Irene Nyapendi

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UCU

From life of hopelessness, art gives Okello a livelihood

By Irene Best Nyapendi
One of the reasons Reagan Okello loves art is it gives him the latitude to express himself beyond what the eyes and cameras can see. By doing so, Okello is able to tell a story that is different and  “complete.”

Take, for instance, one of the pieces with an imposing presence in Okello’s art gallery. The piece depicts eight people dancing in a nightclub. On a closer look, some of the people have animal heads in place of human heads. This is one example, Okello argues, that art has an edge over the human eye and the camera. No camera could ever capture people with animal heads. 

So, what is the story behind the animal heads’ art piece?

Okello's art gallery that doubles as his sitting room
Okello’s art gallery that doubles as his sitting room

Okello says ordinarily, during the day, the actions of many people is something close to purity, which would be represented by white color. However, after nightfall, the same people assume different behavior, which is why each of the people in the art piece is painted wearing a colorful outfit. And because some people partake of intoxicants at night, they become less able to control what they do or say. To Okello, such people then begin to behave like animals. And that is the reason he put animal heads on some of the people. 

Currently a final-year student of Bachelor of Industrial Fine Art at Uganda Christian University (UCU), Okello says his dream is to offer a unique service to his clients once he fully joins the world of work. He says he would like to share with his client the passion, the peace and the fulfillment he gets while engrossed in his work. His dream is to offer a service where clients pay him to guide them through the process of drawing, so that they can recreate the same image he would have drawn for them. This way, he argues, clients can also experience the joy and the satisfaction that comes with drawing.

To refine his craft, Okello usually tries out painting using different styles, materials at his disposal and techniques. His love for painting and work with ceramics has endeared Okello to the community at UCU and beyond. 

Okello painting an art piece
Okello painting an art piece

In March last year, Okello participated in an international visual art competition for tertiary institution students from Uganda and the Nigerian community in Uganda and Nigeria.

A cross-cultural competition was held with the theme “My Impression of Nigeria, My Impression of Uganda.” Ugandan students focused on “My Impression of Nigeria.” while Nigerian participants produced artwork based on the theme, “My Impression of Uganda.”

In the competition, Okello was 22nd out of over 300 competitors from Uganda and received a certificate and drawing materials as a reward.

Currently, Okello devotes his Saturdays to teaching children how to draw and paint.

“It’s these children that I hope to employ in my art gallery in the future,” Okello said. “I want to set up the biggest art gallery in Uganda.” 

From the sale of his art pieces, Okello uses half of the proceeds to support his single mother who brews alcohol for a living. He lost his father in 2007.

Amidst the challenges of struggling to contend with a life with a peasant mother unable to afford his tuition fees, Okello was on the verge of giving up on education at a young age. However, the turning point came when Watoto, an organization that brings hope and healing to vulnerable women and children in Uganda and South Sudan, offered Okello support for his education. He also was given support for basic needs of life. 

Okello says art allows him to tell a “complete” story.
Okello says art allows him to tell a “complete” story.

“Watoto became my new family,” he said. “It was there that I found a sense of belonging and discovered my passion for art.”

Initially, Okello did not take art as a serious discipline. In fact, in A’level, his mind was on pursuing physics as a subject, even though he struggled to comprehend the subject matter. Upon discussing his academic struggles with his mentor, Marvin Ayebare, Okello was advised to drop physics and replace it with art. Okello hesitated, but he eventually gave in. 

As he stepped into the art class, Okello was amazed by the stunning artwork displayed on the walls. He felt unsure of his own abilities and wondered if he could ever create anything as beautiful. After years of sitting in the art class, Okello’s abilities started to match those of the artists whose works were pinned on the wall at the time he joined the class. For instance, some of his art pieces which were his final year project in A’level fetched him money. His first payment for one of the pieces was sh200,000 (about $52). When he received this payment, Okello says he resolved not to drop art. As such, making a decision for his university course became easy.

UCU

UCU Empowers Students for Success in the Modern Workspace

By Irene Best Nyapendi

In today’s rapidly evolving job market, transitioning from the academic sphere to professional life can be intimidating. However, equipped with the right guidance and mindset, students can transform this transition into success in the workplace. 

Uganda Christian University (UCU), Kampala Campus, in collaboration with TIG Network Afrika, an organization that stands for purposeful lives, and social development hosted a career development session on February 21 centered on the theme “School to Work Spaces.” 

The event featured distinguished guest speakers who shared insights and advice with UCU students, empowering them to navigate the complexities of the modern workplace.

Among them were notable figures such as the Deputy Inspector General of Government, Dr. Patricia Achan Okiria, Kalungu East Member of Parliament Francis Katabazi, Prof. Maggie Kigozi, a member of the board of Pepsi- Cola in Uganda, Ambassador Damalie Ssali, and Innocent Kawooya, among others.

Throughout the session, students were encouraged to be intentional in their pursuits, to step out of their comfort zones, and to prioritize continuous learning. 

PHOTO1
Prof. Maggie Kigozi, a board member of Pepsi-Cola in Uganda, engaging with students during the Career Development session.

As Prof. Maggie Kigozi aptly put it, “If you get a job, remember the many who were left, and they hired you, and aim to be the best employee. Don’t disappoint your employer.”

This emphasis on excellence resonated throughout the event, reminding students of the importance of diligence and commitment in achieving their professional goals.

Ambassador Damalie Ssali, emphasized the significance of habitual excellence, explaining to the students that what they continuously do is what they become. 

“Your habits are the ones that will raise you or pull you down,” she emphasized, highlighting the role of personal discipline in career advancement.

She also urged students to leverage technology and cultivate habits that would set them apart in a competitive job market. 

Drawing from personal experience, the Deputy Inspector General of Government, Dr. Patricia Achan Okiria, emphasized the evolving nature of the workspace, driven by technological advancements. 

She addressed the students, stressing the ongoing transformation of the workspace, propelled by technological advancements. 

Additionally, she emphasised the significance of networking and upholding integrity.

“Hard work is very critical for your reputation,” she said. “But also, networking is a powerful tool for personal growth, especially when paired with hard work.” 

Francis Katabazi, Member of Parliament, Kalungu East, encouraged students to embrace their uniqueness and entrepreneurial spirit. 

Katabazi emphasized the uniqueness of individuals and encouraged daily inspiration from this realization.

“Don’t try to be someone else, everyone is unique in their way,” Katabazi said.

He stressed the importance of problem-solving for financial gain, highlighting the perpetual demand for solutions in various areas such as food, clothing, and shelter. 

Katabazi also shared his experience of starting a business with an initial investment of 120,000 shillings, emphasizing the importance of presenting oneself effectively in all endeavors.

Vivian Arabella Aparo, a second year pursuing a Bachelor of Laws, reflected on the day as one she would forever hold dear and cherish. 

She expressed gratitude for the invaluable lessons gained during the career guidance session, highlighting the impact of being reminded to embrace her individuality and acknowledge her blessings.

“I was deeply moved to embrace my unique qualities because they make me who I am—different, special, and blessed,” Aparo said. “Above all, I internalized the powerful message that my dreams are within reach; if I can envision them, I can manifest them.”

Anita Mirembe Bisagaya, a third-year student pursuing medicine, left the session with the realization that she should treat everyone with respect, regardless of their status. She emphasised the importance of cultivating friendliness towards all.

“My key takeaway from the session was not to despise anyone, because I may never know who will take me where I want to be,” Bisagaya said.

Joel Jessy Kamya, a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Laws, took home insights on the significance of innovation and skillfulness in today’s world.

“I came to understand that our contemporary society thrives on individuals who are not only knowledgeable but also innovative and capable of inspiring others,” Kamya said. “Today we have been inspired, and I believe if we are inspired, we can inspire others.”

In the words of Prof. Maggie Kigozi, “There’s nothing you can’t be.” With this empowering message, UCU students are poised to seize the limitless opportunities awaiting them in the dynamic world of work.

UCU

Save The Mothers gets a new Executive Director

By Irene Best Nyapendi

In the developing world, having a baby will be the riskiest thing a woman will do. Yet in many cases, mothers there deliver without any skilled attendant.

This is what makes organizations such as Save the Mothers (STM) relevant, according to Dr. Edward Mukooza the former Interim Director of STM, who handed over the directorship role to Dr. Mushin Nsubuga at Uganda Christian University (UCU) in Florence Mirembe Hall. 

STM believes that a multi-disciplinary approach is needed to save some of the 342,000 mothers and four million children who die in the developing world annually due to unsafe childbirth.

Dr. Mukooza notes that STM is highly relevant due to the high maternal and child mortality rates in Uganda. As a result, there is a lot of work to be done by Nsubuga, to seek support and mobilize resources.

He explained that saving the mothers requires resources, connections, partnerships, and people.

“I expect that he will strengthen the teaching of the Master of Public Health Leadership (MPHL) program because it is an important component of saving the mothers,” Mukooza said.

The STM Program offers MPHL to working professionals from a wide range of disciplines, not just the health discipline. STM East Africa hosts the MPHL at UCU.

SEVEN
Florence Mirembe adressing the congregation during the handover.

Florence Mirembe, the founder of Save the Mothers at UCU, thanked Mukooza for filling in while they searched for a permanent executive director.

She urged Nsubuga to collaborate with alumni and ensure that the MPHL students are well-assessed and taught.

“We are all ready to support you Nsubuga, create a good alumni network, and attract as many students as possible,” Mirembe said.

UCU Welcomes Dr. Mushin Nsubuga to STM Board

Dr. Miriam Mutabazi, the Dean of the UCU Faculty of Public Health, Nursing & Midwifery, expressed gratitude towards STM for their partnership with UCU and is thrilled to see this partnership continue.

“On behalf of UCU, I welcome you, Dr. Mushin, and we look forward to working with you,” Mutabazi said. “We value the Save the Mothers program because of its BPHL initiative. We are confident that once we introduce the Ph.D. program, our alumni will return to further their studies.”

Mutabazi mentioned that they are currently planning to offer a PhD program and hope that MPHL students will be able to enroll in it.

SIX
Dr. Mushin Nsubuga, the new executive director for Save the Mothers.

Dr. Mushin Nsubuga, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist, was given a warm welcome to the board.

Nsubuga expressed gratitude to the founders for creating an opportunity for everyone to participate in saving mothers in their respective sectors.

He mentioned that saving mothers is close to his heart and he is grateful to God for calling him to this important work.

“No mother or baby should die from preventable causes,” Nsubuga said.

He expressed his gratitude to Mukooza, his predecessor, for imparting valuable knowledge and skills. Additionally, he acknowledged Mukooza for the warm welcome and confidently stated his hope for continued mentorship.

 “The first time I interacted with Dr. Mukooza I felt like I was in the hands of a father and he has successfully taken me through orientation.”

Nsubuga looks forward to training game changers, promoting initiatives that make hospitals more baby-mother friendly, ensuring the availability of necessary services, encouraging community involvement, and conducting research.

During the handover, he urged members present to continue supporting maternal health. He also read from Philippians 4:13, which states that we can do all things through God who strengthens us.

STM promotes maternal health in the developing world through education, public awareness, and advocacy. Based in Uganda and North America, Save the Mothers is part of a global movement to improve the health of mothers and babies.

UCU

Agricultural sciences students empower farmers at field day

By Irene Best Nyapendi
On January 24, farmers around Mukono went to the Uganda Christian University (UCU) main campus with samples of their crops that were affected by pests and diseases. On any other day, these farmers would not have been welcomed with these damaged crops. However, on this Wednesday, in a collaborative exercise,  UCU’s students of agriculture examined diseased crops to establish the different diseases while also offering some tried-and-tested solutions to the farmers. 

Students interacting with farmers in the demonstration gardens.
Students interacting with farmers in the demonstration gardens.

This field day exercise, organized by UCU’s Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, offered a platform where students taught farmers about good management practices at their different demo plots. The plots had crops such as Nakati (solanum Aethiopioum), collard greens, squash, sorghum grass, corn, grain amaranth, spinach and bulb onions. 

The Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba, explained that for UCU, working with farmers is more than simply an event; it’s a corporate social obligation.

She noted that farmers are important for the livelihood of UCU because the university depends on the food crops they cultivate. 

“If you ate today, it means a farmer grew crops, so farmers are so important to us,” Bulyaba said, noting that agriculture is a practical field, and that students cannot learn everything in class. In the field, they identify emerging diseases and real-life challenges, and come up with solutions.

Last year, third year students of Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship participated in outreach activities in the gardens set up at the university’s demonstration plot. At the outreach, 30 farmers from Bugujju turned up for the event that provided a platform for the exchange of ideas between the students and the farmers. 

The UCU Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba, addressing farmers.
The UCU Dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba, addressing farmers.

At UCU, agriculture students are trained to be certified plant doctors so that they can identify what’s wrong with plants by simply looking at them.

One of the highlights of the January 24 field day was the plant clinic, where UCU agriculture students diagnosed diseased crops and made recommendations to the farmers, drawing from classroom knowledge. 

Charity Rojo, a fourth-year student of Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship (BASE), is one of the people who examined samples of sick plants brought in for diagnosis.

“For fungal diseases, we looked for leaf spots with concentric rings, and for bacterial diseases, we looked for wet spots,” Rojo explained.

For pests, she said they looked for holes in the leaves, and that if the stem was affected, they looked for boring on the stem. 

According to Rojo, fungal diseases are the most common because they can easily be spread by rain and wind, for example, maize smut which is transported by wind from one maize cob to another.

She advised farmers to maintain good field hygiene and only get seeds for planting from recommended suppliers. 

Mildred Julian Nakanwagi, a field technician within the UCU department of agriculture, takes farmers through the best farming practices of growing onions.
Mildred Julian Nakanwagi, a field technician within the UCU department of agriculture, takes farmers through the best farming practices of growing onions.

Joseph Odongo, a farmer from Kazinga village in Mukono district., said he learned about the option for organic spray for onions, instead of chemicals.

“The students taught me how to make a spray for my onions by mixing ash, red pepper, onions and garlic, and allowing it to ferment,” Odongo explained.

Filda Acan, a small-scale farmer, was happy to discover zucchini, something she said she can grow in her compound. “Today, I saw plants I had never seen in the market. I was excited to learn about zucchini, and I’m, surely, going back to plant it.”

Kefa Othieno, a third-year student of Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship, explained that he was able to get practical experience by interacting with the farmers.

“Today, I’ve been able to apply the knowledge I learned in the classroom to a real-world setting,” Othieno said. 

The students from the Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences also encouraged fellow students and farmers to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Kelly Senoga, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, emphasized that physical size alone doesn’t determine one’s state of health, explaining that both underweight and overweight individuals can face health challenges.

Senoga explained to the students and the farmers that being overweight can lead to obesity, with associated health risks, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. 

The students studying Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology also presented to the farmers value-added agricultural products, such as bread made from pumpkin. The bread contains 10% pumpkin and is high in vitamins A and C. 

UCU

UCU student narrates journey from homeschool to formal education

By Pauline Luba
For 12 years, Precious Abangira Nimusiima didn’t know what it meant to sit inside a classroom in a formal school setting. From Primary Three until she completed secondary school, Abangira was studying from home under the tutorship of her parents. She has now joined Uganda Christian University (UCU) to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science.

“I liked the flexibility which came with the homeschooling program.” Abangira, a daughter of missionary parents, said. “If I had to miss for a few days because of trips, it was okay since I didn’t miss school or have the class leave me behind.”

Each morning, Abangira and her brother woke up between 6 and 7 a.m. to do house chores, after which they prepared for class. They would dress up in uniforms and proceed to the section of their home dedicated for classes. The section was equipped with a chalkboard and other essentials necessary in a classroom. 

According to the 21-year-old, a morning devotional prayer was always part of the program before the learning began. She said either of the parents would supervise their learning, depending on who was free that day. The curriculum is a learner-centered discovery method of learning.

Part of what Abangira learned included Bible studies, mathematics, English and grammar, science and history for their primary education and subjects such as geography, government, Literature and Economics once they joined secondary school. While the classes did not include extra curricular activities, Abangira often participated in sports and music. In the case of the Christian Liberty Academy homeschooling system, which Abangira was using, the parents of the children supervise them on a day-to-day basis, and then grade their work. The final grading and certification is done at the school campus in the USA.

Abangira was also part of a group for homeschooled children that often met once a week to socialize with other children, especially those in the same program. 

Homeschooling has not been a common practice in Uganda. However, it gained popularity during the 2020-2021 lockdown of schools in Uganda, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

In 2011, before many Ugandans got exposed to this form of education, parents of Abangira decided to homeschool their children as a result of their exposure to the system, which to them resonated with the family values they espouse. Francis and Allen Mutatiina, who serve with LIFE Ministry Uganda/, often travel to spread the word of God. Abangira says her parents would travel both within and beyond Uganda. 

Kenya and Rwanda are some of the countries the Mutatiinas traveled to as a family. As such, the couple, now married for 23 years, would easily supervise their children’s education everywhere they went.

And the Mutatiinas knew that their homeschooling model was biblical. In addition to increased  time parents spent with their children in their formative years, Abangira’s parents also often found justification for homeschooling in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

Abangira now says some of the practices they often followed at home have remained ingrained in her way of life. She remembers the family always “sitting together, reading and studying the Bible” as part of the homeschool curriculum. This habit is still very much alive in the family, and in the life of Abangira.

Having accessed, used and taught herself computer-related information from the age of 10, Abangira now hopes to further that knowledge by acquiring a professional qualification as an Artificial Intelligence expert. 

UCU Abangira’s Journey: From Medicine to Computer Technology

Shockingly, during her formative years, a profession in computer technology was not anywhere among her priorities. She desired a course in human medicine. However, a few years ago, one of Abangira’s friends was diagnosed with cancer. As part of the treatment, the patient’s leg had to be amputated. Abangira says witnessing her friend struggle to buy prosthetics for his leg made her rethink the course to pursue at university. 

She now hopes that with added computer knowledge, she will be able to contribute to the development of more affordable robotics, especially for people living with disabilities. 

UCU

Katoko: From almost missing graduation to UCU staff

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Judith Katoko was expected to be part of the Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduation of July 2022. But that was not the case. By the time of the graduation, Katoko had neither written her dissertation nor completed her fees. However, she worked so hard that by the next graduation in October 2022, she had completed all the academic requirements. 

Still, she was not on the graduation list. 

Katoko had a fees balance of sh8 million (about $2,100). The 24-year-old says she had ruled out asking for money from friends and classmates because it was not her nature. She asked anyway.

When she shared her challenges with one of her cousins, Katoko was given sh3million (about $780). She then approached a UCU staff member and Jonathan Tumwebaze, Partnerships Manager for Uganda Partners. The staff member helped negotiate a sh4million (about $1,050) salary advance to give Katoko. Through Uganda Partners, Katoko got sh600,000 (about $160). The balance of sh400,000 (about $105) came from the savings she had. With this, Katoko cleared the fees balance a day before graduation — and received a Bachelor of Human Rights, Peace, and Humanitarian Intervention. 

Uganda Partners Executive Director Mark Bartels, who was around UCU at the time, was among participants at Katoko’s thanksgiving feast at Eunice Guest House after her graduation.

“I can surely say a problem shared is a problem half solved,” she said. “I had never heard of Uganda Partners before, but through it, Mark Bartels’ organization gave me money to clear for my graduation.”

Judith Katoko believes that if she provides students with the best experience while at UCU, they will grow into responsible citizens.
Judith Katoko believes that if she provides students with the best experience while at UCU, they will grow into responsible citizens.

After the graduation, UCU hired Katoko as a casual worker in the accommodation section. From April to December 2023, she was a stand-in for the female custodian. In January 2024, the university appointed Katoko as a graduate trainee in charge of Ankrah Foundation Halls of Residence. In the position, she manages issues to do with registration for accommodation, provides counseling services and helps students navigate issues pertaining to their academic programs. Although she may not know much about all the courses, she knows who to contact in case students need assistance in a particular area. The Ankrah Hall, which houses both male and female students, has 96 single rooms.

Katoko Advocates for Students Rights at UCU, inspired by Proverbs 31: 8

Katoko believes that people are molded by their early experiences and that if she provides students with the best experience while at UCU, they will grow into responsible citizens.

Ankrah resident Lynn Abaasa, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Nursing Science, describes Katoko as an approachable and consistently present custodian.

“When we have a challenge, we can easily go to Katoko. I recall the night she called the plumber to fix a water problem at night,” Abaasa said, adding: “She also offered me her laptop when I didn’t have one during exam season.”

Reflecting on her experience, Katoko encourages UCU students to embrace challenges. “There are challenges you may face as a student, but I urge you to seek guidance because, from an informed decision, you will have an informed choice,” Katoko said. 

In the future, she hopes to become a children’s advocate. She intends to set up an organization dedicated to the promotion of children’s rights, inspired by Proverbs 31:8 “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

UCU

‘We’ve been created to be in each other’s lives’

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Millie Mercy Namikka is outgoing and composed. Committed to social justice, she often finds herself advocating for the marginalized. This virtue has enabled Namikka to make many friends, both in her community and at school. 

“You always find her freely interacting with people in her environment,” Hannington Kikulwe, Namikka’s father, says. “At home, she helps the workers with their chores and also buys them gifts.” Namikka says she learned service and contribution virtues from her parents. Kukulwe was an evangelist, and his wife, a reverend.

Namikka ready to ride her bicycle to her hall of residence during her time in the Netherlands.
Namikka ready to ride her bicycle to her hall of residence during her time in the Netherlands.

It was, therefore, not surprising, when Namikka chose to pursue a Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration at Uganda Christian University (UCU). And that choice for a course eventually presented an opportunity for Namikka to travel out of the country for her very first time in February 2022. She returned to Uganda in August of the same year.

She was part of the eight students that UCU was sending to Hanze University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands for a resume-building exchange program and international exposure. The collaboration between UCU and Hanze is a conduit for cross-cultural exchange, fostering not only academic growth but also personal transformation for both students and lecturers.

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. 

“I felt so lucky that I was leaving the country and what amazed me was the fact that I did not have to pay any money,” Namikka says, noting that when her friends learned of her imminent trip, they organized a get-together. 

Once in the Netherlands, Namikka says it was not easy adjusting to the food and the cost. But she eventually did. With her friends, they pooled resources and started buying food in bulk, sharing costs, and sometimes traveling to Amsterdam to enjoy local food. Her diet also changed from bread sandwiches to pasta, Irish food, and more vegetables. This new way of eating has stuck with her to date. 

Namikka in the vintage jacket and boots she bought in the flea market during the King’s Day
Namikka in the vintage jacket and boots she bought in the flea market during the King’s Day

One memorable experience for Namikka was attending the King’s Day in the Netherlands. Marked every April 27, the day is a national holiday and celebrates King Willem-Alexander’s birthday with lots of music, dancing, flea markets and fun fair. 

“Two days before and after the actual day, it felt like a big holiday. People sold things from their homes at reduced prices, and the streets were full of parties,” she said. “I was shocked, seeing everyone wearing orange, and others selling their items. But I used that opportunity to buy vintage boots and a lot of vintage clothes and items for friends at the flea markets.”

For her classes at Hanze University, they didn’t just stick to theories; they dived into real-life situations. One of her favorite courses was creating and sharing happiness and positive coaching techniques. Every day, they would talk about their day — what went well, what didn’t. It was like a daily life check-in.

This made her realize that life is a mix of little moments. Now, she shares this wisdom with people in her shared workspace. She tells them to live the moment, be aware of how they feel, and focus on their journey of recovery, not the past. 

UCU-Hanze Collaboration Promotes Cross-Cultural Knowledge

Namikka during one of her outreach programs at Teens Challenge Uganda
Namikka during one of her outreach programs at Teens Challenge Uganda

Kasule Kibirige, the UCU head of department of Social Works and Social Administration, 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. He added that this collaboration fosters the development of academic networks through regular meetings during guest lecture exchanges.

Namikka currently works with Teen Challenge Uganda, a Christian rehabilitation facility. Here, her responsibilities include reaching out to children, schools, those in brothels and slums, creating support groups and offering counseling, therapy, discipleship, Bible study and awareness on addiction. 

Her desire to mend broken hearts and help people learn from their experiences fuels her ambition to become a counseling psychologist. She hopes to return to school to pursue a master’s degree in that field.

“We’ve been created to be in each other’s lives, and sometimes when we are in each other’s lives, we hurt each other and we don’t know how to mend the broken hearts,” Namikka says. The 24-year-old envisions building a career in helping individuals triumph over trauma, grief, and life’s challenges, witnessing them thrive and embrace the joys of life.

UCU

Asiimwe: Our parents inspired us to work hard

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).

Asiimwe chatting with other students in the exchange program.
Asiimwe chatting with other students in the exchange program.

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.

Asiimwe says she will not leave the classroom until she has earned a PhD in social work.
Asiimwe says she will not leave the classroom until she has earned a PhD in social work.

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, NetherlandsThe 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. 

Asiimwe celebrated Christmas in the Netherlands.
Asiimwe celebrated Christmas in the Netherlands.

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.

UCU

Elotu: How I coped with life in a foreign country

By Kefa Senoga
Once Uganda Christian University (UCU) student Elotu Mercy set foot in the Netherlands, one of the first things she did was locate a church where she could pray during her five-month stay in the European country. She got the church — Vineyard Church — as well as acquaintances who would become instrumental in her social and spiritual life in the new country. 

In the church, Elotu met three Nigerian ladies, one of whom had received a Bachelor of Laws degree from UCU. The three Nigerians, Elotu and another UCU student, Milly Mercy, formed a quintet that for the next five months took time off their studies to tour the Schengen region.

Elotu Mercy with a friend from the Netherlands
Elotu Mercy with a friend from the Netherlands

Elotu, Mercy and three other UCU students were in the Netherlands in 2021 for a resume-building exchange program between UCU and the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. The exchange program is part of a collaboration that started between the two institutions of higher learning in 2017. 

So far, more than 30 students have participated in the collaborative, with eight Ugandan social work students studying at Hanze University of Applied Sciences, and their Dutch counterparts also coming to UCU to carry out field work training in Ugandan agencies. Also, since 2018, annually, two UCU faculty have been invited to offer guest lectures in social work at Hanze, and the same has happened with Hanze faculty at UCU.

Elotu said her Nigerian friends advised that to enjoy touring other European countries, she needed to work so that she could save money for trips. Two months into her stay in the Netherlands, through an agency that employs international students, Elotu got a housekeeping job, where she worked for 16 hours a week. In the Netherlands, work permits for international students do not allow them to exceed 16 hours per week. 

“We would work for two to three hours per day during weekdays. On Saturdays, we had opportunities to work in hotels, which was usually six hours,” says Elotu, the eldest of the five children of Joseph and Anne Grace Elotu. Her parents are both community workers.

Elotu during a visit in Paris
Elotu during a visit in Paris

Once the pay came in, Elotu and her student colleagues took advantage of their off-days from school to tour. In one of the trips, they spent four days in Paris, France, and a couple of hours in Belgium. Most of the trips were made possible by a less-demanding school schedule. In a week, Elotu says they had up to three classes at school.

While in the Netherlands, Elotu says she struggled to adjust to the food. 

“In Uganda, we have three heavy hot meals in a day. However, while in the Netherlands, we only had one hot meal in the evening. Our lunch in the Netherlands was usually bread and soup, even in most of the homes that we visited,” narrated Elotu, the most senior member in the group that traveled for the program.

Elotu, currently pursuing a Master of Social Work at the UCU main campus in Mukono, was the only post-graduate student in the team that traveled. As an undergraduate student, Elotu had been selected to benefit from the exchange program, but the visits were canceled because of the lockdowns at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, Elotu missed the opportunity. When the visits were resumed, Kasule Kibirige, the head of UCU’s social work department, encouraged her to re-apply. 

While in the Netherlands, Elotu says she continued her Ugandan master’s classes online. For the course she undertook in the Netherlands, Elotu returned with a Diploma in Applied Positive Psychology of Hanze University of Applied Sciences.

Participating in the exchange program broadens the worldviews of students, and many of them gain broader insights into professional practice, according to Kasule. He said participants report greater interest in personal exploration and increased professional growth. 

“More academic networks have developed through regular meetings between faculty members during guest lectures,” Kasule elaborates.

Elotu is currently working in the eastern Uganda district of Soroti, with Destiny Community Development Initiative, a non-governmental organization. 

Before joining UCU, Elotu attended Joy Christian Primary School in eastern Uganda for his primary education, and then St. Joseph’s SS Naggalama for O’level and Nabisunsa Girls School for A’level. Naggalama and Nabisunsa are found in central Uganda. 

UCU

Journey of learning, networking and compassion beyond borders

By Bena Nekesa
“Just as plants need sun, water and good soil to thrive, people need love, work and a connection to something larger.” So says American social psychologist and author, Jonathan David Haidt. 

This epitomizes the vision of Uganda Christian University (UCU) student Racheal Drateru.  She wants to establish an orphanage, fueled by the poignant scenes of suffering children witnessed during her family travels. The images of malnourished babies, tiny girls carrying jerrycans of water, boys toiling in the fields and malaria infection without medicine or mosquito protection inspire this deeper calling.

Racheal Drateru, right, with a student in her international studies cohort in Holland in 2023.
Racheal Drateru, right, with a student in her international studies cohort in Holland in 2023.

The desire to help such communities is reinforced by her studies in the UCU school of Social Sciences and part of who she is, including her 2023 international studies at Hanze University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. While there, she also got the chance of traveling to other cities and countries such as Paris in France, Copenhagen in Denmark and Hamburg in Germany.

Racheal Drateru found herself at the crossroads of a life-altering opportunity when her department head, Kasule Solomon Kibirige, introduced the possibility of a study exchange program to the Netherlands. On February 2, 2023, Racheal ,accompanied by two other students, embarked on a six-month journey to the country in northwestern Europe.

Despite initial hesitations, Racheal stood as a lucky student among the 15 applicants for the study exchange program which embraced her chance to broaden horizons. The excitement of this venture prompted Racheal to share the news with her father, Moses Draza, a Christian and a social worker, whose character influenced his daughter. Racheal is also blessed with a mother and step-mother, both business ladies supporting her dreams. She choose UCU through the influence of her parents and a match with her Christian character.

Racheal on her bicycle – the regular mode of transportation in the Netherlands.
Racheal on her bicycle – the regular mode of transportation in the Netherlands.

Navigating the Dutch culture proved challenging for Racheal as she grappled with the emphasis on punctuality and the persistent cold weather. Yet, she maintained a positive mindset, focusing on the primary objectives of networking, making enduring friendships, and academic growth. Racheal’s time in the Netherlands fostered an openness to diverse perspectives, encouraging her fellow students to embrace opportunities for cross-cultural exploration. 

Beyond the academic benefits, Racheal’s journey abroad served to further crystalize her vision to help others. Instead of starting an orphanage, she realized the value of first working with a child-based NGO. 

“Students at Hanze were open-minded and free,” she said. “I thought more freely and clearer about how to accomplish my vision.  I started thinking, too, about how I could work with refugees.” Racheal’s advice to others engaged in international study is: “Learn to be open minded and embrace cross-cultural communication.”

Expressing heartfelt gratitude to her lecturers for guidance, Racheal age 22,  continues to be committed to a personal project aimed at aiding the vulnerable in her community. 

As Rachael Drateru returned to Uganda in July 26, 2023, her journey became a testimony to the transformative power of education, cultural immersion, and the unwavering support of family. “Beyond Borders” became a rallying cry for students to seize opportunities, embrace diversity, and wield education as a potent tool for positive change in their communities, Racheal’s indomitable spirit of learning, networking, and compassion.

Racheal hails from Arua city, a Lugbara by tribe from Ayivu. In addition to her parents, she has eight siblings. She obtained her secondary education from St. Mary’s boarding secondary school,  a school that in 2020 led her to UCU, working toward a bachelor’s degree in social work. 

“My advice for the rest of the students is never take an opportunity for granted because it’s a blessing since not everyone is able to attain it,” she said. “This enables one to travel across borders and network with others from other countries, including learning new things that are not in your country.

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