Jimmy siyasa


Sustainable Development Goals publication

UCU Professor Omona and 3 Scholars from Kenya and Zimbabwe Co-author Remarkable Publication in Sustainable Development Goals Series

The Rev. Assoc. Prof. David Andrew Omona, a scholar at Uganda Christian University (UCU) and three other academics have co-edited a book that was recently published under Springer Nature’s inaugural Sustainable Development Goals Series.

The book titled Religion, Climate Change and Food Security in Africa examines how and the extent to which religion in Africa serves a resource in responding to the Sustainable Development Goals 13 (action on climate change) and 2 (achieve zero hunger, food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture).

The other editors of the book include Loreen Maseno ( Senior Lecturer, Department of Religion, Theology and Philosophy at Maseno University, Kenya), Ezra Chitando ( University of Zimbabwe) and Sophia Chirongoma ( Midland State University, Zimbabwe).

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There is a growing realization that the earth is clearly warming at a worrying pace. Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicates that climate change is an existential crisis, while Goal 2 seeks to achieve Zero Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. Climate change has far-reaching effects for agriculture and other livelihood activities which ensure the availability, suitability, distribution, and accessibility of food.

In the midst of the war in Ukraine and its ripple effect on food prices, it is therefore urgent to interrogate how and to what extent religion in Africa serves as a resource (or confounding factor) in responding to Sustainable Development Goals 13 (action on climate change) and 2 (achieve Zero Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture).

The themes in this book are approached from diverse disciplinary and methodological angles to cover four main aspects: first, to probe the potential role of religion in Africa in accelerating the achievement of these two SDGs. Second, to problematize the influence of religion and the challenges it poses toward responding to the climate emergency and the elimination of hunger in Africa.

Third, to approach the religions of Africa in their plurality, guaging their strategic significance in light of the two emergencies. Fourth, to probe religious teachings, practices, personalities, and institutions in Africa in the wake of SDGs 13 and 2 as they wrestle with the interplay among religion, climate change, and the dimensions of food security in Africa.

About the Sustainable Development Goals Series

The Sustainable Development Goal Series is Springer Nature’s inaugu­ral cross-imprint book series that addresses and supports the United Nations’ seventeen Sustainable Development Goals.

The series fosters comprehensive research focused on these global targets and endeavours to address some of society’s greatest grand challenges. The SDGs are inher­ently multidisciplinary, and they bring people working across different fields together and working towards a common goal.

In this spirit, the Sustainable Development Goals series is the first at Springer Nature to publish books under both the Springer and Palgrave Macmillan imprints, bringing the strengths of our imprints together.

The Sustainable Development Goals Series is organized into eighteen subseries: one subseries based around each of the seventeen respective Sustainable Development Goals, and an eighteenth subseries, “Connecting the Goals”, which serves as a home for volumes addressing multiple goals or studying the SDGs as a whole. Each subseries is guided by an expert Subseries Advisor with years or decades of experience studying and addressing core components of their respective Goal.

About Prof. Omona

The Rev. Assoc. Prof. David Andrew Omona is Dean of the UCU School of Social Sciences and an Associate Professor of Ethics and International Relations at Uganda Christian Christian University. His research interests are in Ethics and International Relations. Currently he is engaged in researching on climate change, as an ethical issue that has affected humanity globally. He has done substantial work on peace and security at international level. He therefore, looks forward to get people of like minds for collaborative research experience in his area of expertise.(More About Assoc. Prof. Omona)


Uganda-UCU to host the 6th All Africa Horticultural Congress in 2028

MARRAKECH, MOROCCO: At the 5th All Africa Horticultural Congress (AAHC) held in Marrakech, Morocco, from February 28 to March 1, 2024, Uganda has been voted to host the 6th All Africa Horticultural Congress in 2028. Uganda Christian University (UCU) will serve as a lead convener, representing Uganda on the global stage. The UCU team to Morocco was led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi.

Prof. Mushengyezi said, “This is a big win for Uganda, which has become one of the top destinations for international visitors including investors and tourists. Hosting AAHC 2028 also indicates growing confidence in UCU as a reputable university in Uganda and the region. We pledge to continue diligently serving humanity as a Centre of Excellence in the heart of Africa”.

UCU Vice Chancellor
Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, Vice Chancellor UCU speaking at the 2024 AAH Congress in Marrakech, Morocco.

The AAHC attracts over 500 delegates, scientists, researchers, companies and private sector investors in the agricultural value chain from Africa and all over the world. The theme for this year is Unlocking the potential of a resilient Horticulture in Africa.

UCU will be the key convener, and is working in conjunction with Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries; Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI), represented by the Director, Dr. Richard Edema; and National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO).

Another Win for UCU
Kizito UCU
UCU Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation, Prof. Balyejusa Elizabeth Kizito, Director making a presentation to the AAHC audience, during a panel discussion. Courtesy photo

At the AAHC 2024 congress in Morocco, Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito of UCU was elected as the new President of the All Africa Horticultural Congress, taking over from Prof. Abdelhaq Hanafi of Mohamed VI Polytechnic University in Morocco.

The election of Uganda was announced by the President of the International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS), Prof. Francois Laurens from France.

Uganda is a top destination for large international events because of its stability, hospitable people, beautiful weather, a great variety of foods, and numerous tourism attractions. In January and February 2024, Uganda hosted large international events, including the 19th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the G77+China Summit, and the Conference of Speakers and Presiding Officers of the Commonwealth held at the Speke Resort Convention Centre in Munyonyo, Kampala. Over 124 countries and 1,700 delegates attended.

Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, Vice Chancellor UCU (centre in a grey suit) flanked by part of the UCU delegation to Morocco and Dr. Richard Edema, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Production Makerere University and Centre Director, Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) – second from the left-hand side.

Uganda also hosted the International Conference on Food Safety Management Systems and Quality in Food Science (ICFSMSQFS) in February 2024, and the Renewable Energy Conference and EXPO (REC23 & EXPO) in November 2023.

Previous AAH congresses were held in Kenya in 2009, South Africa in 2012, Nigeria in 2016, Senegal in 2020, and now Morocco in 2024.

UCU Delegation in Morroco

UCU bids to Host All Africa Horticultural Congress 2028

By Jimmy Siyasa

For the 5th edition of the All Africa Horticultural Congress, a delegation from Uganda Christian University (UCU), led by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, has convened in Marrakech, Morocco. Notably, they are not only participating in the event but also actively bidding for UCU to host the next Congress in Uganda in 2028.
This prestigious conference typically draws over 500 delegates, scientists, and researchers from various corners of the globe. UCU is collaboratively working on this with key stakeholders, including the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, the Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement, and the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO).

ucu in morroco

Delegates gathered during one of the sessions. Courtesy picture.
The UCU delegation comprises, notably, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, Mr. David Mugawe, and Director of Research, Partnerships, and Innovation, Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth B. Kizito, among others, who are actively involved in advancing the university’s initiatives.

The conference themed “Unlocking the potential of a resilient Horticulture in Africa” started on February 26, 2024, at the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University in Benguerir. It will end on March 1, 2024.

Kizito UCU
UCU Director of Research, Partnerships and Innovation, Prof. Elizabeth. B. Kizito, addresses the AAHC audience, during a panel discussion. Courtesy photo.

About All-Africa Horticultural Congress (AAHC)

Screen at All African Event

The All-Africa Horticultural Congress (AAHC) is the most important scientific event organized every four years in the fields of Horticulture in Africa under the auspices of ISHS. Morocco was assigned the organization of the fifth edition of this Congress, and this will be the first time such event will be held in North Africa.

The previous four AAHC took place in Kenya in 2009, South Africa in 2012, Nigeria in 2016 and Senegal in 2020, corresponding to East Africa, South Africa, Central Africa and Western Africa, respectively.

The International Society for Horticultural Science (ISHS) is the largest global horticulture network comprising over 6,000 members. Its aim is to promote and foster research and education in horticultural science, support industry and to facilitate cooperation and knowledge transfer on a global scale through events and publications.

The development of Horticulture in Africa is one of the main tools that can help ensure food security by increasing agricultural productivity and improve the competitiveness of its products. It can also strengthen its contribution to the overall wellbeing of the population, improve dietary and nutritional behavior, create wealth, alleviate hunger, and reduce dependency on food imports.  

The African population is essentially rural and contributes significantly to agricultural production which in turn contributes to nutrition, food security and socio-economic development of these populations.

In Morocco, Agriculture contributes, on average, 13% to Morocco’s GDP and employs about 40% of the nation’s workforce. The country has several agroclimatic regions including Mediterranean in the North, semi-arid in the Middle and arid-to-desert in the South with somewhat mild/cold in the higher altitudes and, thus, produces a great diversity of agricultural products including horticultural crops such as fruits, vegetables, medicinal and aromatic species, flowers, and ornamental plants.

Production is mostly in open field but crops such as tomatoes, pepper, berries, banana, and flowers are also produced under plastic-covered greenhouses. Most of the production is for the domestic market but a significant percentage, particularly fruits, vegetables and flowers go to export markets including Africa, Europe, and North America. Operators of the sector are all private.  Many small-scale growers are organized in cooperatives and associations to ease their production, marketing and export.

In recent years, the horticultural sector in Africa has been facing several constraints and worldwide challenges including climate change with global warming, outbreaks of new pests and diseases, pandemics such as Covid-19, low precipitations and water shortage for irrigation, heat stress and scarcity of investment and funding of new development projects.

“Unlocking the potential of a resilient Horticulture in Africa” is the theme of the fifth AAHC, with the objective to discuss and promote the huge potential of African Horticulture. The event will provide a platform for professionals of horticulture, researchers, young scientists, and entrepreneurs, where they can share their research results, experiences and latest innovations. It will be an occasion to consolidate and expand a network of technical cooperation between professionals of horticulture throughout Africa and the rest of the world. Young and more experienced scientists will have ample opportunities to interact and explore scientific and technical exchanges and partnerships for research and development initiatives. In addition, the Congress will raise and discuss aspects related to the impact of climate change, invasive diseases and pests and other biotic and abiotic stresses on current and future horticulture.

Furthermore, socio-economic, and financial aspects related to food security, market issues, best use and management of natural resources in the fields of horticulture will be tackled.  Issues such as contribution of horticulture to wealth creation, alleviating poverty, empowering youth, and women will also be discussed.

The organizing committee is deploying all means possible to make the Marrakech edition of the AAHC Congress (AAHC2024) a successful and an exceptional one. The meeting will focus on hosting an outstanding scientific and technical event, reinforcing the links between research and development, education, industry, public and private and non-government organizations and enhancing the links between African countries as well as between Africa and the rest of the World.

Head Teachers' Publication UCU education

Education: UCU Researchers Reveal Head Teacher’s Critical Role in Inclusive Education

By Jimmy Siyasa

Overview of Research

In a joint research publication by Dr. Mary Kagoire Ochieng and Dr. Faith Mbabazi Musinguzi, alongside three scholars from Busitema University and Health Tutors College Mulago, a significant correlation between the head teacher’s support role and the achievement of quality inclusive education in selected secondary schools was discovered.

The study, titled “Head Teacher’s Support Role on the Quality of Inclusive Education in Secondary Schools in Iganga District,” established that secondary school administrations implementing certain best practices are more likely to realize inclusive education quality. These practices include;

  • Continuous professional development workshops
  • Staff welfare initiatives
  • Support supervision
  • Provision of teaching aids, among other constant factors.

These research findings in the U.K-based Advances in Social Sciences and Management, a monthly online publication by the Open-Source Journals under the Public Knowledge Project, shed light on the importance of effective leadership in fostering inclusive education environments.

Publication Abstract

The study investigated the Head Teacher’s support Role in the Quality of Inclusive Education in Secondary Schools in the Iganga District. It examined the head teacher’s mandates in the realization of quality inclusive education in selected secondary schools.

Explicitly, the study determined the influence of the head teacher’s support role on the quality of inclusive education in secondary schools. This study adopted a cross-sectional survey design, drawing on quantitative and qualitative research approaches with a sample size of 83 respondents. Interview guides and questionnaires were used for data collection. SPSS software version 23 was used with a focus on descriptive statistics. The verbatim method was used for qualitative data.

The study revealed that there was a moderate positive or constructive significant correlation between the head teacher’s support role and achievement of quality inclusive education in selected secondary Schools. The study established that putting in place continuous professional development workshops, welfare, giving support supervision and provision of teaching aids, while other factors or issues remain constant, is most likely to better the process of inclusive education quality in secondary school.

Conclusively the study revealed that the Head teacher’s planning, support and motivation cannot work in isolation in the attainment of quality inclusive education. Monetary and non-monetary ways greatly influence the quality of inclusive education. Also, the study recommends head teachers make relevant plans and increase support and motivation to uplift secondary schools’ quality of inclusive education.

For more information and to access the full study, click here.

About the authors

Lastone Balyaino, researcher at Busitema University; Dr. Charles Muweesi, a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Sciences and Education, Busitema University; Dr. Kagoire serves as the Dean of the UCU School of Education, Isabirye Christopher from Health Tutors College; and Dr. Faith Mbabazi, Head of the Education department at UCU.

Mutyaba on Cage fish farming

Cage Fish Farming in Uganda: UCU Agricultural Scientist releases insightful discoveries

By Jimmy Siyasa

After an extensive research study within fishing communities in Uganda, Livingstone Mutyaba, Head of the Department of Natural Resource Economics & Agribusiness, at Uganda Christian University alongside Prof. Margaret W. Ngigi and Dr. Oscar Ingasia Ayuya ( both scholars from Egerton University, Nairobi) have published the results of the rigorous investigation among small holder cage fish farmers.

The findings of the study titled Determinants of knowledge, attitude and perception towards cage fish farming technologies among smallholder farmers in Uganda have been published in Issue 1, Volume 10 of the Cogent Food and Agriculture Journal, by Taylor and Francis

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Cage fish farming is essential to increasing fish output, alleviating the declining capture fishery resources, and advancing aquaculture development in Uganda. There are limited studies assessing farmers’ knowledge, attitude, and perceptions towards cage fish farming technology.

This study assessed the knowledge, attitude, and perceptions (KAP) of fishery-dependent communities around Lake Victoria towards cage fish farming technology. Using a simple random sample approach, 384 respondents from fourteen districts provided information on demographic traits, knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions towards cage fish farming.

The analysis utilized descriptive statistics and a multinomial logit model. Results revealed that cage fish farmers’ knowledge, attitude, and perceptions were significantly associated with age, level of education, extension visits, social capital, experience, and television access. In conclusion, this study recommends that extension visits be enhanced to develop farmers’ knowledge, attitudes, and perceptions towards cage fish farming. The study’s implications underscore the importance of developing and implementing farmer-centered policies in the aquaculture sector.

Gender of Respondents in the Cage fish farming research
Pie chart illustration of gender of respondents in the cage fish farming-oriented study.

Public Interest Statement

This study focuses on the aquaculture sector in Uganda, specifically the emerging cage fish farming sub-sector and its contribution to national development under the blue economy.

The study findings presented are from the 384 smallholder cage fish farmers interviewed during a survey conducted between July 2021 and February 2022. The aim was to understand their knowledge, attitudes and perceptions towards cage fish farming technologies. The study found out that Age, years in practicing cage fish farming, extension services, social capital, access to market information, number of stocked cage units owned by an individual and type of cage technology used had an effect on the fish farmers’ knowledge, attitude and perceptions.

The study highlights the need for an increase in extension services, education and training on marketing information related to fish produce, and appropriate policy frameworks that favour smallholder fish farmers for inclusiveness and sustainable development of the fisheries industry in general.

Related article may be found here

UCU Research Study

Plant Reproduction: A Breakthrough Study at UCU

Quick Overview

A team of researchers from Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences who a few months ago embarked on a journey to explore plant reproduction, focusing on African eggplant (Solanum aethiopicum) – varieties, including the Shum -Nakati and Gilo -Ntula cultivars; have published findings from their intriguing study.

The findings of the study titled Compatibility Barriers affecting Crossability of Solanum Aethipicum and its relatives published in Euphytica, an international journal that covers the theoretical and applied aspects of plant breeding, under Springer Nature, a prestigious German-British publisher; have ignited a buzz in the academic community.

In this insightful study, by Ms. Winnie NamutosiProf Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito  Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba, Dr. Godfrey Sseremba,  Ms. Mildred Julian Nakanwagi & Ms. Ruth Buteme ( All UCU scholars), the researchers delved into reproductive barriers that hinder the breeding of African egg plants. Their mission? To discover the critical reproductive barriers and pave the way for enhanced germplasm utilization and genetic improvement of this species.

The study utilized advanced methodologies to explore compatibility barriers between African eggplant and its botanical counterparts. Through a randomized complete block design and a full diallel mating method, the researchers evaluated crossability and floral traits of six genotypes across four different species (S. aethiopicum, S. anguivi, S. Macrocarpon and S. incanum) over two seasons.

Their findings revealed fascinating insights into the reproductive behavior of African eggplant. From the timing of flower opening to the receptivity of stigma, from pollen quantity to viability, each aspect was meticulously examined and analyzed. Moreover, the study shed light on the intriguing phenomenon of self-compatibility and interspecific crossbreeding, uncovering the pivotal role of female parent functioning in the success of such endeavors.

One of the standout discoveries was the remarkable performance of the Shum cultivar of Solanum aethiopicum as a female parent in crossbreeding experiments. This finding underscores the significance of understanding the dynamics of plant reproductive biology and its implications for breeding programs aimed at enhancing crop resilience and productivity.

Click here for similar studies.


New dental school grad describes bitter-sweet, career journey

By Kefa Senoga
“Seeing people with admirable smiles makes me smile,” said Andinda Jordan, a fresh graduate from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Dentistry. That means for Andinda to keep smiling, he has to ensure people retain and obtain straight, white teeth that are evenly spaced and proportionate to the rest of the face.

Some of the things that now await Andinda as a practitioner is teaching people about the importance of teeth and oral hygiene, and re-aligning people’s maligned teeth so that they can get the “admirable smiles.” 

Andinda examining a patient.
Andinda examining a patient.

Andinda was among the nine students who graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery at UCU’s 24th graduation ceremony held at the main campus in Mukono on July 28, 2023. A total of 1,006 students graduated with degrees, diplomas and certificates at the ceremony.

Andinda describes his journey through the UCU School of Dentistry (SoD) as bitter-sweet.

 “The course has many units to cover in quite a short period of time,” he says, indicating the level of sacrifice that any student desirous of pursuing a course in dental surgery has to commit. Andinda and his eight colleague-fresh-graduates in dental surgery were the UCU pioneer class of Bachelor of Dental Surgery that enrolled in 2018.

UCU Students Triumph over Pandemic Challenges

Despite challenges of suspension of education in Uganda at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the students completed their course on schedule. The time during the Covid pandemic was primarily used to cover the theory and then post-covid, the practicality of the course commenced. Dentistry is a practical course which involves meeting people and touching them. 

The nine graduates are now expected to join a workforce in Uganda where there are about 300 dental surgeons in active practice, covering only 21% of the country. One dentist in Uganda serves about 142,000 people, a ratio dangerously unbalanced, considering the World Health Organization requirement of dentist to patient ratio of 1:8,000.

Andinda said because of the low number of students for the course at UCU, they were able to get undivided attention from their lecturers and faculty mentors for the five-year duration of the course.  It is for that reason, Andinda noted, that many students have been able to identify mentors among their lecturers. Also, at UCU, students have a well-equipped dental clinic, where they are able to practice under the supervision of a doctor.

Andinda (extreme left) and his colleagues from the UCU SoD during their student days
Andinda (extreme left) and his colleagues from the UCU SoD during their student days

“My current mentor, Dr. Catherine Kabenge, is from the UCU dental school; she has shared her career journey and taught me some of the important principles to live by as a dentist,” says Andinda, the first born of six children of Uganda’s High Court Judge Justice Jesse Byaruhanga and Mrs. Betty Byaruhanga.

The other faculty members are seasoned dentists who students would like to emulate. For instance, some of the members of the faculty, such as the Dean of the SoD, Dr. James Magara, practice in the profession. They are, therefore, the most appropriate human resource to impart knowledge since they offer it in the context of the real world of work. Dr. Magara was part of Makerere University’s pioneer class of dental surgery students that graduated in 1988. 

During an interview that Dr. Magara granted Uganda Partners in 2020, he said UCU is committed to ensuring that students have good exposure to modern dentistry.

“The UCU Faculty of Dentistry’s teaching hospital has a very long history of teaching medical practitioners in Uganda,” he said. “The university has a partnership with Mengo Hospital, which has a dental unit that has been running for over 40 years now; this unit has trained dentists with internships throughout Uganda,”

Dr. Magara added that the hospital location is “recognized as the premium place to go for hands-on dental studies,”  and the main reason any student wishing to pursue the course should look no further than UCU.  


UCU aspiring leaders get help from F.U.E.L.

By Irene Best Nyapendi
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) guild government has started a leadership program, seeking to train students in management skills. The program, dubbed “First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership (F.U.E.L.) Program,” has been implemented at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana), Fordham University (New York) and Ohio State University, among other higher education institutions. .

“This program has given me confidence in the future of UCU,” said Timothy Ddumba, Mukono Campus Guild President. He believes F.U.E.L. will birth top-notch leaders while closing the gap of mentorship from one guild government to another. 

“It is possible [for other guild governments to adopt the program] because the students trained might be part of the next leadership,” he said of the eight Saturday sessions with 25 student participants in June and July 2023. “The impact it creates could inspire the need to sustain it.”

UCU Guild president Timothy Ddumba addressing students during one of the F.U.E.L. sessions
UCU Guild president Timothy Ddumba addressing students during one of the F.U.E.L. sessions

The free mentorship and training program is meant for students who are interested in student leadership, especially those who are already leaders in the guild government. 

Melissa Kamikazi Nsaba, the guild vice president, and Christy Asiimwe, the minister for presidency, are program leaders.

Asiimwe, a student in the School of Education,  said the vision of the program is to be a foundation of transformational leaders who champion and spread the core values of UCU.

“One of the reasons why we started this program is to nurture transformational leaders who are ready to transform the university and the world in a Christian way,” she said.

Unlike F.U.E.L. implemented at secular universities, the UCU program looks at nurturing and equipping students with leadership skills grounded in Christian values.  It is hoped that the classes will ignite leadership potential and empowerment among the students.

“I believe this program is good for the students because it helps them improve their managerial skills and abilities as future leaders, achieve better project leadership and improve risk management,” Asiimwe said.

She explained that by equipping and training those who wish to lead, those who vote them into power or are under their command are less likely to suffer the consequences of unsatisfactory and inadequate leadership. 

UCU F.U.E.L Program Beneficiaries Share Their Testimonies

Emmanuel Golyo, one of the beneficiaries of the program and a student of a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology, said he was taught what it takes to be a good leader. “I learned to understand and embrace the dynamics of the university and discovered how I can best serve to my fullest potential,” he said. He said the program helped him clarify his leadership and vision of self holistically.

During the course of the training, different speakers were invited to coach and mentor the trainees, speaking from real-life experiences.

Golyo said the program gave him a platform to understand the importance of team building and group motivation. “During each session we had a number of physical and interactive activities that nurtured in me the spirit of working with others on a project,” he said.

Mary Mangadalene Namwanje, a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration, explained that the sessions enlightened her on how to be a problem solver as a leader. She learned the characteristics of a good team and how to build it.

Namwanje is now knowledgeable about governing authorities, hierarchy and bureaucracy.

“Through the sessions I attended, I learned how to deal with different authorities, conflict resolution and decision making,” she said.

The students trained in effective communication, branding and documentation as well as public speaking. 

“While attending one of the sessions, we heard testimonies from former guild officials. One of the things they shared was how to balance life, responsibilities, relationships and work,” Namwanje said. 

The students also were taken through lessons on discovering themselves in leadership.

The F.U.E.L. Program is one of the pledges the guild president wrote in his manifesto on creating an environment to nurture future leaders. The seminars were sponsored by the guild budget.


Vice Chancellor’s wife mentors students toward meaningful lives

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Should I get into a serious relationship now? Is it the right time to get married? How do I know if I have the right partner? How do I know if I am in a bad relationship? What about sex? How do I achieve academic excellence with all these pressures? How do I grow my career?

Patience Rubabinda Mushengyezi, fondly known as “Mama Pesh” (short for Mother Patience), has been guiding Uganda Christian University (UCU) on these topics and more during monthly forums since May 2023. The monthly “Talk to Mama Pesh,” sessions are designed to be open, honest, and informal.  

Patience Mushengyezi addressing students during the first “Talk to Mama Pesh” forum. She was with fellow mentors Faith Musinguzi (left) and Jolly Kavuma.
Patience Mushengyezi addressing students during the first “Talk to Mama Pesh” forum. She was with fellow mentors Faith Musinguzi (left) and Jolly Kavuma.

Mama Pesh, wife of Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi for 26 years,  has been working with university students for over 20 years. She has nurtured over 12 non-biological children from childhood to graduation. She is a premarital counselor for young couples, mentor for young adults and leader at church. She is a mother of four. She is a Deputy Registrar at Makerere University,

“I developed a passion to talk to university students about values and morals to help open their eyes on things that can destroy their lives,” she said. “These are issues such as addictions, which lead to mental challenges and failure to complete their studies.” 

Mama Pesh said that she was further inspired by the Bible, in the book of Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself…”. Mama Pesh acknowledged that vices of drug or substance abuse, sexual immorality, wrong relationships and unwanted pregnancies are not limited to secular universities.

 “I love the UCU motto of ‘Centre of Excellence in the Heart of Africa’ because my desire is to have academic excellence with values,” she said. “I am passionate about all students, both male and female. When we talk to them, they grow into responsible citizens, wives, mothers, husbands, fathers and have strong Christian families in the future.”.

Students discuss among themselves before the question-and-answer session with mentors at a “Talk to Mama Pesh” session.
Students discuss among themselves before the question-and-answer session with mentors at a “Talk to Mama Pesh” session.

One of the goals of the forum is to provide young people a platform to be mentored into leaders of today and tomorrow. The forum is meant to be “a secure space where young people can discuss freely with mentors about issues that affect their academic, social and spiritual lives.”

Mama Pesh emphasized that the end goal is to see that students achieve academic excellence with values. She also provides a safe space for the students that would like to share with her privately away from the presence of their colleagues.

Mama Pesh does the mentorship in partnership with the office of the Vice-Chancellor, Directorate of Students’ Affairs, the Chaplaincy, Counseling Unit and the Guild. In addition, she invites experienced counselors and mentors for the forum. The value of peer mentors is learning from someone who has more recently been where they are. 

How the forum has become a beacon of inspiration to UCU students.

The forum has become a beacon of inspiration in the lives of UCU students.

Jackson Leoru, a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with Education, found the forum beneficial because it helps students prepare to be adults. “Through the forum, I got guidance to make healthy choices that create a positive impact in my life in school and in relationships,” he said.

He said he will pass along to others such learning as relationships need patience and prayer. “I learnt that sometimes you may see someone and think he or she is the one meant for you, yet they are actually not the ones, so we need to pray about it and also be patient.”

Natasha Alinda poses for a photo with Mama Pesh after one of the sessions at UCU main campus in Mukono.
Natasha Alinda poses for a photo with Mama Pesh after one of the sessions at UCU main campus in Mukono.

Natasha Alinda, a third-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance, said the program is a good foundation upon which a student can build themselves “in order to be first and foremost a very good child to their parents, a very good student in school, and a good citizen in their nation.”

Through the forum, Alinda (a residential assistant at the female’s main university hall) has discovered the value of intentionality and self-worth. “I learned to value myself and carefully choose the people I associate with as well as the friends I make,” she said.

She adds that as a student, the talks have taught her to schedule and maneuver around student leadership, friendships and education.

“I am so grateful to Mama Pesh for sparing time amidst her busy schedule to talk to us and hold our hands through this journey of life at no cost because so many people are charged to get such guidance,” she said.


From poverty to Social Work PhD: ‘I will persevere’

By Patty Huston-Holm
Molly Nantongo has come a long way from the 10-year-old “dancing girl with the gap in her teeth.”  

A 2015 Uganda Christian University (UCU) alum with a Bachelor of Social Work  and Social Administration, she received a Masters in Social Work from the University of California in Berkeley in 2023. Her achievement there landed her a full scholarship for a PhD in social work at Arizona State University. On Aug. 17, she started studies on the Phoenix, Ariz., campus.

“I am aware it will be a challenging journey,” she typed into an email from Uganda prior to heading back to the United States. “However, I am prepared for the difficulties and believe that with God’s grace, I will persevere.”

For Molly, her journey into social work started with dance. 

In 2002, Molly was one of four children living with a single mother, a former Hutu in Rwanda, in the Kampala slum suburb of Kirombe.  Missing school and food on the table were an accepted way of life. One such day, she jumped gleefully onto a political campaign truck filled with music blaring from loudspeakers. From there, she danced, oblivious to anyone watching, before jumping off. 

Because of her dancing, she was noticed on the truck. Because of the gap in her front teeth, she was found by an NGO. 

The Success Narrative of UCU Alumna Molly

That organization, now known as Undugu Society of Kenya, helped Molly finish primary school. Another organization, Empower African Children, got her to the United States as a member of the Spirit of Uganda Various Artists – Spirit of Uganda: 2008 Tour Album Reviews, Songs & More | AllMusic.

Her moves were natural until age 15, when there was formalized instruction to be ready for travel, do shows internationally and raise money for vulnerable children like her. She was among the 22 children in a 2008 USA tour.

“The organization called me ‘Maureen’ and taught me how to jump and move my hands in different tribal dances,” she said. Her favorite dances are from northeastern Uganda, namely the Karamoja region, with a particular affection for war dances without drums.

Molly Nantongo with UCU mentor, Dr. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo
Molly Nantongo with UCU mentor, Dr. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo

Molly never took her support and opportunities for granted. She worked hard, always seeking how she could help others. She got a meager salary from dance performances with a troupe at Uganda’s Ndere Cultural Arts Center. She pieced together earnings from dancing and teaching undergraduate students in the university’s foundation courses. Dr. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo, then dean of the UCU School of Research and Post-Graduate Studies, was a mentor.

Alas, like for many, Covid was a hardship. A degree meant little without a place to teach, and dancing meant little without an audience. Molly started a fruit business to support herself and her mom.  A year into being a street seller, a friend suggested she apply for a scholarship through the American Embassy. Without much optimism as one of 60 candidates for one slot, she participated and was chosen.

Once in California, she applied for a $10,000 “Davis Project for Peace” grant – one designed to help Ugandan youth (ages 14-20) who are victims of Covid shutdown impacts, including pregnant-out-of-wedlock girls.  The 15-week project, entitled Ntongo Skills4Peace, took place through mid-August 2022 with assistance to several thousand youth.

“If we don’t do something now, these girls will end up in prostitution,” Molly, turning age 31 in October 2023, said. “I used the grant here to focus on vocational skills like catering and tailoring, hair dressing and welding for these vulnerable.”

As Molly continues her education in the USA, she has her sights on working someday for USAID, UNICEF. United Nations or World Bank, with her forever passion to help those in poverty as she once was. 

“I want to start mentoring sessions for children who have been born and raised in the slums to give them hope and connect them to different resources,” she said, smiling to show the gap in her teeth. She doesn’t intend to plug that opening.  And she doesn’t plan to stop dancing.

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