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UCU law alumnus eager to flatten crime curve in Nansana

By Joseph Lagen
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic that included business and education lockdowns in Uganda, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Financial Aid Office put out an advert, calling for applications for financial relief. For some students who were stuck and unable to pay their tuition fees, help was possible. The benefactor was Uganda Partners, a USA-based organization that provides material and spiritual support for students through sponsorship.

When Mpyangu Denis Swanyi, at the time a final year student at UCU, saw the advert, he did not hesitate to apply. As a result of that action, Mpyangu is a graduate. He was among the 468 students who received a Bachelor of Laws degree in 2021.

“I often wondered where my tuition fee would come from. Thank God, the angelic Uganda Partners was there in my time of need,” Mpyangu says, adding: “May the good Lord reward those kind hearts.” 

The gesture by the Uganda Partners has tickled a charitable spirit in Mpyangu. He could not even wait for his graduation before rolling out his benevolent cause. At Mpyangu’s area of residence, Nansana, near Kampala, he has brought together youthful residents against a burgeoning evil.

Ugandans, who are familiar with Nansana Division in Uganda, know it is a cesspool of crime. It registered “the highest number of motorcycle thefts in 2020,” according to the 2020 Annual crime report.

Mpyangu, right, poses with his classmate and fellow graduate, Isaac Ecema. Both graduated with the same degree on the same day. Photo/Jimmy Siyasa

“I initiated a community coalition called Nansana Division Coalition Against Drugs. The initiative offers peer-to-peer education and advocacy for a drug-free generation,” says Mpyangu, who hopes to use the knowledge he gained at school to build a better community and next generation.

He is also a frequent guest at one of the local community radio stations, Tiger FM, where he broadcasts the same lifestyle message and solicits volunteers for the same cause. 

But why did Mpyangu choose UCU as his university of choice for his bachelor’s degree? 

 “With its Christian values and client centeredness,” Mpyangu says “there is no university in Uganda that is as friendly and welcoming as UCU.” 

“I was further attracted by their excellent service and the good reputation their law faculty has built over time.” Of the 3,368 students who graduated on October 22, 2021, 14% received Bachelor of Laws.

Mpyangu says he was a big beneficiary of the cohesion among students at UCU, as well as staff members.

Coming from a large family of 15 children – both nuclear and extended – the third born in the family says raising the $1,000 tuition fees twice a year was not an easy task for his family. Mpyangu says on more than one occasion, he was rescued financially by Good Samaritans.

To practice law in Uganda, one must attain a Diploma in Legal Practice at Uganda’s Law Development Centre. Mpyangu has enrolled for that course. He says after the diploma course, he hopes to acquire a master’s and PhD in law one day to help him argue cases in court from a more informed point of view.

UCU nursing alumna eager to ‘save lives’ and support family

By Yasiri J. Kasango
In 2017, when Hope Kyomugisha got admitted to Uganda Christian University (UCU), she was not sure how she would pay her tuition fees. With hope and a prayer, she made the trip to the university to pick up her admission letter.

To her surprise, she did not return home with only the admission letter. While at the university campus, Kyomugisha learned of a scholarship available through the Uganda Partners, a USA-based organization that seeks material and spiritual support for UCU students through sponsorship.

Kyomugisha was fortunate enough to get the grant, which enabled her to pursue her Bachelors of Nursing Science course.

The 24-year-old was among the 25 students who received a Bachelor of Nursing Science at UCU’s 22nd graduation ceremony on October 22, 2021.

Kyomugisha on graduation day on October 22, 2021.
Kyomugisha on graduation day on October 22, 2021.

“This degree means a lot to me and my family because I am now going to get employment to be able to support myself and them,” Kyomugisha says. “I badly needed the scholarship because the tuition fee was high and my parents had other children they were paying tuition for.”

Her excellent performance earlier in her education journey, she says, played a key role in her winning the Uganda Partners scholarship. Partners took the responsibility of paying sh2,104,000/= (about $590) for her tuition and sh1,200,000/= ($338) for her hostel fees, during the four years of her study at UCU.

The 24-year-old says she was deliberate about her choice of the university. Since Kyomugisha said she was looking for an institution that was offering Christian-centered learning and building a good character of the students, UCU was the natural choice.

She says UCU is a good learning environment. “The atmosphere offers a favourable environment for concentration and learning,” she says.

Kyomugisha’s elder sister, Deborah Namanya, also is a nurse. It is Namanya who inspired Kyomugisha to pursue the nursing course. The UCU graduate says she would always admire the grace with which Namanya and her classmates carried themselves at the Mulago School of Nursing and Midwifery in Kampala.

Kyomugisha dreams of becoming a nursing educator so she can train more people into the profession. However, before she achieves that dream, she hopes to first pursue a diploma course in health management and leadership, to make her more formidable in health administration.

Kyomugisha during her internship
Kyomugisha during her internship

Kyomugisha hopes to devote part of her energies in advocating the rights of expectant mothers in Uganda because she feels not all of them receive the recommended adequate care.

Kyomugisha’s entrance into medical practice was somewhat a baptism of fire. At the height of the spread of the coronavirus in Uganda, Kyomugisha, who had just started her internship as a nursing trainee, came face to face with what it meant to treat patients who had contracted Covid-19.

She says the experience was so terrifying to her and her parents, especially given the fact that the country was also losing medical practitioners to the pandemic. 

Background
Kyomugisha is the second of six children of Boaz and Agatha Natumanya. She was born and raised in Sheema district, western Uganda. Kyomugisha went to Ishaka Town School for her primary education and then Bweranyangi Girls School for secondary education. From Senior One to Six, Kyomugisha studied on a half bursary at Bweranyangi Girls School. She says the school offered her the bursary because of her impressive academic performance.

Agaba overcomes financial challenges to earn First Class Degree

By Eriah Lule
Tough. Tense. Lucky. Diligent. That is how one would sum up the educational journey of Douglas Agaba, an October 2021 Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduate with a First-Class Degree in Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance.

Agaba, who was among the more than 3,000 graduates at UCU’s 22nd award ceremony on October 22, 2021, attributes hard work as the main factor in his attainment of a 4.5 of 5.0 Cumulative Grade Point Average.  The best student at the graduation, Sore Maureen, obtained 4.78.

While Agaba is jubilant about his success, the 26-year-old had rough patches in his education journey. Agaba was orphaned at an early age, resulting in his move from one relative’s home to another.  He struggled through school. Yet, each time when he was just about to lose hope, luck smiled on him.

For instance, because of his good academic performance, Agaba earned himself a high school sponsor. He attended Kisugu Primary School, Tropical High School and, later, Buloba High School – all these in central Uganda.

As he sat his Senior Six examinations, one thing was clear to Agaba. He would have no sponsor willing to foot the high tuition fees at a university. While working hard on his studies, he looked for a window of government sponsorship for the best students.

When the results of the admission shortlist in the public university – Makerere – were out, Agaba’s name was not among those who were to study on government sponsorship. He was despondent. As he waited for the next move, a retired Ugandan accountant who belonged to Agaba’s church learned of his dilemma.

Catherine Katwe did not hesitate to offer to meet the cost of Agaba’s university education. In 2017, he was admitted at UCU to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance course.

His tenacity, excellent leadership and resourcefulness is lauded by both classmates and teachers. Agaba was a class representative all the three years of his undergraduate study. He occasionally stepped in to hold academic group discussions for his classmates, to break down course units that his fellow students found too tough for them.

Nixon Katusime, Agaba’s former lecturer, credits his former student for being “ambitious and selfless.”

“He used to help me discuss some topics for his colleague students during online studies,” Katusime said.

Agaba’s strong desire to equip himself with all the marketable skills in the accounting field awakened the overwhelming talent in him. In a bid to supplement on his pocket money, Agaba started holding online private tutoring sessions in his field of study and, he says, many students even from other universities to receive his services.

He also engaged in research and filing tax returns for businesspeople at a fee. With the experience he has acquired, Agaba hopes to register a company to carry on with the services he has been offering.

As a student at the university, Agaba created time to teach at a secondary school on a part-time basis. He says much as he earned sh120,000 (about $35) per month, his passion for sharing knowledge kept him on the job.

At one point, Agaba also worked the night -shift at a filling station, a place he believes he learned the virtues of good customer care, self-discipline and willingness to work even in tough conditions.

Agaba believes that the high moral Christian virtues that UCU stands for is responsible for the success of many of its graduates and he has faith that it is just a matter of when he will also be a recipient of that success in his next job after school.

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Ugandan study experience enriches American nurse

In September 2021, the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, welcomes a new staff member with Ugandan experience. Lauren Elaine Nagy, hired to be a nurse in the Pediatric Inpatient Rehab Unit, was part of the Uganda Studies Program (USP) at Uganda Christian University in 2018. 

Nagy’s employment follows her May 2021 graduation with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the Messiah College in Pennsylvania and certification as a Registered Nurse.  She most recently was a health care provider at a Christian summer camp, Woodcrest Retreat.

Lauren and her family shortly after her graduation. Courtesy photo
Lauren and her family shortly after her graduation. Courtesy photo

Two years before the Covid-19 pandemic, Nagy traveled more than 7,000 miles away from her home as part of the American students who went to UCU for a four-month study abroad program. The trip was under the USP, a two-decades-old program that earlier this year shifted from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities to under the administrative umbrella of the non-profit, UCU Partners, headquartered in Pennsylvania.

While at UCU, Lauren and other USP colleagues were part of the Global Health Emphasis (GHE). GHE provides an opportunity for students pursuing biomedical and public health-related disciplines to complete global health coursework and international field internship in Uganda. 

Lauren Elaine Nagy. Courtesy photo
Lauren Elaine Nagy. Courtesy photo

The USP affords international students an education within an African context. In addition to studies on the UCU Mukono campus, students get a chance to make trips to different parts of Uganda, visit the Equator and sometimes have a 10-day excursion to Rwanda. Some of the students live in the student dormitories on campus, while others are attached to host families.

For Nagy, nothing about UCU stands out more than the institution’s “commitment to integrating faith into all aspects of education.” She says it “created an atmosphere that pushed me to grow in my faith in more ways than I could have expected.” 

While on homestay, Nagy lived with a Ugandan family about five minutes away from the university campus. Her camaraderie quickly acclimatized her to the Ugandan culture of the family of Robert Kibirango and Esther Nakato. In fact, she takes pride in the name Nakiryowa (Luganda word for a type of tree) that the family bestowed on her. 

She has fond memories of the days she was involved in domestic work that included a unique way of peeling bananas. Clearly, the trip to Uganda gave her another family in addition to her biological one in Pennsylvania. Nagy is the daughter of Daniel Alan Nagy and Karen Lynn Nagy. 

“We spent time wandering through fields, exploring plants and anthills, feeding the new calf, picking fresh beans from the garden, and cooking dinner together. It was a beautifully simple time with my family,” she recalls, saying she has continued to keep in touch with the family of Kibirango.

Nagy highly recommends that American university students consider the UCU experience.  

“As many people as possible should experience the transformational growth that I did,” Nagy, who attended Chippewa High School in Doylestown, said.

She lauds UCU for the fusion of faith and books in the grooming of nurses because it enables them to dispense care, compassion and comfort. The culture of faith at UCU seemed to rhyme with Nagy’s sole goal in life – living in the center of God’s will for my life and glorifying Him to the fullest.

“It makes me happy to know that such an excellent school as UCU is producing hard-working, highly capable, Christian health care providers to send out into the communities and serve people as the hands and feet of Christ.”  

Lauren Nagy

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