By Pauline Luba
Love. Service. Prayer. Hard work. These four are virtues that Ugandan parents Gideon and Charity Rutaremwa instilled in their children, with the hope that they would become useful citizens later in life. In addition to drumming up those virtues, the children say they further learned a lot more, just by observing how their parents conducted themselves.
“I am always inspired by the way my mother interacts with people,” said Asiimwe Ruth, a student of Uganda Christian University (UCU).
Perhaps, it was this inspiration that drove Asiimwe into choosing Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration at UCU. Asiimwe’s mother, now in retirement, was a social worker, and worked at Uganda’s Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development.
Asiimwe attended Kampala Junior Academy for her primary education and Mengo Senior Secondary School for her Senior One. She was then taken to World of Life International School for the remainder of her high school education.
After World of Life International School, she had intended to pursue undergraduate studies from a university abroad. That did not work. When she opted for UCU, her heart was with a Bachelor of Laws. That, too, did not work. By the time she applied, UCU had already admitted its law quota for the semester. Asiimwe picked herself up and accepted the offer of Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration as she set out to follow in the footsteps of her mother.
In 2018, an opportunity to travel to the Netherlands was presented to her. She embraced it right away. UCU was implementing a collaborative venture that it had signed with the Hanze University of Applied Science, Groningen, Netherlands. The partnership involves having an exchange program for the students and faculty of the two universities.
The trip to the Netherlands for a six-month stay had been scheduled for August 2018. Kasule Kibirige, the head of the Department of Social Work and Social Administration at UCU, made the announcement to Asiimwe’s class, indicating that all applicants had to have a minimum of 4.0 of a 5.0 Grade Point Average. The applicants also were expected to have access to funds to help them sort out any emergencies. Asiimwe applied and was successful.
“It was my first time traveling alone and the trip was a process of self-discovery,” she said.
However, this was not Asiimwe’s first trip abroad. She had spent her childhood years in Philadelphia, Pa., USA, during the time her father was pursuing a PhD course.
“I was excited to finally travel,” she said of the Netherlands opportunity. “The disappointment for not traveling for my undergrad studies had really affected me.”
In the Netherlands, many ride bicycles as a means of transport. And that was the case with Asiimwe’s colleagues. However, Asiimwe often preferred the bus because she did not know how to ride a bicycle.
At the end of the six months, the students on the exchange program, hailing from several countries, including Turkey and United States, gathered on an emotional last night in the Netherlands to toast to the friendship that the 18 women and one man had created out of the program.
Over 30 students have benefitted from this initiative. Dutch students and the faculty also have visited Uganda for field work in agencies in the country.
Kasule said the partnership between UCU and Hanze has been immensely valuable for both students and faculty.
“They promote cross-cultural knowledge and skills sharing, and contribute to individual teaching and learning improvement,” he explained.
In 2019, Asiimwe was a recipient of the Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration of UCU. In 2020, she was back at UCU, to pursue a Master of Social Work. And she says she will not leave the classroom, until she has earned a PhD in social work.
For the virtue of hard work that the Rutaremwas instilled in their children, they have been able to reap some benefits. Asiimwe is a social worker, her elder sister is a medical doctor and her younger brother is about to complete his degree in mechanical engineering at a university in Ohio, USA.