October 11, 2021

Day

UCU School of Dentistry receives donations of medical equipment

UCU School of Dentistry (SoD) has received a donation of 30 pieces of dentistry equipment, namely dental articulators, from Pan Dental Surgery, a Dental care facility based Naguru, Kampala.

These were received by Dr. James Magara, the Dean UCU SoD, during a handover meeting, at the campus’ boardroom, on Wednesday, October 06, 2021. He said the donations are handy and were much-needed donation by the institution. “This will go a long way in helping us train upcoming dentists. Our first year is just beginning, so this comes at a very good time,” he said. Dental articulators are devices that artificially reproduce the motion of the upper jaw and lower jaw of a patient.

Dr. Tom Mutyabule, the Chief Executive Officer of Pan Dental Surgery, thinks very highly of the UCU SoD and hopes that reception of the articulators sets a good foundation for a potential partnership between the two institutions.

Dr. Tom makes a demonstration of the unique operation of the dental articulators.

“The UCU School of Dentistry is very impressive. It has a nice layout. You have committed staff and brand new equipment,” he said. So, I hope our donation will also go a long way in making your life much easier,” he says.

Dr. Mutyabule also expressed interest in scoring a partnership with UCU SoD. “I hope it will be the beginning of a partnership with the UCU Dental institution,” he said.

UCU SoD joins a string of Dentistry institutions allover Uganda, to which Pan Dental Surgery has been making like donations, including: Makerere University, Masaka Dental Institution, etc.

Dr. Magara acknowledges receipt of the donations.

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Ramp up online learning to avoid career stoppage, unemployment, forced marriages

By Eriah Lule
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Vice Chancellor has asked government and schools to follow the online learning path that his institution has taken in order to reduce effects of covid-related lockdowns on studies. As of late September 2021, Uganda has had two lockdowns occasioned by a spike in the coronavirus positivity rate in the country. Each lockdown has included the shutting of in-person learning in schools.

UCU Vice Chancellor Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi is urging institutions to consider a rigorous shift towards online distance learning and service delivery so that future lockdowns do not affect operations and learning.

“We have invested in infrastructure of electronic learning and have something to share with other institutions,” he said, adding that such a move will not only keep students from lagging behind because of the pandemic but also enable them to continue studying on their own time.

With Uganda’s second 2021 lockdown in June, many institutions of higher learning, as well as elementary schools remain closed. Only a handful, including UCU, have continued with classes, through electronic means.

Last year, the government shut down schools in March and only opened for in-person learning for final-year learners seven months later. It was not until March this year that schools were opened for in-person learning, only to be closed again three months later.

Mushengyezi emphasized UCU’s commitment to “pioneer in innovation and learning with community outreach.”

He spoke during a recent virtual dialogue to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on academic institutions. The virtual event was held at UCU’s Principals Hall on the main campus in Mukono.

The dialogue, which brought together national and international organizations, was organised by the UCU Alumni Association together with the university’s Student Guild and in partnership with external organizations. The European Union (EU), Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development and ActionAid were among the organisations that participated in the event.

Online dialogues are part of the activities that the UCU alumni association is embarking on as part of its community engagement activities.

One of the panelists in the dialogue, Rose Namayanja, a former Ugandan minister and the current deputy secretary general of the ruling National Resistance Movement party, said many students have dropped out of school as a result of the lockdown. She said the Government was working at developing sustainable digital learning structures for schools in the country.

Rose Namayanja, a former Ugandan minister and the current deputy secretary general of the ruling National Resistance Movement party, speaks during the dialogue session.
Rose Namayanja, a former Ugandan minister and the current deputy secretary general of the ruling National Resistance Movement party, speaks during the dialogue session.

“Many students have resorted to hawking, others have succumbed to forced marriages and teenage pregnancies, due to the lack of digital structures to keep them studying during lockdowns,” Namayanja noted.

The UCU Alumni Association General Secretary, Julius Oboth, urged government to provide soft loans to schools so they can make plans to re-open. He also rooted for tax holidays for all private education institutions, calling on government never to close schools again because such a move “cripples the education sector.”

Ezra Byakutangaza, the president of the student leaders in Uganda, urged government to initiate loan schemes to enable students to purchase learning tools such as laptops, which are needed in online learning. This, Byakutangaza said, would ease the burden on schools that are unable to afford computers for every student.

Elizabeth Ongom, a representative from the European Union in Uganda, said the EU is in the process of drafting projects that will inspire innovative practices for the education sector not only in Uganda, but the whole of Africa.

In order to keep children in school, Naiga Shuburah Kasozi, a representative from Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development, called for concerted efforts from all stakeholders.

“It’s not only the Government, but everyone’s responsibility to keep children in school,” she  said. “So we should de-campaign actions that push our children out of school as the Government is finds a better plan for them to study.’

UCU Guild President Agaba Kenneth Amponda reminded people participating in the dialogue that a conversation about schools without factoring in the other people who benefit from its operation was an incomplete discussion. He argued that by opening schools, security personnel, chefs in catering departments, cleaners, and other people who provide support services in schools will also be able to find employment.

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UCU Chaplain: God helped me defeat Covid-19

With the negative stigma attached to testing positive for Covid-19 in Uganda, it takes courage to confess publicly that one has contracted the virus. Despite the wrongfully imposed shame, some Ugandans are courageous enough to tell their experience, reminding others with Covid to have hope and encourage all to follow Covid safety guidelines.  The Rev. Eng Paul Wasswa Ssembiro, the Chaplain of Uganda Christian University (UCU), is one such courageous person. Ssembiro contracted Covid in November 2020. He narrates to Eriah Lule his ordeal with the virus and how God helped him overcome it.

By Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro as told to Eriah Lule
I don’t know how Dr. Geoffrey Mulindwa (UCU’s Director of Medical Services) referred to me, but I am sure I was “Covid-19 Patient 001.” I don’t have a clue of where or when I contracted the virus. But I got it. 

I began to be conscious about some sort of infection when I started feeling general body weakness and pain in the joints. The joint pain was unusual because I used to jog every day, to beat off fatigue. The symptoms were akin to those I got whenever I suffered from malaria. On this Saturday, I discovered that I had developed a dry cough. I was uneasy because I had to lead the church service the following day. So, I sought immediate medical attention at the Allan Galpin Health Center, the university clinic.

Eng. Rev. Paul Wasswa preaches during community worship in Nkoyoyo Hall.
Eng. Rev. Paul Wasswa preaches during community worship in Nkoyoyo Hall.

I had a throbbing headache, which seemed to be localized just slightly above my ears. I took painkillers and even took too many at some point and out of despair. But, to no avail. I must confess that I struggled with denial and self- pity, saying to myself “I can’t be infected.” Soon, I reached out to Dr. Mulindwa, who gave me a referral to Mengo Hospital, an Anglican Church-founded hospital in Kampala. Mengo. It is affiliated with UCU.

When I got to the hospital, I met a doctor whose team noticed my agony. They administered a diclofenac (anti-inflammatory drug) injection that relieved my pain a bit. Several medical tests ensued: Lung scanning, heart-echo tests, blood count tests and finally, a test that I dreaded the most – the Covid-19 PCR test.

I was admitted to the hospital and immediately given intravenous injections for pneumonia, and pain killers. When the Covid results returned, the doctor told me I could not go home. They had confirmed I was positive for coronavirus.  

They told me my lungs were in a crucial state. They sent doctors to counsel me, because the hospital did not have the facility for treatment of Covid-19 patients. My spirits sunk. I was distraught. 

I was referred to Mulago National Referral Hospital. Anxiety caused me to unduly feel stigmatized in the process because I seemed like a problem Mengo was trying to rid itself of as soon as possible. But, thankfully, God gave strength to my wife who stood firmly in faith, for me, that all would be well. 

Eng Rev. Paul Wasswa preaches at a seminar
Eng Rev. Paul Wasswa preaches at a seminar

Before admission at Mulago, I was sprayed with chlorine that soaked my clothes. The experience was irritating and traumatizing. It was an uncomfortable and painful wait of nearly two hours, before I was taken to my admission room. Eagerly awaiting a bath, having spent 24 hours without one, I was alarmed there wasn’t any I could have.

But God granted me divine favor. It was a Friday morning. A nurse walked in to check on patients who had been admitted the previous evening. She was a UCU alumna. She knew me. God used her to get me to a better ward, where I got a private room, with certain privileges such as accessing fruits to make juice and immunity-boosting concoctions from lemon and ginger, among other foods.

I also met a young man, also a patient, but in a better state than I was. He had known me as clergy from the church conventions I attended. “Pastor, you are my responsibility now,” he told me, with a smile. He started bringing me salads and hot water, until the day he was discharged. However, before he left, he asked colleagues at the hospital to take care of my meals and make sure I was comfortable. 

The healing hand of the Lord was with me; my body responded well to medication. Six days after admission, when the Director of Mulago Hospital was moving around the ward, he entered my room. When he saw me, he said: “You are not supposed to be here. There are worse cases than you are. We should be discharging you soon.” 

This was good news, to me, from a person who had a bigger picture of the virus. My fellow patients would later tell me I looked better than when I was admitted into the facility. I began doing mild physical exercises. My breath was improving. Finally, on the December 4, 2020, I was discharged.

While I still battle with side effects, such as high blood pressure, occasionally, I bless the Lord for healing me. Of course, my Christian ministry was disrupted; plans got sabotaged. Matter of fact, the whole chaplaincy office was closed to control the spread of the virus, as well as my leadership responsibilities quelled. But, we still bless God for His faithfulness.

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UCU student credits God for family’s Covid recovery

By Nickie Karitas

On June 10, 2021, when Jim Patrick Wasswa arrived at the northern Uganda district of Yumbe to start his university internship, he had many ushers. In addition to the officials with the Uganda National Roads Authority who brought him to the work experience, Covid-19 was on hand to welcome him.

Being diagnosed with the virus came as a shock to Wasswa. But he had a shock absorber – his mother, who is medical worker with a hand up on health needs. Wasswa quickly made arrangements to return to his home in Kampala, more than 300 miles away.

When he gathered the courage to inform his parents about the new development in his life, he was in for another shock. They, too, had been diagnosed with Covid-19.

“All my life, I had been the strong one holding other people in tough times, but with Covid-19, I felt defeated,” recounts Wasswa, a fourth-year student studying for his Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Uganda Christian University (UCU).

With an internship curtailed, Wasswa found his once joyous home was charged with tension and an awkward silence. For once, he understood the meaning of seeing no light at the end of the tunnel as he saw his life, his family’s and all his dreams crushing.

Wasswa (right) with his mother and siblings
Wasswa (right) with his mother and siblings

Around that time, Uganda had just declared a second lockdown due to an increase in the number of infections and deaths. At the time the government declared the lockdown, the Covid-19 positivity rate in the country was 17%.

As all this was happening, Wasswa sought solace in the Bible, specifically Romans 8:28. “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

That is where he drew the energy to carry on. He regained strength not because he was feeling any better but because his emotional attention was diverted to his parents’ situation. 

At the time, some of his friends were losing their parents to the pandemic, a rude reminder that erased Wasswa’s audacity to assume that everything would be alright. For his case, some of the stop-gap measures he came up with were to try as much as possible not to sleep at night, for fear of not waking up. Sometimes, he succeeded; other times, he crumbled upon the sleep debt that he had.

The memories of the first night his father was rushed to hospital are still fresh in Wasswa’s mind.  

“That was the darkest night of my life,” Wasswa said. “As the car sped off, my thoughts ran to my four-year-old brother. I could see the life of my father, the pillar of the family, going down. I could hardly believe what was going on.”

Social media was another source of misery for Wasswa. Each time he logged in, he met news of people who had succumbed to the pandemic. He shut himself off social media as he worked to recover.

When his twin sister, Angella Nakato, succeeded in convincing him to join her for a daily jogging routine, it marked the turning point in his life. Wasswa says he started feeling much better and more energetic.

Allan Otim, a friend of Wasswa, helped with the psychological aspects of Covid-19. He offered the emotional support that he felt Wasswa needed by constantly keeping in touch with him. 

Wasswa’s other friend and course mate, Cedric Mutayisa, says although many people were succumbing to coronavirus, more were recovering and he believed it was just a matter of time before Wasswa recovered. 

“I often called him to cheer him up,” Cedric said. “Sometimes, all he needed was courage.”

Wasswa, who was never hospitalized, credits the recovery of himself and his parents to God for taking over the battles he surrendered to Him. Wasswa recovered towards the end of June and for his parents, their recovery was a month later. His father’s bout with the virus was most dire, requiring his hospitalization until recovery, while his mother spent two weeks in hospital. 

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Ugandan study experience enriches American nurse

In September 2021, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, welcomes a new staff member with Ugandan experience. Lauren Elaine Nagy, hired to be a nurse in the Pediatric Inpatient Rehab Unit, was part of the Uganda Studies Program (USP) at Uganda Christian University in 2018. 

Nagy’s employment follows her May 2021 graduation with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Messiah College in Pennsylvania and certification as a Registered Nurse.  She most recently was a health care provider at a Christian summer camp, Woodcrest Retreat.

Lauren and her family shortly after her graduation. Courtesy photo
Lauren and her family shortly after her graduation. Courtesy photo

Two years before the Covid-19 pandemic, Nagy traveled more than 7,000 miles away from her home as part of the American students who went to UCU for a four-month study abroad program. The trip was under the USP, a two-decades-old program that earlier this year shifted from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to under the administrative umbrella of the non-profit, UCU Partners, headquartered in Pennsylvania.

While at UCU, Lauren and other USP colleagues were part of the Global Health Emphasis (GHE). GHE provides an opportunity for students pursuing biomedical and public health-related disciplines to complete global health coursework and international field internship in Uganda. 

Lauren Elaine Nagy. Courtesy photo
Lauren Elaine Nagy. Courtesy photo

The USP affords international students an education within an African context. In addition to studies on the UCU Mukono campus, students get a chance to make trips to different parts of Uganda, visit the Equator and sometimes have a 10-day excursion to Rwanda. Some of the students live in the student dormitories on campus, while others are attached to host families.

For Nagy, nothing about UCU stands out more than the institution’s “commitment to integrating faith into all aspects of education.” She says it “created an atmosphere that pushed me to grow in my faith in more ways than I could have expected.” 

While on homestay, Nagy lived with a Ugandan family about five minutes away from the university campus. Her camaraderie quickly acclimatized her to the Ugandan culture of the family of Robert Kibirango and Esther Nakato. In fact, she takes pride in the name Nakiryowa (Luganda word for a type of tree) that the family bestowed on her. 

She has fond memories of the days she was involved in domestic work that included a unique way of peeling bananas. Clearly, the trip to Uganda gave her another family in addition to her biological one in Pennsylvania. Nagy is the daughter of Daniel Alan Nagy and Karen Lynn Nagy. 

“We spent time wandering through fields, exploring plants and anthills, feeding the new calf, picking fresh beans from the garden, and cooking dinner together. It was a beautifully simple time with my family,” she recalls, saying she has continued to keep in touch with the family of Kibirango.

Nagy highly recommends that American university students consider the UCU experience.  

“As many people as possible should experience the transformational growth that I did,” Nagy, who attended Chippewa High School in Doylestown, said.

She lauds UCU for the fusion of faith and books in the grooming of nurses because it enables them to dispense care, compassion and comfort. The culture of faith at UCU seemed to rhyme with Nagy’s sole goal in life – living in the center of God’s will for my life and glorifying Him to the fullest.

“It makes me happy to know that such an excellent school as UCU is producing hard-working, highly capable, Christian health care providers to send out into the communities and serve people as the hands and feet of Christ.”  

Lauren Nagy

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UCU Sunday collections to finance building of ordinands’ apartments

By Dalton Mujuni
There has been a silent challenge among a unique section of Uganda Christian University (UCU) students. And, perhaps, if the university management had not mentioned it, not many people would have known.

While preaching during a service on September 26, 2021, UCU Vice Chancellor Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi said some of the ordinands (person training to be part of clergy) who are at the institution are married and would wish that their spouses could visit them during weekends. However, that is not possible since they reside with other students. 

At the virtual service celebrated at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala to mark UCU Sunday, Mushengyezi mentioned a solution. The university intends to set up an apartment section for the ordinands and the clergy who will be resident students at the institution. 

In fact, Mushengyezi said sh400m (about $113,000) had already been secured for the project that is estimated to cost sh1.5b (about $424,000). 

In 2017, the Church of Uganda designated the last Sunday of September as a UCU Sunday in its province. Every Anglican church is expected to make financial collections on the UCU Sunday, to help in the running of the Church-founded institution.

Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi delivers sermon during the UCU Sunday service at Namirembe.
Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi delivers sermon during the UCU Sunday service at Namirembe.

According to the Church, on this Sunday, “each and every congregation in the whole province will receive a representative of Uganda Christian University who will be given time to speak about the university. Congregations will be given time and opportunity for prayer and financial support to the university.”

Mushengyezi noted that the ordinands need a supportive environment while transitioning into professional evangelists. 

Premising his call to the church to support the project on Nehemiah’s story of building the walls of Jerusalem, under the theme, “Arise, let us build the walls,” (Nehemiah: 2:18) the Vice Chancellor challenged Christians to contribute anything they can, to build on the foundation of Christ Jesus.  Collections during this year’s UCU Sunday will go towards Mushengyezi’s call.

The apartment complex is expected to house over 50 student clergy and ordinands. 

At the same event, the Vice Chancellor pledged to improve the university’s relationship with the Church. He said the university intends to hand over a van to the Church relations office to enable its staff to reach out to churches located upcountry. 

The Rev. Capt. Can. Titus Barrack, while leading the virtual service, shared his memory of university life at UCU, characterized by “inconvenience,” saying he and others studying to be priests often listened to worldly music within their places of residence. He implored the audience to rally behind the cause.

The 2020 UCU Sunday was greatly hampered by the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on churches in Uganda. The implication of churches operating virtually meant that the church collections reduced significantly, hence little to no return to UCU. However, in 2018, UCU collections amounting to sh300m were injected into building the infrastructure at the UCU School of Medicine in Mengo, Kampala. 

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