Jimmy Siyasa

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Prof. Kisaalita brings engineering solutions to UCU

Bespectacled. Loose-fitting, sky blue shirt. Sage-green cotton trousers. Black sneakers coated with dust likely gathered from strolling down the dirt roads of Mukono. His casual countenance belies his unsullied academic pedigree. He is an ordinary, grey-haired folk until you do one of three things: Type the name William S. Kisaalita into Google Chrome, ask him to tell you a bit about engineering and, thirdly, show him a major socio-economic problem in your community. Then shall you know the 67-year-old scholar for ‘who he truly is’.

Kisaalita is a Distinguished Professor of Engineering and a former Graduate Coordinator, at the University of Georgia, USA. Additionally, he is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Uganda National Academy of Science, and a Fulbright Scholar.

Early this year, 2021, he got an adjunct appointment at UCU and consequently touched base in Mukono in March. He received the offer with two hands for many reasons, though chiefly because of his keen interest and world-class expertize in “internationalizing undergraduate students engineering learning experiences”, as the Journal of Community engagement and scholarship writes of him.

Kisaalita came to teach mainly two course units: Foundations of Engineering Research and Development Engineering and Sustainability. He awaits approval of the course units by internal authorities who handle University curricular, before he can embark on lecturing. He has published literature in the same fields and beyond. His major books are two: Development Engineering and 3D Cell-based Biosensors in Drug Discovery Programs. Both are available on amazon.com. But this is only a pipsqueak of his scholarly portfolio. Kisaalita has published research and done more projects than space allows me to detail.

I met him somewhere on the green of Uganda Christian University (UCU). Typical of a Ugandan that has lived long enough in the West to master the on-time culture, he was just in time for our appointment. “It is exciting to be back home, you know, after so many years of being away” he remarks, with an American English accent. He has lived in the Diaspora since 1779. He makes his home in Georgia State, USA. Though they are empty nesters, Kisaalita and his wife Rose Mayanja, have four children.

Kisaalita’s name is tied to several research projects and innovations that continue to make inter-continental impact. His lean slightly stooping stature is proof for decades spent searching for and solving hard problems using simple engineering solutions, mostly in developing African economies.

He is the mind behind the Evakulaa a milk preserver powered by biogas derived from cow dung. Courtesy of a grant from the National Science Foundation, Kisaalita came to Uganda, in 2002, with a team of Undergraduate engineering students from UGA with whom he built the milk cooler. He would later secure another grant from World Bank to commercialize the cooling system, which had taken him many years and additional funding from USAID to develop. The invention has since revolutionized the milk market in Uganda, enabling small holder farmers who cannot afford refrigerators to keep milk fresh overnight.

In 2005, together with a colleague from UGA Kisaalita travelled to Morocco to develop a system that could help Moroccan women crack nuts much faster and efficiently. Nut-cracking was a laborious task that the women undertook to earn a living. Oil-exporting companies would hire them to crack shells of argan nuts in order to harvest the seeds, from which, then, oil would be extracted. The women had to crack the seeds between two stones, a process that sometimes mangled their fingers.

It usually lasted nearly 24 hours to produce a litre of oil. Incommensurate to the labour. No sooner had he tried to crack one himself than Kisaalita assigned his students to forge a nutcracker. The result of the heuristic Professor and his student’s development was a crank shaft hand tool that cracks nuts thrice faster…

Unlike scientists whose science closes out God and Godliness, Kisaalita’s empathy for the poor that is almost palpable when he speaks about their problems, is evidently inspired by his Christian convictions, which he argues must be an undergirding force if one is to think beyond their stomach, but of what they can do for their community.

“I feel like my job is to do things that lifts  people further up, from where they are, on the economic pyramid and there is no way of getting to know what they need other than stepping in their shoes or listening to them complain.”

Prof. Kisaalita

A penchant to solve social problems in his community has always inspired Professor William Kisaalita, a social entrepreneur, researcher, teacher, writer and parent. He believes that to understand challenges of the people one seeks or claims to serve, the latter must walk in their shoes; lest they come up with irrelevant inventions. Hence, he does not know, let alone like, to sit up in air conditioned study rooms or libraries, perusing tomes to read up on problems people are facing, then research. His methods are ethnographic.

Over the six months he has lived in Uganda, since March, Professor Kisaalita decided to embark on a project whose intended fruit, he says, is high-efficiency briquette-making machine(s) and green charcoal making. These he believes, will ease burden of unnecessary manual labour on local briquette makers in Uganda, some of whom he has interacted with during his six months stay in the country, ever since arrival.

A casual chat with a young woman whom he met selling briquettes somewhere around Mukono inspired the idea. On hearing-firsthand- about the rudimentary production processes, the Professor who began to think- Solution. He has been thinking, designing concepts and writing grant proposals. Now he has a briquette-development and green charcoal project underway in which he hopes to incorporate Engineering students when they are back on campus for in-person learning.

Moreover, he is working towards developing a center in UCU called the “Sustainable Development Center”, with goal of “strengthening graduate education”.  “I would like to produce a student who thinks at a high level to tackle problems in their community,” says Kisaalita. This would be a UCU- version of his annual program for freshmen, called the First Year Odyssey Seminar.

The Professor’s affiliation with UCU-no doubt- brings premium value to the University’s Faculty of Engineering, Design and Technology, not only because of his heavy scholarly profile but also because he eagerly seeks to link UCU to his world-wide web of networks. “I will try and use my networks. I hope to invite some of my colleagues from my University, here, to teach and interact with the students for periods as short as three weeks,” he says. “And soon some of them will even like the experience enough to travel on their own, he adds with a grin.

Background

Professor Kisaalita attended from Bishop Senior School in Mukono, 1968-1971. He later joined Kings College Buddo in 1972 from where he acquired his High School Certificate. In 1974, he joined Makerere University and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1978. Four years later, he acquired a Master’s in Bio-resource engineering from the University of Vancouver, BC, Canada.

In 1981 he came back to Uganda to start a teaching career at Makerere University, but barely spent a year there because “life was incredibly hard. It was impossible to live decently”. He was earning a meagre wage of 600 shillings despite the economic inflation at the time. “The economy was in tatters, money had lost value due to inflation, but our salaries were not adjusted. On many occasions his parents delivered food to his apartment.

After seven months in Uganda, he decided that life at Makerere, at the time, was unsustainable. He hang his boots in August 1981 and left for Canada a few months later, in 1982. He enrolled for a Doctorate in Chemical engineering, in 1987, at the University where he had acquired a Master’s.

In 1991 he joined the University of Georgia, where he is still serving as Professor. This was shortly after pursuing a Post-Doctorate at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign.

Professor Kisaalita has garnered strings of awards over and secured Postdoctoral Fellowships at prestigious institutions around the world, during his scholarly career that has spanned over 40 years.

When he was nine, ‘little’ Kisaalita paid his debut visit at a workshop. In company of his father, who was a government mechanic at the Ministry of Works. At the workshop he saw giant machine slamming and neatly flattening other huge pieces of metal. His jaws dropped. As thought stricken by divine conviction, he said to himself, “I want to be able to do something like this.” Over fifty years later, he has become a polished innovator who niches in simple engineering solutions for problems of the proletariat.

Wandamix, a housefly larva-based protein concentrate for poultry feed formulation, is another of his innovations. This he developed to soothe the predicament of poultry farmers in Burkina Faso.

Hopefully his next popular project will come from UCU.

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Failure is an opportunity to learn’ – UCU alumna, Prim Tumuramye

By Dalton Mujuni, Yasir J. Kasango and Ivan Tsebeni
Prim Kesande Tumuramye, a Uganda Christian University (UCU) alumna and former UCU employee, was recently elevated to the position of Communications Specialist for Compassion International Africa.
Compassion International is a Christian charity organization that is committed to rendering support to vulnerable children in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. Prim’s new job includes laying strategies and supporting others in the communication processes, as well as supporting the African countries that they serve. Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania are among these countries.
Prim said that her experience at UCU as a student and later a staff member better enabled her to strongly espouse Christian values that have been pivotal in her profession.
“I think it would have been a hazardous if I had attended a liberal public university given that I was coming to the city for the first time,” Prim, a native of the western region of Kabale, said. “UCU gave me a safe landing and grounded me with Christian Values.”
Prim, 37, married and with children, has a career path that was deliberate but often rocky.
Prim is the only child of a strict mother who gave up a teaching job to conduct a small business yielding more money. She recalled how reading books took the place of being with other children in the household and how a charitable couple graced her with school fees. She attended Mother care Primary School, and Kigezi High School for elementary and High school respectively.
Mostly working from home during Uganda’s covid-related lockdown, Prim took a break in July to discuss her career moves within Compassion International, starting in 2006.
After completing her UCU final semester examinations in April 2006, Prim sought an opportunity for Child Development worker in partnership with Compassion International. Her mother felt the application would be futile since Prim did not yet have her university diploma in hand, but Prim persevered.
Robert Mugabe, the then Child Development project director in Kabale, gave her transport to the interview in Rukungiri District in Western Uganda as well as arrangements for her to spend a night with some relatives there. One of the interview panelists convinced the others that since Prim was educated at UCU, the transcript would be forthcoming.
“If this young lady says she is from UCU and she is scheduled to graduate on August 30, 2006, you can take her at her word,” said the panelist, Canon Sam Ruharo. Prim started working in August before her graduation.
In 2007, she was promoted to Project Director of the Child Development Center (CDC). She worked for two years as the Project Director.
In 2009, UCU Bishop Barham Constituent College advertised that they needed a suitable candidate with work experience, aged 35 years and above to work as a public relations officer. Despite Prim’s young age at the time, she applied and was hired.
Her Job at UCU Bishop Barham was her turning point in the mass communication profession since from the onset, her interest had been law.
“I had studied Mass communication by default since my passion for law had died with the inconsistencies that surrounded my admission,” Prim said. “I had been so depressed for being kicked out of the Law course and never loved Mass communication but I picked myself up when I started practicing Mass communication at UCU.”
In 2010, when the UCU main campus advertised the vacancy of Assistant Public Relations Officer, Prim got the job. Prim’s luck followed her unceasingly, in 2013, the then Public Relations Officer of UCU transitioned into a government employee, leaving a vacuum that she luckily filled. She played the acting Public Relations Officer role so well for 11 months and when the university advertised the office, there was no better person to fill the space than her.
She worked as UCU public relations officer until December 2017. Prim was good at multi-tasking, while working at UCU she was a lecturer for the Faculty of Journalism, Media and communication. She also wrote a column for the Observer News Daily.
In December 2017, she sought a new experience of work at Compassion International Uganda as the Public Relations Specialist. In 2021, she was elevated to Communication Specialist, Compassion International Africa.
Prim’s advice to others pursuing jobs is this: “I went into this process without fear for failing because I know failure is an opportunity to learn – not the end of life. Luckily the interviews were conducted virtually leaving room for me to enhance my confidence. There were many people but only by the Grace of God I made it to the top in Africa.”

UCU slashes functional fees

By Ivan Tsebeni

With less than a month to the end of Trinity Semester exams, Uganda Christian University (UCU) has issued a fees structure with functional fees reduced from Ugx983, 000 toUgx 618,000. The reduction sets a difference of about Ugx365, 000 which is said to factor in the lockdown.
The changes were announced by the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration, Mr. David Mugawe through the memo that was released on July 7.
Mugawe said tuition will remain unchanged since teaching and learning continued online.
“Students are encouraged to pay their tuition fees before the deadline on August 2,” he said.
He added that students’ portal shall not be activated without full fees payment, urging them to send their fees payment slips to registration@ucu.ac.ug/new.
“For students who had paid boarding fees, the unutilized portion of the money shall be credited to the student’s respective account,” he said.
This is the third time UCU is considering fees reduction. This is however attributed to the unusual situation brought about by the surging Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am happy the university has considered the prevailing condition caused by Covid-19 and it has reduced functional fees,” said Brian Nyangor, Bachelors of Economics and Management student.
Nyangor, however, urged the University to allow students who have high fees balance to sit for exams and they pay later.
The Trinity Semester exams are slated for 9 – 19th August, 2021.

UCU classroom and real-life experience propel student into media job

By Fiona Nabugwere and Joseph Lagen
Lucky Reuben Ereu had a long-time dream to work at a media house. This dream led Ereu, then a first-year student of Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communication, to 106.1FM Next Radio, to pitch a proposal for a radio programme.
The year was 2018. Ereu had high hopes in his proposal because Next Radio had just been launched, so he knew there were slots in the radio’s programming.
Ereu, age 23, did not just impress at the proposal pitching. He also was asked to present for a radio show called Crazy Town. The show is a fun, weekly show that features young inspirational personalities to show youths ways of creating sources of income while still in school. It airs every Sunday, at midday. He also is one of the content creators at the radio station.
“My confidence levels have improved because of my work at the radio station and the presentations we always have in class,” he said.
Courtesy photo of The Crazy Town presenters (left-right) Mark Munanura, Simran Merali and Lucky Reuben Ereu
Courtesy photo of The Crazy Town presenters (left-right) Mark Munanura, Simran Merali and Lucky Reuben Ereu
Ereu is excited about the practical projects they undertake at school because they offer him opportunities to improve what he is already practicing at Next Radio.
“The UCU focus project that we did last semester opened my eyes about how news is produced, especially using mobile phones,” he said. “Before, I thought producing a news bulletin was so complex, but now I know that I can do it.”
Because of such projects, Ereu’s performance at Next Radio improved tremendously to the point that he and his teammates were rewarded with performance bonuses at the end of 2020.
“I use my monthly allowances for upkeep at the university and the performance bonus we received at the end of last year was what I used to pay my hostel fees,” said Ereu, whose first appearance on air was as a presenter on a TV teens show for NTV Uganda, said. His stint at NTV Uganda, which was in 2018, lasted three months.
He said former students of UCU, who are employees of Next Media Services, are always willing to guide and mentor him.
One of the projects that Ereu is proud of having participated in is the 77 Percent campaign, a DW magazine for Africa’s youth. DW is a German public state-owned international broadcaster. The 77 Percent magazine focuses on reports, personal stories and debates on big issues that matter most to the African youth.
Ereu, now a final-year student at UCU, says the three years he has spent at Next Radio have enabled him gain skills in operating radio and television equipment. Additionally, he says the Faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication has all the necessary equipment to enable students to practice what they learn in class. The skills Ereu has acquired, he says, have enabled him to get assignments for projects at the university. He says he videographed the university graduation in 2018 and that he currently does photography work for the E-learning team of UCU.
Passion for videos, photographs
Ereu shot his first film in 2012, while in Senior Two, using a friend’s mobile phone. He continued to shoot videos and take photographs using borrowed phones until he acquired his own smartphone a year later. Having noticed the passion he had for shooting videos and taking photographs, Ereu’s grandfather gifted him his first camera in 2017. That was the same year he began shooting videos for commercial purposes, during his Senior Six holidays.
Ereu charges between sh200,000 (about $57) and sh400,000 (about $114) for birthdays and personal photoshoots. He also creates social media video clips for clients at sh80,000 (about $22). He usually posts some of his works on his social media pages: @simplyluckie on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

UCU’s relentless fight against Covid-19

By Ivan Tsebeni
With staff and students embracing Covid-19 vaccination, Uganda Christian University (UCU) has continued to sensitize her community to take heed to the Ministry of Health guidelines in order to defeat the deadly pandemic.
Stickers are pinned on every notice board and doors to help in the sensitization of the community against Covid-19 spread.
“We closed the University’s physical operations to decongest the population as per the Government directives,” Dr. Geoffrey Mulindwa, the Director Medical Services said.
Mulindwa cautioned that the third wave may be more hazardous than the first and second ones.
The University started Covid-19 Vaccination on March 15, just nine days after the vaccine was imported into the country.
Sensitization campaigns, according to Mulindwa, have kept the rate of infections within the community slightly lower.
He however cautioned the public to take extra care not to contract the virus and also seek medical advice in case one develops signs and symptoms of Covid-19.
“Whether one is vaccinated or not, one needs to maintain the standard operating procedures,” he said.
Mulindwa added that UCU is well equipped with preventive methods and gadgets to curb down the spread of the virus.

Covid-19: Guild leaders sacrifice allowance to feed students stuck in hostels

By Ivan Tsebeni

When the 23rd Guild Government took over leadership last year, they vowed to ‘Build the Bridge to the New Normal’ and that is exactly what they have done.
Out of their July and August 2021 guild allowances, they have contributed over 980,000 shillings to buy food stuff for students who remained in hostels due to the lockdown. Some of the students are from neighbouring countries.
“We agreed to sacrifice these allowances to feed our colleagues who remained in hostels due to unavoidable circumstances,” said Guild President Kenneth Agaba Amponda.
The guild Officials developed a Google list which they shared with students to ensure transparency in their selection.
“The only way we could identify the real affected students was through a Google list which we believe reached almost all the students,” Amponda said.
The food assortments were handed over to students on Saturday, September 4 at the Guild Offices.
According to the Guild Speaker, Calvin Olupot Bahati, they used the money to buy food items such as: rice, sugar, beans, posho, spaghetti, salt and cakes.
He added that much as the items donated may seem a drop in the ocean, the act had a bigger positive impact.
The Director of Students Affairs, Bridget M. Mugume, thanked the student leaders for showing a kind gesture to their colleagues.
A Second Year Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration student, Anna Bonsuk, said that she could not travel back to her home country, South Sudan.
“I’m happy that the guild has thought about us during these hard times. Being in a foreign land amidst the lockdown is the worst experience one can ever dream of,” Bonsuk said.

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