December 22, 2021

Day

Dr. Bulyaba wins USD 69,630 grant from The World Academy of Sciences

Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba, Head of the Department of Natural Resource Economics and Agribusiness, has won a grant, worth USD 69,630, from The World Academy of Sciences. The grant, focusing on Exploiting the potential of cowpeas for vegetable use in Uganda, will run for two years.

Specific objectives of the study:

  • Evaluate genotypic and phenotypic variation for leafy vegetable attributes in cowpea genotypes
  • Assess consumer preferences of promising cowpea lines (post-harvest storage quality, nutritional, taste & leafy morphological traits)
  • Build capacity at masters level in cowpea crop improvement

Relevance of the proposed research project to the institution and country

In Uganda, 28.9% of children below 5 years are stunted. About 3.6% of children suffer from moderate acute malnutrition, while 1.3% have severe acute malnutrition (Adebisi et al., 2019). Additionally, 28.5% of women aged 15 to 49 years continue to be affected by chronic anemia.

Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba is the Head of Department of Natural Resource Economics and Agribusiness at UCU.

The high protein, amino acid, carbohydrate, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber or expected phytochemical content of cowpea make the crop an important nutritious food in the human diet. Increasing its production and availability through crop improvement is one step towards eradicating food and nutritional insecurity among those vulnerable groups.

This research project funded by The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) on cowpea will also build the capacity in cowpea production and cowpea improvement for farmers in Uganda as a whole. This is in addition to supporting and empowering 2 female MS students at Uganda Christian University in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.

Overall, through the research project, the researcher(s) hope to develop the cowpea leafy vegetable value chain while aligning it with the needs of local populations to ensure that there is sustainable access to nutrient-dense and affordable food crops that are also well suited and adapted to their local environments in Uganda.

UCU grad’s childhood mockery drives passion for human rights

By Patty Huston-Holm
Be careful little eyes what you see…ears what you hear…tongue what you say…hands what you do…

This children’s song based on Mark 4:24-25, popular in America today and written in 1956, likely wasn’t known in Uganda when Johnson Mayamba was growing up. Nevertheless, the words ring true for the now 33-year-old who was abandoned by a father who had eight children by four women, was chased away by relatives unwilling to help a single mom feed a hungry boy and was mocked for his ignorance by teachers and classmates in school.

The most stinging memory was planted by a science teacher at a primary school in Abaita Ababiri village near Entebbe. She publicly shamed Mayamba. When he didn’t have the correct answer to a question, she mocked him with words and laughter and allowed students to do the same. After one exam he failed with a 50%, the teacher brought out a cane to issue 50 strikes to the 12-year-old’s buttocks and thighs – one for each missed point.  The teacher stopped somewhere after 40 because the boy was flattened out and unable to take more.

“I wasn’t stupid,” Mayamba said. “I was simply in a new environment, having been transferred from a poorly facilitated village school to the one in the city.”

Unbeknownst at the time, Mayamba’s “little” eyes, ears, and body encounter that the teacher used that day to remind him he wasn’t good enough were molding his future as an advocate against mistreatment. Today, he understands it, researches it, writes about it and teaches it.

Mayamba volunteering at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Arizona
Mayamba volunteering at St. Mary’s Food Bank in Arizona

With a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication from Uganda Christian University (UCU) and experience as a journalist, he moved on to get a Master of Philosophy in Human Rights and Democratization in Africa from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He’s affiliated with the Canadian-based Journalists for Human Rights organization with a role of helping 20 Ugandan members of the press to be voices for unrepresented people. These include print and broadcast human rights stories related to the economically poor, the mentally and physically handicapped and others.

While mentoring Ugandan journalists, Mayamba continues his own learning as a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University, USA. He was among just over 200 who applied for the fellowship from Uganda and was the only Ugandan chosen for the 10-month journalism-focused program that ends in June 2022.

“I never thought I would come to the United States,” he said, speaking from his dormitory room in Phoenix, Ariz. “All the glory goes to God.”

Mayamba had a strong upbringing in the Catholic church, but says his relationship with God strengthened while he studied at UCU. In his studies, as well as engagement in the UCU chapel choir and as a guild and public debate leader, he realized that with God, obstacles and accomplishments have meaning.

“When you give 100% to God and trust Him, you can overcome,” he said.

Human rights advocacy and Christianity blend together well, especially guided by the Matthew 7:12 “do unto others” scripture, according to Mayamba. As a working journalist, he often prayed with and for those he interviewed for stories. For the journalists he mentors now, he suggests the same along with the urging to be sensitive when writing about people subjected to discrimination. He also cautions reporters about their own safety when covering topics that have opposition from government officials, high-profile opinion leaders and even media houses themselves.

“Have the facts,” he said. “That’s the best protection to mitigate risk.”

At 9,000 miles away from his home in Uganda and on the day of this interview in December 2021, Mayamba is in the state of Arizona, closely watching another timely human rights issue – the coronavirus pandemic. He recently published a paper entitled “Low Supply and Public Mistrust Hinder Covid-19 Vaccine Rollout in Africa.” He writes that in November 2021, only 4% of the world’s vaccinated people live in developing countries like Uganda.

“Developed countries that aren’t sharing enough of the vaccine are partially to blame,” Mayamba said. “Misinformation or lack of information breeding distrust by media in all countries bears the rest of the responsibility.”

Social media and traditional media are accountable for honest storytelling, Mayamba says. His master’s research focused on media freedom, specifically in Uganda. Reporters Without Borders ranks Uganda among the lowest in the world when it comes to press freedom. While Uganda’s constitution guarantees freedom of expression with “on paper” protection of human rights, there are radio, TV and print limitations and restrictions related to reporting on certain topics and persons, according to Mayamba’s experience and research.

While the United States press is freer and human rights more respected than in Uganda, “it’s not as rosy here as I thought,” he said. “In this land of the free, there needs to be more and louder voices for homeless people, immigrants. . . and on racial injustice and gun violence.”

From his dorm room window in Phoenix, Mayamba daily observes nearly two dozen homeless people living on a square of land. During a visit to New York City and looking past the amazing buildings, he saw men and women living in parks and on the streets. In his brief time in Washington, D.C., he observed first-hand the massive police response and multiple phone video recordings of the arrest of a black man accused of stealing a small item from a store. He watches, hears and reads the news about arrests, trials and confusion about wrongful deaths on American soil and about Mexican families camped at the USA border in hopes of obtaining asylum from terrorism in their country.

“Telling these stories honestly and fairly is the role of a journalist,” he said. “Human rights stories are lacking everywhere.”

One such story he hopes to learn more about is that of a middle-aged white man living under the stars outside his residence in Arizona. In the midst of book studies, computer research, and service projects, such as preparing food in boxes for people like this man, he wants to “learn his story and tell him mine.” So far, the man appears educated but without a home because he lost his job.

Looking ahead to his life a decade from now, Mayamba doesn’t see himself reporting the news in a country such as his, where the pay is too low to support a family. But he does see himself continuing to train others to “amplify the voices” of those less represented and understood in his native Uganda. In three years, he hopes to embark on his Ph.D. studies and be teaching journalism with an emphasis of human rights reporting.

For now, he’s navigating the American culture that includes daily converting temperatures in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius and distances in miles vs. kilometers. He appreciates a winter in the warmth of Arizona instead of living in a state with cold and snow. He soaks up knowledge in a school named after Walter Cronkite, a late veteran broadcaster that he never knew. He learns alongside 13 other journalists from 13 countries, including South Korea, Russia, Hungary, and Palestine.

He thinks about his mother who died of cervical cancer in September 2014, leaving behind her two sons – Johnson Mayamba and the younger Titus Bulega – as a legacy. He also thinks about that childhood teacher who meted that early punishment that was illegal then but exists still and about the mocking classmates.

“At the end of the day, I moved ahead of them,” he said. “And I learned to stand up for myself and for others.”

(The author of this article, Patty Huston-Holm, who is the Uganda Partners communications director, first met Johnson Mayamba when he was an intern at the UCU Standard newspaper in 2013. Among stories they worked on together at that time were the suicide of a student and conditions at a women’s prison in Jinja, Uganda.)

Siyasa applies learning for Partners organization

By Nickie Karitas
Recent Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduate Jimmy Siyasa didn’t wait to have a degree in hand before applying what he learned in his journalism program. And it has paid off – in experience and money to support his next level of master’s degree studies. 

On October 22, 2021, Jimmy Siyasa was among the more than 3,000 students who graduated at UCU’s 22nd graduation ceremony. He bagged a Second-Class Upper Division, with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.38 out of 5.0. A First Class starts at 4.40. 

In December 2021, he is enrolled in a UCU post-graduate degree path in Strategic Communication (MA). At the same time, he has been helping the UCU Partners NGO by producing videos and print stories for several months and is a writer in the UCU Office of Communications and Public Relations. He gets stipends for each. 

Before all this, here’s his story. 

Siyasa attended Mbuya Church of Uganda for primary education and St. Kizito SS Bugolobi for O’level. For his A’level, Siyasa attended Bishop Cypriano Kihangire Secondary School. All three schools are in Kampala.

UCU and Partners e-lab communications team member, Jimmy Siyasa, playing guitar in UCU’s Nykoyoyo Hall in 2017.

Jimmy Siyasa never dreamed of studying at UCU. In fact, he knew little about the institution as he thought about studies after high school. In Senior Six, while making choices for courses to study at a university, he opted for the Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Bachelor of Arts in Education, in that order, at Makerere University. 

In 2017, Makerere admitted him for his second choice, the Bachelor of Arts in Education, specializing in English and Literature in English. Siyasa’s father, Robert Waiga, insisted that his son live on campus for added security that an outside hostel wouldn’t provide. Siyasa was admitted to Mitchell Hall where, because of high demand for slots, students were asked to pay accommodation fees for the first semester in advance. 

The lodging payment was the first of the many hurdles for the second born of the three children of Waiga and Celine Ayikoru.  The family did not have the money to secure the slot. This setback caused Siyasa to ask himself whether he really should pursue a course in education, where he did not have much passion anyway.

One of the members of the church band that Siyasa was in suggested he consider applying at UCU. Siyasa did and was offered studies toward the Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication.

“I heard of UCU from my friends at church,” the 24-year-old Siyasa said. “I also discovered that friends from my former school were already there. . . but I feared the expenses associated with private universities in Uganda.” 

University fees in private institutions in Uganda tend to be higher than public institutions, largely because of no funding support from the government.

Now, Siyasa’s younger sister, Peace Asara, is the one trying to ensure that she graduates in the course her brother did not pursue at Makerere University. Asara, who wants to become a teacher of English and Literature in English at an institution of higher learning, is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree at Kyambogo University in Uganda.

As Siyasa was getting ready for his second semester in first year at UCU, Waiga’s contract at his workplace ended, and it was not renewed. That meant one thing – Siyasa had no tuition to continue with his studies. His father advised him to take a “dead semester” as he tried to find more solid financial footing. 

When Siyasa shared his challenges with some friends he had made at UCU, they were against the dead semester. They mobilized funds and paid his tuition. For the second-year first semester, Siyasa’s friend, Rick Kagoro, and his father, Ivan Lumala, met the tuition requirements. The two are based in Washington State, USA. Rick, whose family is acquainted with former UCU Vice-Chancellor, John Senyonyi, had come to Uganda for a visit. He resided at UCU for a while, and at some point visited Jimmy’s class as a Teaching Assistant for a foundational course unit- Elements of Math. 

By the next semester, Waiga (Jimmy’s father) had found financial stability, having been recalled to his former workplace, the U.S Embassy in Iraq. 

Fast forward to December 2021.

“Siyasa is a brilliant, and dependable young man,” Frank Obonyo, UCU’s communications manager, said. “He is a valuable addition to our great team as we can already see his contribution.’’ 

The platform that offered Siyasa the opportunity to cut his professional teeth months ago is the USA-based UCU Partners.

This happened because his lecturer, John Semakula, now head of UCU’s journalism department, asked if he could write an article about dental challenges that students face at UCU. He says that story ushered him into writing for the non-profit’s Web site, an opportunity that helped him turn classroom knowledge into real-life practice.

Stephanie Gloria, who studied with Siyasa, says he has worked his way to the top.

“His hard work and integrity cannot go unnoticed,” Gloria says of Siyasa, adding: “His greatest happiness is not in having everything he wants in life, but in appreciating the little or whatever that is available.” 

In the next five years, Siyasa hopes to have his master’s degree as well as a Ph.D. in a media-related field. At the same time, he is engaged in music. He has some original songs, including this one he has recorded here: (https://soundcloud.com/siyasa-jimmy/workingfromhome)

Former Electoral Commission boss, Bruce, elected LDC Guild President

By Ivan Tsebeni
Boss John Bruce, an alumnus of Uganda Christian University (UCU), has been elected the Guild President of Uganda’s Law Development Centre (LDC). In the elections held on November 8, Bruce garnered 69% of the votes cast, beating off a challenge from Mubarak Kalungi, who polled 31% of the votes.

LDC offers a postgraduate bar course, the Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice, a mandatory course for all lawyers intending to practice law in Uganda. LDC is the only institution that offers such a course in Uganda.

Bruce, a former UCU Guild Electoral Commission chairperson, says that the latest electoral victory is the biggest political milestone in his life. 

During his one-year term of office at LDC, Bruce has promised to set up a hotline that students can use for giving feedback to the body’s management and student leaders. He also hopes to create strategic partnerships and alliances with organizations, to enable LDC to extend its brand reach.

“We are looking forward to utilizing the student leadership structures so that we can receive your concerns and the same will be passed on to the administration in a timely manner,” he told the students during campaigns.

Bruce joins former student colleagues at UCU who have in the recent past achieved victory in elections. Ezra Ambasiize, currently a fourth-year student of Bachelor of Laws at UCU, was recently voted the speaker of the fourth National Youth Parliament of Uganda. Immediate past UCU Guild President Agaba Kenneth Amponda also was recently elected the Speaker of the Uganda National Students Association, an umbrella body of student leaders in the country.

Bruce says the latest electoral victory is the biggest political milestone in his life.
Bruce says the latest electoral victory is the biggest political milestone in his life.

Bruce’s triumph at LDC elicited celebrations at UCU. “The Guild Government, together with the entire students’ community, take this opportunity to congratulate @Bossjohnbruce upon being elected Guild President Law Development Center (K’la Campus). Bruce is a former Guild EC Chairperson,” the UCU guild government tweeted. 

“Congratulations to UCU’s former Guild Chairperson Electoral Commission, Boss John Bruce, for being elected LDC Guild President,” read one of the posts on UCU’s Facebook page.

UCU Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs Dr. John Kitayimbwa said: “As a university, we are blessed to have our alumnus triumph in the LDC elections. Glory back to God.”

At UCU, Bruce will be remembered for overseeing an online voting process, as the university’s elections boss. The e-voting app, code-named e-Chagua, helped UCU, for the first time, in 2020, to change its student leaders even when the university was not fully functioning. Uganda had imposed a lockdown on in-person learning in schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Out of that process, 

Agaba Kenneth Amponda became the university’s new guild president in November 2020. In November 2021, Sserwadda Rachael became the second Guild President of UCU to be voted using the e-Chagua platform.

Bruce was born to Bernard Betambira and Beatrice Ndagano, of Ibanda district in western Uganda. It is in the same region where Bruce had his education before joining UCU in 2016, to pursue a Bachelor of Laws course. 

Business graduate sold charcoal and reared pigs to raise tuition

By Yasiri J. Kasango
A business degree was not Jonathan Mbabazi’s first choice for his post-secondary studies. He had his eyes on medicine, envisioning a career of restoring health to patients.

However, when preparing to apply for the course at Uganda Christian University (UCU) in 2017, Mbabazi discovered that he did not have the financial resources to sustain paying the tuition for the five years he would be studying for the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

He opted for Bachelor of Business Administration, whose tuition was comparatively cheaper and for fewer years. However, even with business courses, the 29-year-old had no stable source of income for the tuition. He established two enterprises – piggery and charcoal-selling – to help pay his bills.

Mbabazi usually had 10-15 pigs, whose piglets he sold at a profit. The married father of two says it was difficult for him to multitask in running his business, looking after his family, and concentrating on classwork. However, he says that God enabled him to surmount the challenge.

On many occasions, he lacked money to buy classwork handouts, something he says many of his classmates found affordable.

The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent education shutdowns in 2020 increased Mbabazi’s worries about school. First, when physical learning was stopped in March 2020, to reduce concentration centers that would accelerate the spread of the coronavirus, Mbabazi resigned to fate, thinking he would not graduate on schedule. He also started making plans for how to get more money to cater for a longer stay in the course.

However, UCU quickly introduced online learning, to ensure studies were not interrupted.

“I thank God that UCU continued teaching during the lockdown. We managed to do coursework and also write our exams through the online platforms,” says Mbabazi, who studied at the Kabalega College Masindi, one of the affiliate institutions of UCU, located in western Uganda.

However, he says online learning, though convenient for the circumstances, also offered a fair share of challenges.

“It was tough because one had to do a lot of research on their own, but I managed to complete my final semester,” he adds. Mbabazi was able to graduate on October 22, 2021, with a First-Class Degree.

He says he could not have had a better choice of an institution for his undergraduate studies. At UCU, Mbabazi says, Christian faith is extended to students through certain course units, such as World View, New and Old Testament. He believes this has enabled him to become more grounded in his spiritual life. 

With the knowledge he has gained at UCU, Mbabazi intends to expand his business enterprises, and even establish more, in order to be able to provide employment to some youth in his community.

Background
Mbabazi is the third born of 11 children. His parents – Moses Byaruhanga and Jackline Kugonza –  live in Buliisa, western Uganda.

Before he joined UCU, Mbabazi pursued a diploma in business, specializing in accounting, from Uganda College of Commerce, where he, again, excelled with a First Class Diploma.

He attended Kibengeya Primary School from 1999 to 2005 and then Mukitale Development Foundation Secondary School from 2006-2009 for O’level. For A’level, Mbabazi attended Premier Secondary School Hoima from 2010 to 2011. All the schools are found in western Uganda.

Mbabazi is married to Charity Jovia Kobusingye, with whom he has two daughters – Smiles and Shanice.