May 10, 2022


Uganda’s only university podcast – More cutting-edge at UCU

By Patty Huston-Holm
Andrew Bugembe’s early experience with audio journalism involved walking outside the Uganda Christian University (UCU) gate and, with his phone, recording what random people along a dusty street thought about topical sports issues. He, thereafter, walked back on the Mukono campus and shared his “African English” recordings with five friends who used this information raw or as background for stories in UCU’s student newspaper, The Standard

“I wasn’t good at writing; I wasn’t good at sports,” Andrew, who hails from Mityana in central Uganda, admitted. “The credit I got for this work was ‘thank you,’ and that was enough. God puts you where He can use you.” 

Sitting on a black, wrought-iron bench between the newspaper and communications offices in the third month since post-Covid, in-person learning resumed, the final-year student in UCU’s School of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMC) shared his comfort and enjoyment of being behind the scenes.

Thus, as UCU launched in January 2022 its first podcast – the only university podcast in Uganda – Andrew was the guy splicing the audio and monitoring the analytics of who was listening and from what devices. 

“It was exciting,” he said during a March 2022 discussion. “I didn’t even know the word ‘podcast’ until I was tapped to be a part of it last year.” 

The UCU podcast training for a small group of students began through David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester, Ohio, USA, in June 2021.  Students used the church’s podcast platform to conduct interviews on topics such as Black Lives MatterHate SpeechStreet Preaching and Fake Pastors.  

Geoffrey Ssenoga, UCU podcast supervisor, with a UCU original podcast team member, Christiana Ampeire, talking outside the student newspaper office
Geoffrey Ssenoga, UCU podcast supervisor, with a UCU original podcast team member, Christiana Ampeire, talking outside the student newspaper office

Under the supervision of veteran broadcaster and UCU lecturer, Geoffrey Ssenoga, and with support by the School of JMC head of undergraduate studies, John Semakula, UCU started its own podcast

By early April, students had recorded and produced 17 podcasts under the umbrella of the new on-line Standard newspaper with the theme “Lighting our Way.”  With a combination of fun (male-female differences, etc.) and serious (Ankrah Foundation, etc.) topics, the initial  target audience is students. 

“Students are always excited about new ways of applying their knowledge and skill,” said Geoffrey, a lifelong journalist with most of  his work in television. “We were teaching radio, but during the Covid shutdown, the practical application of that was mostly non-existent. Podcast recordings via Zoom allowed students to learn this form of media while practicing coronavirus safety protocols.”

As the School of JMC revises its curriculum for the Council of Higher Education, podcasting – the fastest-growing media channel with two million globally – is included. 

Stephen Ssenkaaba, award-winning journalist who helped start New Vision’s podcast in 2019
Stephen Ssenkaaba, award-winning journalist who helped start New Vision’s podcast in 2019

While not necessarily listening to recordings in the initial phase of UCU’s podcast, two Ugandan professionals, New Vision’s Stephen Ssenkaaba and Max Adii, are lauding them. Together, they started the New Vision podcast three years ago. Fresh from a research project on online strategies for emerging markets as part of a fellowship in Michigan, Stephen became fascinated with podcasting and pitched the idea upon his return to Uganda. 

“I came to understand how podcasts were relevant to people in Uganda and Africa where the culture revolves around talking, and having conversations,” Stephen said. “After I pitched to the Editorial Board, I was charged to work with our radio expert, Max. We got it rolling.”

“More and more, media audiences are shifting to on-line content,” Max said. “Podcasting is Internet-based – allowing our audience potential to be people all over the world.”

Data indicate podcasting is especially popular with those under age 35 because of the content’s 24-7 accessibility, generally casual delivery by interviewers and ability to stop and start a 15-to-30-minute recording. To date, podcasting is less expensive and less regulated than radio.

Max Adii, a key member of the New Vision podcast implementation team
Max Adii, a key member of the New Vision podcast implementation team

Commenting from Oregon, USA, where he is studying for his Ph.D. in Media Studies, Stephen said “a one-size-fits-all” podcast should not be the goal in today’s cafeteria of media genres. At that, younger listeners lean towards light-hearted, celebrity podcast content, while those older tend to want to supplement what they don’t “have time to get sitting and reading a newspaper or listening to radio at home,” he added.

“Podcasts done right take the listener into a situation,” Max said. One of his favorites that does that is a 12-episode New Vision podcast that tells the story of an undercover reporter who became part of the slave trade in Dubai. 

Nicollette Nampijja, original UCU podcast team member
Nicollette Nampijja, original UCU podcast team member

Student Nicollette Nampijja, one of the first UCU Podcast interviewers, expressed appreciation for UCU’s launch into the podcast medium. Despite her experience speaking in front of classmates in secondary school, her “heart was beating” for the first recording she did at UCU.  Now,  with three podcast interviews under her belt, confidence of the 22-year-old has soared.  

“The UCU podcast has added excitement for students while giving them hands-on experience in a cutting-edge part of our industry,” Geoffrey said. “That we added the podcasting piece to what we teach and did it in the midst of coming off a pandemic lockdown speaks volumes about where UCU is going and can be.” 

Former UCU goalkeeper joins Finnish club

By Ian Asabo
The captain of the Uganda national women’s football team, Ruth Aturo, has realized her dream of playing professional football after signing for Finnish club Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat

Aturo, a goalkeeper of the national football team, joins Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on a two-year deal from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) women’s team, the Lady Cardinals. She featured for the UCU Lady Cardinals for three years, helping the team to win trophies in 2018 and 2019. 

The 26-year-old graduated with a Diploma in Business Administration from UCU in 2019. However, she continued playing for the Lady Cardinals.

“I am grateful to the university for providing me with the opportunity to play the game that I love, at the highest level in the country,” Aturo said, noting that she would not have found it easy to join a club in Finland if she had not got a chance to play for the Lady Cardinals. She was in UCU on a sports scholarship. 

Ruth receiving her award for the Best Goalkeeper at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship.
Ruth receiving her award for the Best Goalkeeper at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship.

It was while at the Lady Cardinals that Aturo became a household name, with the Uganda football association naming her Player of the Year in the national league in 2018.

Like many student-athletes, Aturo faced the challenge of balancing performance in class and on the pitch. 

Her challenge was even tougher, however, given that she is the captain of the national women football team, meaning she had class, club and national football team issues to concentrate on. However, to her, the answer remained in “being consistent, working hard and remaining focused.” 

“While in Finland, I will be far from home but it’s an exciting experience that I cannot let pass,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to make it to the highest level, and this is a step in the right direction.”

Born on July 19, 1995, in Soroti, eastern Uganda, Aturo initially started playing as a center forward. However, later, she discovered that she could perform even better between the posts. 

She began playing football in Senior Two at Soroti Senior Secondary School. From there, she joined Kawempe Muslim Secondary School in central Uganda, for A’level. It was her performance in the women’s soccer team of Kawempe that caught the attention of scouts who connected her to a scholarship offer at UCU. 

She says it was at UCU where she was able to harness and grow her skills, and maximize them to the full potential, something which would later prepare ground for her to captain the national team.

Sam Lukaire, the Sports Administrator at UCU, is happy that the investment the university has made in sports is finally paying off. 

“The right coaching through the sports program provided by the university has had an impact on the athletes, enabling such moves to happen,” Lukaire says. 

He encourages Aturo to continue working hard to reach her full potential. Aturo’s deal was completed towards the end of December last year, but her travel was delayed until end of February. She says she used that time to watch videos about her teammates at Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on YouTube, to try to understand how they play and their football philosophy. 

Her longtime teammate at both club and national team level, Hasifah Nassuna, acknowledges that Aturo’s next step in football is only the beginning of her exposure to playing football at the greatest level. 

“I am happy for Ruth. It is definitely not going to be easy as it only gets harder,” Nassuna said. “But I’m confident in her abilities as a goalkeeper and a leader on and off the pitch.”

As she arrives in Finland, Aturo is loaded with big dreams, hoping to not only etch her name in the global footballers’ hall of fame, but also to leave a legacy as one of the greatest ever Lady Cardinal players.