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COVID-19 and the Media in Sub-Saharan Africa: Media viability, Framing and Health Communication

By Jimmy Siyasa

This book, published by Emerald Publishing House, is an amalgam of research works seeking the nexus between Media and COVID-19 from a diversity of perspectives, though with a strict focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.

The global outbreak of COVID-19 led to a rise in research studies seeking to understand the nexus between Media and COVID-19. However, little attention had been paid to this subject in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa. This book is an attempt to address this research gap by providing a comprehensive overview of the role of media in the COVID-19 pandemic in the region. It contains contributions from leading scholars in the field, with many of them active academics and industry players at Uganda Christian University (UCU), who offer a variety of perspectives on the topic.

The book is edited by Dr. Carol Azungi Dralega of NLA University College, Norway, and Dr. Angella Napakol of Uganda Christian University, Uganda.

ABRIDGED FOREWORD

Click here to get the Full Book

COVID-19 and the Media in Sub-Saharan Africa is among the first books uniting scholars to examine media viability, framing and health crisis communication connected to the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa. The findings may be applicable also to other global crises, both in and outside of Sub-Saharan Africa, and may help practitioners and scholars alike to understand the complexity of preconditions and structures of media ecologies.

The highly diverse cases are characterized by the authors’ first-hand knowledge of the media in the Sub-Saharan African context. Focusing on newly collected cases from a broad number of countries, the authors study whether the pandemic changed the conditions for media viability, framing, and outreach. It also covers concrete examples of how the specific health communication led to changes in social behaviour and mental health. Last, but not least, it provides gendered and marginalisation lenses to understand barriers for media users and media producers.

The highly diverse cases are characterized by the authors’ first-hand knowledge of the media in the Sub-Saharan African context. Focusing on newly collected cases from a broad number of countries, the authors study whether the pandemic changed the conditions for media viability, framing, and outreach. It also covers concrete examples of how the specific health communication led to changes in social behaviour and mental health. Last, but not least, it provides gendered and marginalisation lenses to understand barriers for media users and media producers.

Throughout the pandemic, publishing houses in Sub-Saharan Africa and around the world faced severe obstacles. In different ways, the pandemic influenced the room for manoeuvres. Different conditions were involved and influenced whether media content was published, and with what quality. Three factors were key: political conditions, financial resources, and the level of journalistic expertise. If there was political room for manoeuvre, if there were sufficient financial resources, and if there was a high level of competence, the media was often found to disseminate independent, critical, and research-based information, monitor public institutions, and provide a platform for public debate and dialogue.

The authors connect these factors with media viability and media framing. Based on empirical data and theoretical perspectives, they challenge traditional understandings of media. To understand factors preventing and promoting critical and fact-based media during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers looked at both the media’s finances and priorities, the individual journalist’s competence and resilience, and the political influence that publishing houses and journalists were exposed to through propaganda and restrictions on media freedom.

Margot Skarpeteig Program Manager– Human Rights, Inclusion and Empowerment, the World Bank

Tanzania: A pictorial from VC, DVC AA… visit to TZ

Arusha: Tanzania

In order to boost collaboration, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, and the Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) Finance and Administration, Mr. David Mugawe, met with the DVC Academic Affairs, Prof. Ismael Mbisa, and the DVC for Administration, Prof. Faustin Mahali of Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha, Tanzania.
The discussion centered on future collaboration in joint research, teaching, grant writing, staff and student exchange programs, and joint publications.

Prof. Mushengyezi handing over a gift to the DVC for Administration Prof. Faustin Mahali and the DVC AA Prof. Ismael Mbisa of Tumaini University Makumira.
Prof. Mushengyezi and Dr, James Magara, the Dean of the UCU School of Dentistry, during a tour of Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha
Tour continued.
Prof. Mushengyezi tours the cultural centre of Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha, Dareslaam.
The team shares a group photo after the tour (L-R): Dr. James Magara, Prof. Ismael Mbisa, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, Prof. Mahali of Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha, Tanzania and Mr. David Mugawe.

Of UCU (September 25) Sunday

By Irene Best Nyapendi
It is that time of the year, again, when representatives of Uganda Christian University (UCU), take time off to spread the gospel about the institution. Named the UCU Sunday, the day, celebrated every last Sunday of September, was set aside by the House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda, for the province to hold prayers for the church-founded institution.

In addition to the prayers, the UCU Sunday, which will be celebrated on Sunday, September 25, is intended to mobilize support and resources for various activities at UCU, as well as create awareness about developments at the institution. 

Speaking about the objective of this year’s UCU Sunday, UCU Chaplain, the Rev. Canon Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro, said it is three-fold. 

Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu
Archbishop Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu

“Our main objective this year is to pray for the institution, support clergy students through scholarship and also construct the Ordinands Apartment,” Ssembiro said. 

UCU is currently working with the 37 dioceses, alumni, the university’s guild government and students in preparation for the day. UCU Sunday first took place in 2017.

The Ordinands Apartments is intended to accommodate clergy students at the university. The apartment is expected to house more than 50 ordinands. An ordinand is a person training to be a priest or a church minister. Richard Mulindwa, the Church Relations Manager at UCU, noted that theology students require a calm environment to focus on God. 

“At the moment, the students are residing in the same halls of residence with other students, which is not ideal for their concentration,” Mulindwa said. 

UCU Council Chairperson on UCU Sunday

While preaching at a virtual UCU Sunday service last year, UCU Vice Chancellor Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi explained the reason for the Ordinands Apartments. He said some of the ordinands are married and would wish that their spouses could visit them during weekends. However, that is not possible since they reside with other students. 

Last year’s service, which was virtual due to a ban on gatherings to limit the spread of the coronavirus, was celebrated at Namirembe Cathedral in Kampala. That ban on physical gatherings in church has since been lifted due to the waning number of Covid-19 infections globally. 

Recently, Prof. Mushengyezi said UGX 400m (about $113,000) had already been secured for the apartment project that is estimated to cost UGX 8.5b (over $2.2m).

The UCU Chancellor, Archbishop Dr. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu, appealed to Christians to take part in the UCU Sunday. He called upon the flock to support the project under the theme “Arise, let us build the walls” (Nehemiah 2:18). Kaziimba also emphasized that ordinands need a supportive environment while pursuing their dreams of being professional evangelists. 

Collections for the past UCU Sunday events have been used to implement a number of projects at the institution. For instance, the UGX 300 million that was collected for the UCU Sunday of 2018 was invested in building the UCU School of Medicine at Mengo in Kampala. Unlike public universities that get financial support from the central government, private universities in Uganda, in which category UCU falls, are run on tuition fees paid by students. 

American donations can be made through the Uganda Partners Web site donation button at https://www.ugandapartners.org/donate/. Put “UCU Sunday” in the comment box.  

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School of Business becomes UCU’s 4th professional group

By Kefa Senoga
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Business (SoB) has become the fourth of UCU’s 11 schools/faculties to have a formalized professional group for all its programs. For the SoB, it’s called a “society.”

For the School of Law, it’s also a society. For the School of Social Sciences, the name is Social Work Association. For the School of Journalism, Media and Communication, the group is the Media Link Association.

On August 2, 2022, the UCU Business Society, which is now the official fraternity unifying all students under the UCU SoB, was launched after tense elections. These were the first elections conducted by the Business Society and organized to usher in a democratic leadership. Ayebare Phillip Bravo emerged as the winner with 76.35%, with Mujuzi Paul Richard at second with 23.65%.

The founding committee members of the UCU Business Society shaking hands with the new committee.

As with all four groups, the rationale for the Business Society is primarily two-fold: Student sense of belonging, and building of skill sets, relationships and connections beyond the classroom.

Giving his speech at the launch, Ayebare discussed the importance of implementing a four-point program as follows:

  1. Establishing favorable partnerships both in and out of campus, for example, with other associations in the university, in order to intensify student-related programs.
  2. Engaging students in extracurricular and developmental activities (i.e., intensifying sports activities, such as the business league).
  3. Advocating robust academic-oriented programs, such as mentorship and career guidance seminars.
  4. Ensuring student subscription policy, such as a semester-based mode of payment.

Natasha Alinda, the Vice President-elect of the UCU Business Society, says the student body will promote culture and values of UCU, “policies concerning students of business can easily be passed through our association, which is student-oriented.”

(left to right) Ayebare Philip Bravo, President-elect of the UCU Business Society; Ssemakula Musa, founder of the UCU Business Society; and Tayebwa Clinton, a colleague from the Business Society committee.
(left to right) Ayebare Philip Bravo, President-elect of the UCU Business Society; Ssemakula Musa, founder of the UCU Business Society; and Tayebwa Clinton, a colleague from the Business Society committee.

The SoB Dean, Vincent Kisenyi, says that “through this society, students will be able to do a lot of things as students, build their self-esteem, work on the different activities in the school and build that oneness among themselves, hence enjoying their stay at the university.” Kisenyi adds that one of the important ingredients in the UCU Business Society will be a strong business fellowship that will guide students to understand everything is anchored on God.

Ssemakula Musa, the former guild member of parliament (MP) for the SoB and who spearheaded the formation of the society, says that as he was contesting for the position of MP SoB, he noted in his manifesto that he would pioneer the establishment of a body that unifies all students under the SoB.

“Many students were coming to me, requesting for the formation of an association that brings them together,” Ssemakula said. “They always related to the UCU law society, which had demonstrated its visibility at the campus.”

Ssemakula says that it was important to come up with the UCU Business Society due to the fact that there are so many courses under the SoB, for example, Business Administration, Procurement and Logistics, Accounting and Finance, Tourism and Hospitality.

He adds that besides the Business Society encouraging unity and mutual relationship among the students, it is also meant to establish relationships between the students of the UCU SoB and other external stakeholders.

“We are looking at partnerships from bigger business entities like Stanbic Bank, Uganda Revenue Authority, global companies like Coca-Cola,” Ssemakula said. “Therefore, the Business Society will mediate all these processes, beginning with sourcing for students’ internship opportunities in these big companies.”

Ssemakula adds that another core reason for establishing the business society was to create avenues for financial support for students, for example, “we have plans of introducing the 1k campaign to help, in one way or another, our colleagues who may lack tuition.” This campaign will be in addition to UCU’s recent launch of a “For just 10K, Change a Life” campaign, seeking a small donation of 10,000 shillings per person. 

UCU has a process for such groups to be legally recognized by the university. A motion has to be tabled in the house of the students’ guild parliament and if this parliament passes it, then the guild vice-president, who is the guild official in charge of associations, forwards the matter to the Director of Students Affairs, who then presents it to the Vice Chancellor for approval.

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UCU Vice Chancellor meets with Uganda High Commissioner to TZ

Uganda’s High Commissioner to the United Republic of Tanzania, His Excellency Col. (Rtd.) Fred Mwesigye, met today with the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University (UCU), Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, who paid a courtesy call on him in Dar es Salaam.

The Vice Chancellor was accompanied by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) Mr. David Mugawe, and the Dean of UCU School of Dentistry, Dr. James Magara.

The Vice Chancellor briefed the Ambassador on their study visit to the School of Dentistry at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), which has one of the best-run teaching programmes and a vibrant dental practice in East Africa that earns revenue for the university. UCU’s vision is to run its Dental School and clinic along the Muhimbili University model.

The UCU team is also visiting Tumaini University’s campuses in Dar es Salaam and Arusha as well as Kilimanjaro Christian Medical University College in Moshi, to establish joint collaborative programmes. UCU and Tumaini already have a partnership with Hanze University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands.

The Ambassador and the Vice Chancellor exchanged ideas on the possibility of the Ugandan High Commission organising an Education and Tourism Exhibition in Dar es Salaam in 2023 to promote Uganda’s higher education and tourism sectors in the East African region. The Vice Chancellor also requested the Ambassador to discuss with his colleagues in the East African Community (EAC) the removal of all barriers to free movement of students and lecturers, including charging East African students the same tuition rates paid by nationals, as is the practice in Ugandan universities.

The Ambassador commended the Vice Chancellor and his team for the good initiatives and thanked UCU for upholding a value-based education, discipline, and a good reputation among Ugandan universities.

The UCU team also held meetings with the Vice Chancellor of Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Prof. Andrea Pembe and Dr. Matilda Mtaya Mlangwa the Dean of the Dental School, with whom they exchanged ideas on collaboration in dental training and research between the two universities.

How conspiracy beliefs affect COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy

By Dr. Emilly Comfort Maractho

The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in 2020 created substantial fear among communities and countries about the future. It seemed to have come from ‘nowhere’ even after China announced its arrival. Many questions arose as to whether it was deliberately created and released by scientists and their allies for some unknown reasons. 

Governments across the globe launched interventions to facilitate the public’s compliance with preventive and mitigative measures, also known as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). The measures included physical distancing also known as social distancing, regular handwashing, wearing masks, and vaccination to boost herd immunity

Speculation soon became a common feature of COVID-19, about the cause, the effects, and the people behind it. Theories begun to emerge around these issues. 

Uganda enacted legislations, restrictions, policies and interventions to prevent and mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19. These included, but were not limited to, the Uganda Public Health (Control of COVID – 19) Rules, 2020; guidelines on mass gatherings including social meetings such as burials and weddings; guidelines on meeting at workplaces, guidelines on use of public transport; among others.  

Whereas the world was relieved about the availability of COVID-19 vaccines, emergent concerns around safety and effects were prevalent. The concerns and doubts about vaccines were mainly driven by conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 vaccination, sometimes widely shared among the population.  

Conspiracy theories cannot be taken lightly. At Uganda Christian University, Prof. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo, an Associate Prof. of Governance and Development in the School of Social Sciences, with a multi-disciplinary team of colleagues from UCU were awarded a research grant by the university to study how conspiracy beliefs affected COVID-19 vaccination hesitancy in Uganda. In a three-year project that covers a large-scale online and physical survey of over 1000 respondents, to be followed by in-depth interviews, the team aims at examining the conspiracy beliefs and their implications for COVID-19 vaccination in Uganda. 

The research is guided by five specific objectives, namely: 

(i) To measure the extent to which conspiracy belief about vaccination against COVID-19 is spread among Ugandans; 

(ii) To establish the relationship between conspiracy belief and vaccination hesitancy in Uganda; 

(iii) To explore the interaction between exposure to COVID-19 conspiracy theories and individual vaccination decisions; 

(iv) To examine the gendered impact of conspiracy belief on vaccination hesitancy; 

(v) To examine how the conspiracy beliefs of adults are likely to affect decision to vaccinate children for COVID-19.  

The researchers note that, whereas in developed countries studies have already established the significant relationship between conspiracy theories and decline in vaccination rates, such studies are very few in developing countries. For instance, Maftei and Holman in 2020, in their study, ‘beliefs in conspiracy theories, intolerance of uncertainty, and moral disengagement during the coronavirus crisis’ highlighted that conspiracy beliefs had significant impact on disobeying the social distancing regulations seeking to limit the spread of the SARS-CoV-2.

The researchers are aware that in countries like Uganda with a population highly characterized by low education and poor access to information, beliefs in conspiracy theories and impact are expected to be high.  Still, little is known and done to minimize the impact of misinformation on COVID-19 prevention. In addition, with more people owning smartphones, conspiracy theories are likely to flourish as a result of high exposure to various ideas. 

Some of the examples of conspiracy theories include:

  • The belief that the G5 cellular network is responsible for causing COVID-19,
  • Bill Gates’ plan to depopulate the world,
  • Vaccinations having microchips that can be used to monitor behaviour. 
  • Others include the belief that those who get vaccinated will die in a few years, and that the whole COVID-19 pandemic was a political stunt.  

The primary outcome of this study is to understand how conspiracy beliefs affect the individual willingness to get vaccinated. Findings from this study could be used to improve on the efforts geared towards pro-vaccine attitudes and interest in COVID-19 vaccination. The main outcome will be a change in behavior towards vaccination for COVID-19 despite the existence of conspiracy theories and management of future vaccination drives.

The research has gone through both institutional and national ethical clearance processes. The first phase has been completed and will soon be made public. 

Ebenezer: First publication in two years

This is the souvenir copy of the UCU 23rd graduation newspaper that Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduates took home on Friday, July 29, 2022. 

The publication entitled Ebenezer was partly published in honour of the UCU@25 celebrations, whose climax will be the October 2022 graduation ceremony. 

It has 40 stories and 50 visuals featuring all 11 UCU faculties and schools along with e-links to videos and other UCU-related information.

Females beat males: Press Release on Graduation

By Jimmy Siyasa

Uganda Christian University (UCU) will on Friday, July 29, will confer degrees on 2106 graduands, during the 23rd Graduation ceremony. Of those, I164 are females, accounting for 55% and 942 are males, making up 45%.

55 students will graduate with First Class. The overall best student, Mugaga Leslie Lubowa scored 4.91 CGPA. He pursued a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Statistics. Mugaga has also emerged as the best male student and best science student.

The best overall female student is Cynthia Birungi Muhumuza, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and Statistics with a CGPA of 4.76. Furthermore, the best Arts student is Hajara Nanziri, who attained First Class, having scored a 4.72 CGPA. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Tourism and Hospitality Management.

The 23rd graduation will be UCU’s first total in-person ceremony since the outbreak of Covid-19 more than two years ago. The previous two graduation ceremonies — on December 18, 2020, and October 22, 2021 — were virtual, in line with the Uganda Government’s policy of observing the Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures.

The graduating students are also coming from some of UCU’s constituent colleges, namely Bishop Barham and Mbale University College; and the Arua Campus. 

The University Chancellor, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen Kaziimba Mugalu, will preside over the graduation and the Chief Guest will be the Rt. Rev. Dr. Sheldon Mwesigwa, who is the former Chairperson of the University Council and the Bishop of the Diocese of Ankole.

We congratulate the graduands upon this remarkable academic milestone and also commend their families, friends and sponsors for supporting them to this date.

Note: UCU endeavour to avail graduates both their transcripts and certificates on the graduation day, and will not revoke this commitment.

To God be the glory!

DALILA: Call to Application to Business Skills Lab

A window of opportunity is open to all students of entrepreneurship to be part of a business skills lab, courtesy of the DALILA project- a capacity-building project funded by EACEA, the Education, Audio-visual, and Culture Executive Agency of the European Union.

What to expect from the Business Lab:

  •  International exposure
  • Training on practical and theoretical concepts by international experts

Areas to be covered

  • Ideation
  • Team-building
  • How to develop a business concept
  • Finance
  • Customer valuation tools
  • Common problems entrepreneurs face and how to handle them
  • Investment, among others.

APPLY NOW (SEE PICTURE BELOW)

FOR MORE DETAIL (Watch Video)

This DALILA project seeks to promote sustainable and inclusive socio-economic growth that is driven by young, African entrepreneurs from institutions of Higher Learning.

Besides Uganda Christian University, other African educational institutions involved or invited to participate in this project include; the University of Dodoma, the University of Zanzibar, and Uganda Martyrs University.

Virtual Counseling Room: A possible boost to mental health in Uganda

The Dotcom era

The ongoing digital revolution which started with the internet around 1980, has impacted the way of life and activities in all sectors. As the pace of digital transformation accelerates, the birth of a very connected yet lonely society has become a real threat to mental health. The digital society has seen both the old and young replace human company with the company of digital devices.

Just recently, my 21-year-old “jolly” friend broke into tears after I made a considerably usual statement; “Hey Ian (not real name), you seem very happy these days!”. I said when I had noticed his “over-excitement”, every time we happened to meet. Our conversation revealed to me the depth of prolonged depression and brokenness he was struggling with. “Why hadn’t Ian sought counseling all this while?” I wondered.

Of sad, but happy-looking people

In Uganda, you will often hear the statements; “Guma nga omusajja” or “Guma makazi”, which is literally translated as, “Be strong like a man” or “be strong like a woman”. Just like Ian, many opt to “act” strong and happy instead of seeking counseling due to the fear of being judged among other fears. Thoughts like; “people will see me”, “people will think I am weak”, “I am a leader in society”, and “I am a prominent person”, among others, are killing more people than we realize.

Some reports have indicated that about 7 out of every 10 people with a mental disorder do not seek treatment! So, what can be done?

Here are a few digital solutions to be considered:
  • Develop software, and integrate it with social media platforms and other interactive technologies that would bring together professional counselors and people in need of counseling services without requiring patients/clients to reveal their identities.
  • Create virtual counseling rooms that have invisible counselors and hold virtual counseling sessions to encourage people to seek help anonymously until they are ready for physical interaction.
  • Create a follow-up mechanism for persons that have sought counseling services to monitor the healing process.
  • Leave an avenue for people ready for physical interaction to access them

The health sector, companies/organizations, institutions of learning, and the church, can co-opt some of these suggestions into their existing digital platforms or create them in a situation where they do not exist. Not all happy-looking people are okay. Not all unwell people are getting help! Therefore, We need to create digital platforms to ease access to help. A healthy mind is a healthy person, a healthy person is a healthy society.

Image: Mukalere Justine

The author is a Lecturer at the UCU Department of Computing and Technology

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