Jimmy siyasa



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.


UCU Alum From medicine to theology: ‘…follow Me’

By Pauline Luba
UCU Martin Oluge’s father, Ignatius Okello, raised many of his children in a hospital setting because that is where he worked as a police officer. It is during that time that Oluge became fond of the medical profession; he could not think of any other career. However, things changed. Oluge is now eyeing a career as a priest of the Anglican Church in Uganda.

As he grew up, he was attracted by the way the doctors carried themselves at the hospital and how they conducted their work. 

But there was a hurdle for Oluge to jump. Okello and his wife, Juliet, had 16 children, including Oluge, to look after. 

By studying Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics in A’level at St. Joseph’s Senior Secondary School Naggalama in central Uganda, Oluge was more than sure that he was getting closer to his dream career. However, there was a hiccup. He did not get the required grades to get government sponsorship at Uganda’s public universities. He thus opted for a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Surgery at Kampala International University (KIU), a privately owned institution.

“I enjoyed my time at KIU,” Oluge said. “It was great and the experience humbled me. I believe this is what pushed me to excel after my internship.” 

Oluge said while in A’level, he had become too confident, and thinks it could have been one of the reasons he failed to meet the cut for a government sponsorship in medicine.

In 2019, Oluge did his mandatory one-year internship at Mengo Hospital, before securing employment at Ngora Freda Carr Hospital in eastern Uganda. For any newly qualified doctor to practice medicine in Uganda, they are required to undergo a year-long paid internship at a government health facility in the country. 

Why Oluge Transitioned from Medicine to Theology at UCU

Ngora Freda Carr Hospital, where Oluge was employed, is a rural private not-for-profit facility affiliated with the Anglican Church in Uganda. After three years of employment at the facility, Oluge says he got a “calling from God.” He says he heard this call in his head over and over until he consulted the reverends in his church. He was advised to fulfill the call and study theology. This was in 2021.

However, there was another hurdle. Coming from a staunch Catholic family, Oluge knew that he would not get the full support to pursue a vocation as a priest in the Anglican Church. And he was right. When he broke the news to his extended family, it was a double disappointment for them – one, he was leaving the medicine job, and, two, he was joining another faith different from what his family raised him in.

“It was not easy,” he said. “I had to tell my parents I was leaving the Catholic faith, as well as medicine. Yet, they had paid my tuition for the course.” 

Oluge says it took two months of battle and prayer before he could apply for a Masters in Divinity at Uganda Christian University. Eventually he did, and is now a student.

The father of three – 6, 3 and 2 years – and husband of Rael Cheptoek had to resign from his job in order to study full time at UCU, where he enrolled in May 2023. For his master’s course, Oluge got a sponsorship from the Lango diocese’s Anglican Aid. The sponsorship covers his tuition, accommodation and basic needs for his family. He also works at UCU’s University Hospital, the Allan Galpin Health Centre. 

Oluge now eyes becoming a pastor. To those pondering a career change in life, Oluge’s advice hinges on what Jesus says in John 10:27-28: “My sheep, hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” 

Uganda Christian University Partnership

Uganda Christian University (UCU) Strengthens Collaborative Bonds through Partnership with St. Paul’s University

By Jimmy Siyasa

LIMURU, KENYA – August 14, 2023 – A significant milestone in the world of higher education was marked today as Uganda Christian University (UCU) and St. Paul’s University (SPU) came together to solidify their partnership through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The ceremonial event took place at SPU’s Main Campus in the serene town of Limuru, Kenya. Both institutions, rooted in their shared Church-based foundations, are poised to embark on a journey of mutual collaboration and growth.

What’s in the partnership?

The agreement encompasses a range of collaborative initiatives aimed at fostering educational enrichment and innovation. Spearheaded by the leadership of Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, the Vice Chancellor of UCU, and backed by a team including Mr. Samson Wanambuko, the Senior Legal Officer, and Dr. Angella Napakol, the Head of Grants and Partnerships, UCU has extended its hand in partnership to SPU.

Among the key areas of cooperation outlined in the MoU are the exchange of faculty and students, collaborative research ventures, the external evaluation of postgraduate dissertations, and the exchange of best practices and innovations in teaching and learning.

Present at the signing ceremony were esteemed representatives from both institutions. Prof. Peter Ngure, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at SPU, extended a warm welcome to Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi. Alongside them were Rev. Truphie Sumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, and other prominent university officials from SPU.

In his address, Prof. Mushengyezi highlighted the importance of cultivating a strong partnership between UCU and SPU. He emphasised that the collaborative efforts envisioned under this MoU would not only enhance the academic experience for both institutions’ faculty and students but also contribute to the broader educational landscape.

To further solidify the newly forged partnership, Prof. Mushengyezi extended a cordial invitation to the SPU team to visit the Uganda Christian University campus. This gesture serves as a tangible step towards nurturing the relationship and exploring avenues for joint endeavours.

The partnership between UCU and SPU holds immense promise in fostering academic growth, interdisciplinary exploration, and the sharing of knowledge across diverse educational horizons. As the two institutions embark on this collaborative journey, they set a commendable example of the power of cooperative learning and the impact it can have on shaping the future of education.


UCU’s treatment plant turns waste water into treasure

By Kefa Senoga
Waste from water to flush toilets, take a shower and do laundry is not a waste at the main campus of Uganda Christian University (UCU).  It hasn’t been wasted in 17 years. It’s recycled and used to educate students, primarily those studying engineering. 

UCU constructed a $300,000 wastewater treatment plant in 2006. Two-thirds of the cost of the plant, the first of its kind for any institution in Uganda, was funded by the Diocese of Sidney’s Overseas Relief and Aid Fund of Australia.

About UCU’s treatment plant

The aeration chamber of the plant
The aeration chamber of the plant

Wastewater that is generated from various daily activities is toxic to both humans and the environment, hence the need to purify it, before it’s released into the environment. Wastewater is treated in 3 phases: primary (solid removal), secondary (bacterial decomposition), and tertiary (extra filtration).

According to Arnold Mugisha, a demonstrator at UCU’s department of Engineering and Environment under the Faculty of Engineering, Design and Technology, the wastewater treatment plant that was developed by Prof. Steven Riley, uses a biological process to treat the sewage and clean the water so that it is safe enough for disposal into the environment.

Mugisha says that the plant uses an activated biological sludge water treatment process, where microorganisms are used to break down the organic matter, which would otherwise be hazardous to the environment.

The plant has several sections, with the first having screens, where paper, pads and other similar waste are removed. The screened waste water then drops into the equalization chamber, from where the microorganisms break down the fecal matter. The water is then pumped into the aeration chamber, where more oxygen is supplied to the microorganisms, to enable them break down the waste completely.

A view of the wastewater treatment facility
A view of the wastewater treatment facility

“The waste is broken down by absorption, where the microorganisms eat the waste, and adsorption, where the organic waste sticks onto the body of the microorganisms,” Mugisha explains.

According to Mugisha, this is the most important step of the plant because that’s where most of the biological oxygen demand is reduced.

At the clarifier stage, solid particulates or suspended solids are removed from the liquid. At this point, the deposited sludge settles at the bottom and the clear water remains up, says Mugisha. The sludge is used for both manure and decomposition by anaerobic bacteria to produce biogas. At the time of installation, the plant was able to treat about 350 cubic meters of water per day.

Robert Muhumuza, a plumber, operating the facility
Robert Muhumuza, a plumber, operating the facility

At the chlorination chamber, chlorinated water is used to kill extra organisms that are still in the water. Mugisha says that if waste water is not treated properly, it can pollute water sources, cause illnesses and damage natural habitats. The treated wastewater is used for irrigating flowers, grass and plants in the university compound. People who would want to use the sludge for manure in their gardens are always granted permission to pick it from the facility.

Okot Innocent, a fresh UCU engineering graduate, says the facility provides a platform for engineering students to put their classroom knowledge into practice, learning in practical terms how the processes work. 

“Some of the students who want to become water engineers have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the equipment and the systems used in the treatment process,” Okot noted.

In Kampala, the Bugolobi wastewater treatment plant is the largest in the country and serves about four million people per day. The plant is capable of processing 45 million liters of waste daily.


UCU Arua campus hits 20-year milestone

By Pauline Luba
From a trade school to a lay readers training college and now part of the Uganda Christian University (UCU) family, the Arua campus has shown a marked growth in both enrollment and importance to the community in the northwestern part of Uganda. 

This year, the UCU Arua Campus marks 20 years of being part of the UCU family and 64 years of being a training institute. Before the campus was made a theological college and part of UCU in 2003, it was offering diploma and certificate courses in theology and also training Lay Readers in the region. However, in 1959 when it was established by the African Inland Mission under the leadership of its first principal, the Rev. Robert Booth, the institution was named the Rural Trade School.

When UCU took over the facility, it had four departments — Theology, Business Administration, Social Sciences and Education — all offering bachelor’s degrees.

Some of the achievements at UCU Arua campus

The facility also had 80 students and 27 staff. However, 20 years down the road, the four departments have still been maintained, but with an increase in student enrolment to over 650 and about 100 staff members.

UCU has since constructed a multipurpose hall, which also doubles as the University Chapel. Another building is the library and a block for lecture rooms to accommodate the increasing number of students. University education at the facility has been decentralized to train the much-needed human resource in the districts at more affordable rates.

In July, UCU Chancellor, who is the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in Uganda, the Most Rev. Dr. Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu visited the facility, located in northwestern part of Uganda, for the first time as its chancellor, during one of the campus’ activities to mark 20 years. 

UCU leadership, led by the Chancellor, His Grace Kaziimba Mugalu (center), at the celebrations in July
UCU leadership, led by the Chancellor, His Grace Kaziimba Mugalu (center), at the celebrations in July

UCU Vice Chancellor Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Assoc. Prof. John Kitayimbwa and Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) David Mugawe, were among the team that went with Kaziimba to Arua. While welcoming Kaziimba, the UCU Arua Campus Director, the Rev. Julius Tabbi Izza, said that he was optimistic for future opportunities of development for the campus. 

He said the campus had become a home to a number of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic due to their huge presence in the region. Last year, the campus won a regional award as the best higher institution of learning in West Nile for 2022. The criteria for selecting the awardees involved assessing their economic sustainability, operational effectiveness, level of technology adoption, progressive leadership and culture, as well as social and community contribution, commitment and perseverance. 

The campus, however, still faces a major challenge of threats on its land. Izza said that the about 100 acres that the facility sits on are under threat from some individuals in the community. Izza, therefore, asked for the process of transferring the land title from the particulars of the African Inland Mission to the trustees of the Church of Uganda or UCU to be expedited.

Among the plans in the pipeline is elevating the campus into a constituent college, a massive student recruitment strategy expected to garner 1,000 learners by next year, beautification of the environment and infrastructure, implementation of the multi-billion masters plan project, development of an endowment project and a staff recruitment plan as well. To achieve the intended plans, Izza argued that unity among the key stakeholders will be crucial.  

Jimmy Siyasa, the UCU Public Relations Officer, said there was hope that the Arua campus would morph into a fully-fledged college sooner than later. “In short, there is much to hope for,” Siyasa said. 


Why an advanced degree in nursing? Two UCU PhDs share

By Patty Huston-Holm
Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) two lecturers with PhDs in nursing have reasons for their academic journeys not unlike those acquiring advanced degrees in other career fields. The passion for learning often starts with an interest through role model observations followed by personal growth and then understanding and application of how additional knowledge and skill improve people, organizations and systems.  

This is especially true in health care, according to Dr. Elizabeth Namukombe Ekong and Dr. Faith Rosemary Sebuliba Kasumba. They hold a half dozen each of nursing credentials including master’s degrees from UCU and doctoral degrees from other countries. They teach students pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees under the UCU Faculty of Public Health, Nursing and Midwifery.  

Dr. Karen Drake of Bethel University, center, with UCU’s two lecturers with PhDs in nursing
Dr. Karen Drake of Bethel University, center, with UCU’s two lecturers with PhDs in nursing

“At the bachelor’s level, you are learning how you can improve yourself,” Elizabeth said. “At the master’s level, you enhance that while knowing more about policies and practices. With a PhD, you go deeper in questioning to solve problems, improve health, save more lives.”

Acquisition of these capabilities is especially critical for nurses and even more so for developing countries like Uganda.  The World Health Organization reports the 27.9 million nurses globally reflects a shortage of 13 million nurses. According to the World Bank, there are 1.6 nurses and midwives per 1,000 people in Uganda, compared to nearly 12 per 1,000 in the United States. 

On a July 31, 2023, morning when UCU nursing students were on a full break from classes or engaged in practical experiences, the university’s two nursing PhD holders shared their recollections about early experiences with health care that led them along their career paths. They elaborated on the value of advanced degrees in nursing. 

Faith and Elizabeth received their doctoral degrees from Texila American University (Guyana,  South America) and the University of Central Nicaragua, respectively.  Both are married to medical doctors.  Dr. Thomas Sebuliba has been the husband of Faith for 34 of his 37 years as a practicing physician; they have three children.  Elizabeth likewise has three children with Dr. Ekong Joseph, who has been a doctor for 18 of their 24 years of marriage. The husbands had some influence on the wives’ advancement in nursing but not all, especially at the onset.  

What inspired two of UCU’s lecturers

For Faith, her health care interest can be pinpointed to an injured ear at age five when living in the Fort Portal, western Uganda region.  

“I pricked my ear,” she recalled of how she tried to imitate adults cleaning their ears with match sticks. “My siblings and I dared each other to see who could go the deepest, and I won.”

The damage put Faith in a hospital, now known as Mulago National Referral Hospital in Kampala, for two months. During a series of surgeries leading to full recovery, she was surrounded by caring, nurturing nurses. It was them as well as a “retired nursing officer” cousin who started her direction to become a nurse. 

On the opposite side of the country, Elizabeth was likewise young and watching happenings around a health facility in eastern Uganda’s Kamuli District. 

“I was fascinated to see people go in a place sick and come out well,” she said. “I was surprised that somebody could identify your problem and help you get better…By the time I  was in secondary school, I was looking for a profession where I could do that.” 

When considering higher education options and given the choice between being a doctor or nurse, Elizabeth and Faith chose nursing that would allow them closer contact with patients. While their education journeys after high school are roughly eight years apart, both Elizabeth and Faith started out as midwives – an occupation in 2023 that, according to the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council chaired by Elizabeth, is occupied by around 70,000 men and women. 

“To smile at a baby was pure joy,” Elizabeth said of her midwifery practice at Mulago. “I’m still passionate about newborns and identifying and helping mothers at risk.” 

While helping mothers deliver their babies, Elizabeth and Faith worked at deepening their health care knowledge with the growing realization of the need to pass on what they learned. They began to understand the value in stretching the knowledge and curiosity of the next generation of nurses in their country.

“Until 1993, nurses were only at the diploma level here,” Faith said. That year, she recalled, Makerere University started a bachelor of nursing program that interested her but she couldn’t begin because of child rearing responsibilities while her husband was getting surgical training in Zimbabwe. She got a couple more diplomas before getting her bachelor’s degree at UCU in 2007. 

Elizabeth, who got her UCU Bachelor of Nursing Science in 2008, also started to see the importance of teaching others while continuing her own learning. Like Faith, she worked her way up from tutor to lecturer. As teachers, they share both the academic and practical sides of nursing. 

“I’ve seen a critically ill person, not able to talk or open the eyes and then functioning after treatment,” Elizabeth said. “As I am enlightened with deeper understanding and ownership, I pass that on  to students.”

Faith and Elizabeth cite Dr. Karen Drake, emeritus professor of nursing, Bethel University (St. Paul, Minn.), as their mentor. Karen, who holds a PhD in educational policy and administration, has been a practising nurse since 1968, including at the side of her late husband in East Africa; as well as a nurse educator at UCU for more than a decade.  

The difference among bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees is primarily critical thinking and problem solving, according to the two UCU nursing doctoral holders.  Those with undergraduate degrees are primarily applying what they have been told while those with advanced degrees are more likely to keep questioning. 

“Many times, people say the PhD is for the sake of self-actualization,” Elizabeth said. “I don’t see it that way.  I see it about more help for the patient, better services, improved policies and processes.” 

For Faith, her advanced degree has reinforced the “importance of collaboration for change” with increased confidence and a “spirit of inquiry.” One area in need of louder,  more informed voices is  mental health that is “highly stigmatized” in an ill-informed East African culture that may label mentally ill people as “possessed,” she said. 

In addition to what their advanced degrees offer for their students, Faith and Elizabeth are frequently at the table for policy and research discussions and conference presentations. Topics have included early postnatal care improvements, work-based learning, menstrual hygiene among adolescents and technology learning and application.

“We need to have nurse leaders at various levels,” Elizabeth said. 

In addition to their on-paper credentials and reputations as esteemed lecturers and nurse practitioners, Christian walk is critical to UCU’s two PhD holders. 

“God has called me to do this,” Elizabeth said. “My model is Jesus Christ.”

“It’s a calling,” Faith concurred, admitting that she initially didn’t want to teach but a higher power nudged her there. “When I feel almost like giving up, I know who is my strength. God is my strong foundation.” 


UCU awards law alumni who graduated as best lawyers

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Work, dedication and discipline paid off for the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Law class of 2020/2021 as these graduates topped the list at the 50th Law Development Center (LDC) graduation. Among the top 20 students who scored a first-class degree at the LDC graduation in June, 10 did their Bachelor’s Degree at UCU. 

Emmanuel Okia, the overall best student receiving his award from the UCU Vice Chancellor.
Emmanuel Okia, the overall best student receiving his award from the UCU Vice Chancellor.

Before anyone can practice law in Uganda, they must have a Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice (one academic year) from LDC on top of a degree from a recognized university. UCU is among a dozen Ugandan schools offering a law degree.

In appreciation of their achievement, UCU held a thanksgiving ceremony to honor these distinguished alumni. The recognition on July 11 at Nkoyoyo Hall followed the recently concluded LDC graduations at LDC campuses in Kampala, Lira and Mbarara districts.

About the UCU Law thanksgiving

Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, the UCU Vice Chancellor, commended the School of Law staff for their roles in graduates’ success and encouraged alumni to consider working at UCU. 

Martha Uwizeye is presented with an award by the UCU Vice Chancellor. Uwizeye was among the UCU students whose studies were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic that saw institutions halt physical classes and completed the semester online.
Martha Uwizeye is presented with an award by the UCU Vice Chancellor. Uwizeye was among the UCU students whose studies were disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic that saw institutions halt physical classes and completed the semester online.

“This has been possible because we have a God we serve, a mighty God, and so we shall be a mighty university,” Mushengyezi said.

In appreciation of the performance, UCU management approved the purchase of a new van for the faculty and renovation of their offices. Star students were given individual awards.

Rev. Assoc. Prof. John Mulindwa Kitayimbwa, the UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), who attended the graduation at Kampala campus, said he was “filled with extreme joy” that the top four students were from UCU.

We want to thank the Lord because it has not been by power nor might, but it has been by the Spirit of the living God,” Kitayimbwa said.

Dr. Peter Mutesasira, Dean of the UCU School of Law, said the recent accomplishment wasn’t an easy task but is a reflection of the rigor at UCU.  

“Your great performance at LDC has proved that beyond the gates of UCU, our students continue to excel, and this has proved that we indeed produce the best,” he said. “We thank God we are here. I usually tell my students I am the film star of the School of Law, but for today these are our film stars.”

He urged other students pursuing Law at UCU to be firm and know that they are in the right place. 

The alumni show off their awards in a photo with the Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi (front-row third left) and other university officials. UCU had 10 of the best 20 students who scored a first-class degree at the Law Development Centre graduation in June
The alumni show off their awards in a photo with the Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi (front-row third left) and other university officials. UCU had 10 of the best 20 students who scored a first-class degree at the Law Development Centre graduation in June.

“We hope you will be an inspiration to those who are coming after you,” Mutesasira said. “We believe that even those after you will hold our flag higher and this is not the end; this is the journey that is just starting for you.” 

During the event, the Vice Chancellor awarded the distinguished graduands.

The stars included Emmanuel Okia, the best performer at LDC this year with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.90; Shamira Kitimbo, the best female student at LDC with 4.80; Reagan Ahumuza, the best at Kampala campus with 4.75. The others included Victor Stephen Bwambale with 4.60; Job Ernest Ayesiga (4.55); Samuel Odiye (4.50); Martha Uwizeye (4.40); and Namagembe Josephine Jojo (4.40).

Jemimah Jehopio, who scored a CGPA of 4.70, scooped the three awards at LDC – the Director’s Award, Agaba Muhairwe Prize (given to best student in corporate and commercial practice on the postgraduate bar course) and the Inspector General of Government accolade (for outstanding student in trial advocacy). 

“These awards represent the fulfillment of my dreams,” Jehopio said. “These accolades acknowledge my dedication and are pivotal for my future career endeavors.”

“I am humbled by such a profound gesture,” said Samuel Odiye (4.50). “We thank God for UCU, a place where knowledge meets opportunity, where dreams are nurtured, and where lifelong friendships are forged.”.

The graduates were among the first group of UCU students that did a take home exam during the Covid-19 lockdown disruptions in 2020. They completed their semester online and had a virtual graduation.  All that notwithstanding, they excelled, joined LDC and topped in the country.

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