First Lady Janet Museveni warns Makerere University on strikes

First Lady Janet Museveni warns Makerere University on strikes
First lady Janet Museveni (C) with Makerere University Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe

The Education and Sports minister, Janet Kataaha Museveni has cautioned the Makerere University community against resorting to strikes as a means of expressing their grievances.

Janet was officiating at the 2018 Makerere University Annual Research and Innovations Planning Meeting held in the Makerere Main Hall on Monday. The event was organized to discuss and appraise the research undertakings, learning and information sharing about developments in the field of research, technology and innovation.

Referring to the recent students’ strike against fees increment, Janet said strikes and students unrest jeopardises government programs and those of development partners such as the Mak-Sida research partnership.

“I wish to appeal to the management, the academic and the non-academic staff, students of Makerere University, and indeed all the other public universities, not to jeopardise this kind of support from government and our partners through disruptive activities in form of standoffs such as the ones we have witnessed in the recent past. I believe, that the institutions of high learning, will try to set the best examples and highest standards thereof of good governance and conflict management and resolution through dialogue,”she said.

She appealed to the students to cooperate with the university management to ensure that public universities are run in a peaceful environment to enable research projects take off. She also asked higher education institutions to devise peaceful means of resolving conflicts.

“You should translate the theory taught at these institutions to practice, and, entrench the culture of peaceful resolutions of disagreements and conflicts some of which may arise either out of lack of or distortions of information or mere response selections.” she added.

She commended the Mak-Sida research partnership, saying “Research is the only avenue for the production of the high caliber of the human resource for knowledge through research and experimentation leading to creation and adaption of innovation. Research institutions support knowledge driven economic growth strategies and poverty reduction by generating new knowledge.”

Adding: “The current progress in agriculture, health, and environmental sectors, science engineering and technology is heavily dependent on the application of such research results and innovations at Universities. The government of Uganda therefore we are grateful to the royal government of Sweden for the generous support towards the advancement of research and innovations in institutions of higher learning.”

She pledged government’s continued support to initiatives aimed at promoting research and innovations. “That support will continue growing as years go by and certainly we hope that it won’t be long until the government of Uganda can actually take on research completely,” the first lady said.

Janet said government was committed to financing research and innovation and asked the universities to be transparent enough while using these resources in order to be able to have an impact.

“I appeal to you to continue being transparent in advancing the cause of the Makerere-Sweden collaborative research programme. The government of Uganda shall be waiting for positive reports on the progress of this research collaboration,” said Janet. Adding, “The strength of any university is measured from its contribution to finding remedies to its societal problems and frankly, Research and development activities have great influence on the policies of Uganda as a whole.”

Speaking at the same convention, Prof Buyinza Mukadasi, the director, Directorate of Research and Graduate Training at Makerere, said the university has benefited through the collaboration through human resource development, ICT support, library resources.

“In the current cooperation agreement alone, with a total grant of about 275 million SEK [about Shs 119 billion], we have been able to support 17 research teams from the Uganda public universities to improve the environment for research and training,” said Prof Buyinza. Adding that “the current agreement supports 125 PhD students, 147 Masters students, and 65 post-doc-fellows divided between the five public universities.”

Research endeavors funded by Sweden have contributed to policy formulation at various levels including; The energy policy for Uganda; the policy on use of energy saving bulbs, land amendment bill, and various health policies in health such as on HIV/Aids, malaria, TB treatment and control among others.

Despite the successes, Prof Buyinza said universities continue to face several challenges, particularly lack of adequate financing; “it is evident that there is a comparatively low level of support for basic research and as a result the research-industrial-economic growth nexus is being impeded if not compromised.”

Vice chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, said the Sida bilateral research programme is credited for the transformation of Makerere University colleges in terms of supporting staff development, which he says has transformed the academic landscape.

“Practically, every college at Makerere University has benefited from Sida bilateral research programme. Out of the 716 PhD holders at Makerere University, 226 have been trained under this programme and almost all of them including the director graduate training have been promoted to higher academic ranks,” Prof Nawangwe said.

This research convention offers a platform for multi-disciplinary knowledge exchange between researchers in Uganda and Sweden. The Makerere-Sweden bilateral research cooperation was initiated in 2000 and has expanded to Kyambogo, Busitema, Gulu universities and Mbarara University of Science and Technology.

The Swedish government has invested USD $100million into Uganda’s graduate training and scientific research over the last 17 years championed by Makerere University.

The event was attended by the Ambassador of Sweden to Uganda HE Per Landgarde, Dr Gity Behvaran, the first secretary and senior research advisor at the embassy of Sweden in Uganda, ministry of Education and Sports officials plus other public universities.