment. Instead, Namisango said the programme is being reviewed in line with terms of the agreement.
“In the agreement signed between both parties Makerere University and MasterCard Foundation, it was agreed that both parties would conduct a midterm review when the number of scholars reaches 500,” she said. “Currently 500 Scholars are enrolled, which then necessitated a mid-term Review before the advert for the next intake is published,” she said.
The suspension of the programme comes in the wake of various sexual harassment reports at the university. On April 17, 2018, the university suspended a senior administrator, Edward Kisuze over allegations that he attempted to rape a former student who had gone to pick her academic papers.
The university in March this year also suspended an academic staff Professor Swizen Kyomuhendo, a lecturer at the Social Works and Social Sciences faculty (SWASA) over sexual harassment allegations.
The suspension does not affect 500 students who have already been recruited in previous academic years.
This is the second time that the MasterCard Foundation scholarship is being suspended at Makerere University. In 2015, it was suspended after university officials flouted guidelines on governance, financial oversight, staffing, programme planning and implementation.
The programme was reinstated after the then Chancellor Prof Mondo Kagonyera and Prime Minister Dr Rugunda wrote and talked to MasterCard Foundation President and CEO Reeta Roy, chief finance officer Peggy Woo, and Kim Kerr, MCF’s deputy director of education and learning.
After its reinstatement, Kagonyera warned, “Moving forward, things have to be done differently…I pleaded for a second chance and pledged to the government of Uganda and MasterCard Foundation that I will be personally responsible if anything goes wrong, but I would like to insist that there be no reason for anything to go wrong.” But things have gone wrong again.