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UCU Guild: A government with a big heart

Muduku Derrick Brian

I am sitting next to Yibanda Shafiq, 11, under a large mango tree with its huge trunks, sheltering us from the scorching sunlight. He is fixed firmly in his wheelchair, staring at one of the balloons that were hoisted up on the tree. Suddenly, a choking stench clouds my nostrils. I notice that something is wrong. Shafiq looks uncomfortable. When I ask him what was wrong, he admits that he had unconsciously passed out stool. 

Shafiq Yibanda in a wheelchair. Courtesy photo

I use the word unconscious because Shafiq has no control over his stool and urine excretion. Fortunately, he is dressed in his pumper, and I summon one of the teachers to assist in cleaning him up. Shafiq is struggling with an ailment called Spina bifida, which is a condition that damages the spinal cord and nerves of a person. It usually occurs apparently at birth. It occurs because of a lack of vitamin C in the mother during pregnancy. 

On returning, Shafiq is offered a sweet by an Uganda Christian University (UCU) Guild member, putting a smile on his face. The UCU Guild member, together with other Guild Government officials on Saturday, May 21, 2022, traveled to Good Samaritan Inclusive day and boarding primary school in Nasuuti, Mukono for a charity outreach program. 

Sserwadda Mirembe Racheal, the UCU Guild president, says that her government decided to support the needy in their community.

“We came up with this program to reach out to the struggling communities around us. “We feel the need to put a smile on the faces of those facing a lot of difficulties,” she said. 

Sserwadda says that they focused on Good Samaritan Inclusive Day and boarding Primary School because of the urgent need to support such a vulnerable group of people. “The majority of pupils here have physical disabilities and struggle to lead normal lives.” It is really emotional to realize how brave these people are. They needed help, “she said. 

She adds that essential products like clothes, sugar, sanitary towels, soap, food, and money have been offered to the school. Sserwadda says that the items are contributions from the UCU community. 

Fred Migadde, the Director of Good Samaritan Inclusive day and boarding primary school, says that the school has 133 pupils. “92 of them are disabled, 43 are normal, and we have about 15 still admitted in hospital,” he said. 

Migadde highlights that the main disorders the pupils at the school have are hydrocephalus, cerebral pulse, polio, spinal injury, and mental illness. He further notes that they face many challenges when dealing with disabled children. “Taking care of these kids requires a lot of money, yet the parents pay little.” Shafiq’s parents pay only Shs. 60,000 for the whole term, “he said. 

Migadde says that purchasing items like catheters, cone tubes, and pampers for kids who can control their excretory organs is a tall order for the school, hence the school’s reliance on donations from well-wishers. “I am humbled and thankful to the UCU Guild and the university at large for this support,” he said. 

Frank Mutebi, a pupil at the school, says he enjoyed the UCU Guild Government’s visit. “I have eaten a good meal with cake, and have played a lot today with friends and the people from UCU. I am so happy, “he said. 

Cardinals take control of Group A in UFL

By Ian Asabo

The UCU Cardinals consolidated their place in Group A of the University Football League by defeating Kumi University, at the UCU Main playground on Saturday, May 21, 2022. 

A second-half peach of a goal by Mbalaga David was the difference as the Cardinals had difficulties in breaking down their opponents from Eastern Uganda. It has been difficult to separate the two sides over the course of back-to-back games with the other result ending in a highly entertaining and controversial 2-2 draw in Kumi.  

Chances were scarce during the first half as Kumi sat deep with low blocks stifling out the possession-based game of the Cardinals that heavily relies on the creation of spaces.  

It was much different in the second half, with the Cardinals continuing to shift the ball from side to side as the Kumi team started to wear out creating better chances for Cardinals.

A quick one-two on the right-hand side led to Aaron Ofoyirwoth breaking free and crossing the ball to Mbalaga, who bicycle-kicked it onto the crossbar- well over the line; hence crediting a goal for UCU.  

However, Cardinals midfielder, Ivan Mutebi foresees a tough season for his team, yet with determination. “We have to be a patient team because the majority of the teams we are going to face will always try and deny us space in which to play on top of our game,” he said. 

Head coach, Jimmy Mwera praised the team’s resilience after getting a win in a hard-contested game. “We were slow out of the blocks today, but the team showed the winning mentality and culture to be resilient and patience in order to wait for the right time,” he said. 

The Cardinals have moved to the top of the table with seven points, having played three victorious games previously, and they will look to win the group and advance to the next round. 

They will face the International University of East Africa next in the University Football League in Group A.

German footballer joins UCU Lady Cardinals

By Michael Kisekka
On February 19, 2022, when the Uganda Christian University (UCU) women football team won a game by 5-0, it was not an ordinary victory for the squad.

That victory for the UCU Lady Cardinals was against the defending champions, the Lady Doves. That game also marked the debut of Sinah Rother, a 19-year-old German footballer who recently joined the UCU side.

“That victory was a statement and a warning to the other teams about what we are capable of doing,” Sinah, who plays on the right wing, said. The Lady Cardinals and the Lady Doves are among the teams in Uganda’s top flight women’s football league.

“When I completed school in Germany last year, I looked for an academic institution of higher learning in Africa with a good female football team and I was directed to Uganda Christian University,” she said.

Sinah Rother
Sinah Rother

Sinah said she was motivated to come to Uganda by her coaches in Germany, who told her that the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) Women Super League was competitive and physical enough for her.

‘‘I wanted to play and compete in the best team in Uganda and that is how I ended up with the UCU Lady Cardinals,’’ she said.

When she arrived in January 2022, Sinah was told to register with FUFA, in order to be eligible to play football for the UCU Lady Cardinals.

“I had to get a football work permit and acquire a license to register as a female player with the FUFA Women’s Super League,” Sinah recalls.

Despite the hurdle, she is aware of how important the opportunity is. “Getting a chance to play for the UCU Lady Cardinals is a big opportunity for me and an experience of a lifetime life,” said Sinah, who wants to help the team win more trophies. Her coach, Simon Asiimwe said the team will benefit from her technical ability and game reading capability.

“I was overwhelmed by the support and the love the ladies showered me with. It made me feel at home and has enabled me to settle in fast,” she added.

Sinah’s biggest challenge, though, are the higher temperatures in Uganda, compared to the cold temperatures she is used to back in Germany, where she plans to return in two years.

“We were all excited when we got to know Sinah was joining the Lady Cardinals,” said Mercy Nabuloobi, the assistant team captain. “When we observed her train with us on the first day, we straight away knew that she was a great addition to the team.”

Hassifah Nassuna, the team’s captain, said Sinah’s exceptional talent will “help the team win the trophy this season.”

A second born of two children of Thomas Rother and Anke Rother, Sinah started playing football at the age of six with VFL Rheda. She then joined FSV Gütersloh and, later, DSC Arminia Bielefeld, where she has been for the past three years.

UCU School of Medicine gets added spiritual infusion

By Patty Huston-Holm with Muduku Derrick Brian and Jimmy Siyasa
First, there were five. Then 10.  And on a spring day and under a white tent shelter below darkening skies, there were 50. On the Ides of March 2022, half of the 100 blue plastic chairs in the pavilion were filled by Uganda Christian University’s (UCU) School of Medicine (SoM) doctor hopefuls.

“I pray, Jesus, that you will cleanse our hearts,” a young woman began before bowed heads, concluding, “Father, we pray that you bring your spirit in this place.”

According to the Rev. Ocen Walter Onen, the 28-year-old UCU-Mukono chaplaincy priest assigned to the medical school, participation in community worship at the Mengo hospital location has been growing, albeit slowly, in the past five months. Spirituality for UCU’s future doctors became a priority following a discussion among the university’s theology and divinity leaders in the fall of 2021.

Rev. Ocen Walter Onen, UCU chaplaincy intern and newly assigned at the UCU School of Medicine.
Rev. Ocen Walter Onen, UCU chaplaincy intern and newly assigned at the UCU School of Medicine.

Previous to Rev. Walter’s assignment, the Rev. Alex Kamoga was straddling responsibilities at the UCU Kampala campus with the SoM location, but he was often stuck in traffic jams, delaying the service. At that, Rev. Alex had little time for one-on-one counseling.

“We realized we had a population of students not receiving the Christian services that those in other programs did,” Rev. Walter said. “Medical courses are full of stress and these students have the same frustrations and temptations that others do.”

The Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa, UCU’s chaplain, initiated the discussion among the clergy. Coming out of Uganda’s Covid lockdown, he expressed his concern about the need for added spiritual infusion for the current 230 students who would someday become pediatricians, surgeons, dentists and other medical professionals.

“The work of the chaplaincy is more than coordination; it includes teaching, but most importantly, it includes discipleship and pastoral care,” he said.  “Effectiveness in chaplaincy work requires consistent presence on every campus.”

UCU School of Medicine students pray during community worship on their campus at Kampala’s Mengo Hospital.
UCU School of Medicine students pray during community worship on their campus at Kampala’s Mengo Hospital.

According to Rev. Wasswa, community worship exists for teaching, reinforcing a sense of Christian community and a reminder of God’s presence. When it comes to addressing student problems, the UCU chaplaincy “does not work in isolation,” but engages the counseling staff, he said.

The five-year SoM program began in 2018 with the vision of adding to Uganda’s health care system more physicians that were not only highly skilled but also encompassing Christian values and practices. SoM planners were aware that some professionals mentoring and teaching students would not be believers in Jesus Christ. They were, likewise, aware of the science vs. religion debate that continues today, globally.

“Science and theology are complementary in wisdom, but God is the ultimate creator of that knowledge and wisdom,” Rev. Walter said. “Without our Lord and Savior, the work within the medical discipline would not exist…when you go to a hospital, you ask Jesus to treat you through a doctor.”

At the UCU main campus in Mukono, as well as at Kampala, students have easier access to clergy guidance. Additionally, the Mukono UCU students engage in sports, student leadership groups and other activities to relieve stress and youth pressures related to drugs, alcohol and sexual activity that can lead to pregnancy out of wedlock.

“I tell them that I am single, too, and have the same pressures that I overcome through my faith and understanding of scriptures,” Rev. Walter said. “Romans 12 addresses that we need to be a living sacrifice.”

In Apostle Paul’s Romans 12:1, sacrifice references service or offering to God.

“God has a plan for all of us,” Rev. Walter said. “If you partner with God, you are headed for prosperity.”

In this day’s message and as mid-day Islam chants echoed in the background, Rev. Walter referenced Luke 11:1-4 and the Lord’s prayer, reminding students that “our Father is in heaven” but that “He also is everywhere.”

Such is among the messages that Rev. Walter delivers to the 3-5 students, mostly female, who come to him privately, with problems and questions at the SoM campus. His messages are about faith, strength to have it, forgiveness and understanding. One lesson he repeats is the importance of Christian character in a world where “beauty can fade.”

On this particular day, he closed his message with a story about a man who borrowed a spear from his brother with the intent of using the weapon to stop an elephant from destructive behavior.  When the elephant took off with the spear, the lending brother was angry and not forgiving.

“There is power in forgiveness,” Rev. Walter said. “There is power in the Word.”

Uganda’s only university podcast – More cutting-edge at UCU

By Patty Huston-Holm
Andrew Bugembe’s early experience with audio journalism involved walking outside the Uganda Christian University (UCU) gate and, with his phone, recording what random people along a dusty street thought about topical sports issues. He, thereafter, walked back on the Mukono campus and shared his “African English” recordings with five friends who used this information raw or as background for stories in UCU’s student newspaper, The Standard

“I wasn’t good at writing; I wasn’t good at sports,” Andrew, who hails from Mityana in central Uganda, admitted. “The credit I got for this work was ‘thank you,’ and that was enough. God puts you where He can use you.” 

Sitting on a black, wrought-iron bench between the newspaper and communications offices in the third month since post-Covid, in-person learning resumed, the final-year student in UCU’s School of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMC) shared his comfort and enjoyment of being behind the scenes.

Thus, as UCU launched in January 2022 its first podcast – the only university podcast in Uganda – Andrew was the guy splicing the audio and monitoring the analytics of who was listening and from what devices. 

“It was exciting,” he said during a March 2022 discussion. “I didn’t even know the word ‘podcast’ until I was tapped to be a part of it last year.” 

The UCU podcast training for a small group of students began through David’s United Church of Christ in Canal Winchester, Ohio, USA, in June 2021.  Students used the church’s podcast platform to conduct interviews on topics such as Black Lives MatterHate SpeechStreet Preaching and Fake Pastors.  

Geoffrey Ssenoga, UCU podcast supervisor, with a UCU original podcast team member, Christiana Ampeire, talking outside the student newspaper office
Geoffrey Ssenoga, UCU podcast supervisor, with a UCU original podcast team member, Christiana Ampeire, talking outside the student newspaper office

Under the supervision of veteran broadcaster and UCU lecturer, Geoffrey Ssenoga, and with support by the School of JMC head of undergraduate studies, John Semakula, UCU started its own podcast

By early April, students had recorded and produced 17 podcasts under the umbrella of the new on-line Standard newspaper with the theme “Lighting our Way.”  With a combination of fun (male-female differences, etc.) and serious (Ankrah Foundation, etc.) topics, the initial  target audience is students. 

“Students are always excited about new ways of applying their knowledge and skill,” said Geoffrey, a lifelong journalist with most of  his work in television. “We were teaching radio, but during the Covid shutdown, the practical application of that was mostly non-existent. Podcast recordings via Zoom allowed students to learn this form of media while practicing coronavirus safety protocols.”

As the School of JMC revises its curriculum for the Council of Higher Education, podcasting – the fastest-growing media channel with two million globally – is included. 

Stephen Ssenkaaba, award-winning journalist who helped start New Vision’s podcast in 2019
Stephen Ssenkaaba, award-winning journalist who helped start New Vision’s podcast in 2019

While not necessarily listening to recordings in the initial phase of UCU’s podcast, two Ugandan professionals, New Vision’s Stephen Ssenkaaba and Max Adii, are lauding them. Together, they started the New Vision podcast three years ago. Fresh from a research project on online strategies for emerging markets as part of a fellowship in Michigan, Stephen became fascinated with podcasting and pitched the idea upon his return to Uganda. 

“I came to understand how podcasts were relevant to people in Uganda and Africa where the culture revolves around talking, and having conversations,” Stephen said. “After I pitched to the Editorial Board, I was charged to work with our radio expert, Max. We got it rolling.”

“More and more, media audiences are shifting to on-line content,” Max said. “Podcasting is Internet-based – allowing our audience potential to be people all over the world.”

Data indicate podcasting is especially popular with those under age 35 because of the content’s 24-7 accessibility, generally casual delivery by interviewers and ability to stop and start a 15-to-30-minute recording. To date, podcasting is less expensive and less regulated than radio.

Max Adii, a key member of the New Vision podcast implementation team
Max Adii, a key member of the New Vision podcast implementation team

Commenting from Oregon, USA, where he is studying for his Ph.D. in Media Studies, Stephen said “a one-size-fits-all” podcast should not be the goal in today’s cafeteria of media genres. At that, younger listeners lean towards light-hearted, celebrity podcast content, while those older tend to want to supplement what they don’t “have time to get sitting and reading a newspaper or listening to radio at home,” he added.

“Podcasts done right take the listener into a situation,” Max said. One of his favorites that does that is a 12-episode New Vision podcast that tells the story of an undercover reporter who became part of the slave trade in Dubai. 

Nicollette Nampijja, original UCU podcast team member
Nicollette Nampijja, original UCU podcast team member

Student Nicollette Nampijja, one of the first UCU Podcast interviewers, expressed appreciation for UCU’s launch into the podcast medium. Despite her experience speaking in front of classmates in secondary school, her “heart was beating” for the first recording she did at UCU.  Now,  with three podcast interviews under her belt, confidence of the 22-year-old has soared.  

“The UCU podcast has added excitement for students while giving them hands-on experience in a cutting-edge part of our industry,” Geoffrey said. “That we added the podcasting piece to what we teach and did it in the midst of coming off a pandemic lockdown speaks volumes about where UCU is going and can be.” 

Former UCU goalkeeper joins Finnish club

By Ian Asabo
The captain of the Uganda national women’s football team, Ruth Aturo, has realized her dream of playing professional football after signing for Finnish club Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat

Aturo, a goalkeeper of the national football team, joins Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on a two-year deal from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) women’s team, the Lady Cardinals. She featured for the UCU Lady Cardinals for three years, helping the team to win trophies in 2018 and 2019. 

The 26-year-old graduated with a Diploma in Business Administration from UCU in 2019. However, she continued playing for the Lady Cardinals.

“I am grateful to the university for providing me with the opportunity to play the game that I love, at the highest level in the country,” Aturo said, noting that she would not have found it easy to join a club in Finland if she had not got a chance to play for the Lady Cardinals. She was in UCU on a sports scholarship. 

Ruth receiving her award for the Best Goalkeeper at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship.
Ruth receiving her award for the Best Goalkeeper at the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championship.

It was while at the Lady Cardinals that Aturo became a household name, with the Uganda football association naming her Player of the Year in the national league in 2018.

Like many student-athletes, Aturo faced the challenge of balancing performance in class and on the pitch. 

Her challenge was even tougher, however, given that she is the captain of the national women football team, meaning she had class, club and national football team issues to concentrate on. However, to her, the answer remained in “being consistent, working hard and remaining focused.” 

“While in Finland, I will be far from home but it’s an exciting experience that I cannot let pass,” she said. “My ultimate goal is to make it to the highest level, and this is a step in the right direction.”

Born on July 19, 1995, in Soroti, eastern Uganda, Aturo initially started playing as a center forward. However, later, she discovered that she could perform even better between the posts. 

She began playing football in Senior Two at Soroti Senior Secondary School. From there, she joined Kawempe Muslim Secondary School in central Uganda, for A’level. It was her performance in the women’s soccer team of Kawempe that caught the attention of scouts who connected her to a scholarship offer at UCU. 

She says it was at UCU where she was able to harness and grow her skills, and maximize them to the full potential, something which would later prepare ground for her to captain the national team.

Sam Lukaire, the Sports Administrator at UCU, is happy that the investment the university has made in sports is finally paying off. 

“The right coaching through the sports program provided by the university has had an impact on the athletes, enabling such moves to happen,” Lukaire says. 

He encourages Aturo to continue working hard to reach her full potential. Aturo’s deal was completed towards the end of December last year, but her travel was delayed until end of February. She says she used that time to watch videos about her teammates at Kotkan Tyoaen Palloilijat on YouTube, to try to understand how they play and their football philosophy. 

Her longtime teammate at both club and national team level, Hasifah Nassuna, acknowledges that Aturo’s next step in football is only the beginning of her exposure to playing football at the greatest level. 

“I am happy for Ruth. It is definitely not going to be easy as it only gets harder,” Nassuna said. “But I’m confident in her abilities as a goalkeeper and a leader on and off the pitch.”

As she arrives in Finland, Aturo is loaded with big dreams, hoping to not only etch her name in the global footballers’ hall of fame, but also to leave a legacy as one of the greatest ever Lady Cardinal players.

Hasifah Nassuna clocks record 100 goals

By Ian Asabo

UCU Lady Cardinals captain, Hasifah Nassuna reached a ‘century’ of goals

Hasifah Nassuna became the first player in Uganda Women’s league history to score 100 goals. Her brace against Tooro Queens at the UCU playground on Wednesday, May 05, 2022, was able to help her reach that tally. 

Nassuna has also been selected in the provisional squad to represent Uganda at the upcoming CECAFA Women’s Championship and African Women’s Cup of Nations (AFWCON), happening later this year.

Quick profile

Born: February 16, 1998

Parents: Annet Nakimbugwe and Abbas Mukiibi

Clubs: 2015-2017 (Kawempe Muslim)

League titles: (2015,2016, 2016/2017)

Goals: 60

2018 to date: UCU Lady Cardinals

League titles (2019)

Women cup

Goals: 40 

National team

CECAFA 2016- 6

COSAFA 2018- 2

Olympic Qualifiers- 1

CECAFA 2019- 3

COSAFA 2021- 2

Pictorial: Vice Chancellor Prof. Mushengyezi visits Hanze University…

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, recently paid a visit to Hanze University of Applied Sciences, Groningen, Netherlands with the objective of enhancing the partnership between the two universities.

During his visit, Prof. Mushengyezi interacted with some of the six Uganda Christian University (UCU) students who traveled to the Dutch institution early this year for a six-month exchange programme, to pursue a Diploma in International Marketing Management. The students include Martin Wakabi, Mirembe Faith and Musa S. Agakhan, among others. All these are from the UCU School of Business.

Prof. Mushengyezi (L-3) poses with staff at Hanze University… and some of the UCU students on the exchange programme. Photo/ Courtesy.

UCU prioritizes exchange programs because they “expose our students to new challenging environments and ways of doing things and cultures,” as noted by Prof. Mushengyezi, when flagging off the students to the Netherlands in January, 2022.

UCU intends to continue venturing into such partnerships with universities world over with a sole purpose of availing students as multicultural experience and exposure as much exposure as possible.

The Vice Chancellor interacting with staff members at Hanze University… Photo/ Courtesy.

Disclaimer: Mobile phone photos used.

UCU online Education: Despite Challenges, it’s here to stay

By Patty Huston-Holm and Nicole Nankya
For those who think Uganda Christian University (UCU) started online learning because of the country’s Covid lockdowns, think again. 

The movement started five years prior. The succession of government-ordered education lockdowns from March 2020 through December 2021 simply accelerated education delivery known globally as online, virtual, digital, edu-tech, and e-learning, among other terms.   

With a directive from former Vice-Chancellor Rev. Dr. John Senyonyi, Dr. Stephen Kyakulumbye, senior lecturer and business chair, Center for Open Distance Learning, was leading the charge early on, as well as when the new Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, came on board in the height of the pandemic. 

“People who lagged behind were running around buying and borrowing laptops to get on board,” Kyakulumbye recalled of the mid-2020 period. “It was clear that Covid and restrictions were not going away and in order to work here, they had to adapt.”

On a late March 2022 morning and from his office inside the UCU admissions building, Kyakulumbye shared the story of how e-learning began at UCU five years ago, how it accelerated in 2020 and what role he played in it alongside the late Dorothy Mukasa and her successor as manager for UCU e-learning, the Rev. Dr. Jessica Hughes.

“It was not Covid that got us thinking about online education,” he asserted. “The pandemic both slowed us down and moved us faster.” 

The slowdown occurred because of the Ugandan government’s concern about fairness for economically and technologically disadvantaged students and because of the normal bell curve with middle and late adopters. The hastened move was motivated by job security.

“Jump on board or lose your job,” Kyakulumbye said, adding that he observed “the diffusion theory in action.” The theory is one that seeks to explain how, why and at what rate new ideas and technology spread. 

At UCU, the idea for virtual learning was advanced in 2016 when five UCU faculty members were chosen for an on-line teaching, virtual training out of Muranga, Kenya. Kyakulumbye, already known for his expertise in Information Systems Curriculum Design, relished the fact that he was among the five. 

Likewise, when Covid hit and on-line learning was a necessity to continue education while avoiding the deadly virus, Kyakulumbye was front and center because of his academic credentials and experience.  He has a doctorate degree in Information Systems (University of the Western Cape South Africa), a master’s degree in management studies with an ICT specialization and a bachelors in computer education.  His subject matter expertise includes on-line digitization of curriculum since 2010.

The work to get UCU deeper on line involved acquiring software to do compression, understanding that the hardware being used by faculty and students ranged from phones to computers, and instructing teachers and students in the new way of learning.  

Rev. Dr. Jessica Hughes, Manager, UCU e-learning
Rev. Dr. Jessica Hughes, Manager, UCU e-learning

In the midst of Kyakulumbye leading the charge and before Uganda had ready vaccines, he got a mild case of Covid. Still, and with a team that included the current manager for UCU e-learning, Rev. Dr. Jessica Hughes, and despite the Covid-related death of the then-manager Dorothy Mukasa, UCU pushed ahead – moving content and assignments onto an online platform called Moodle. 

“The perception still is that online is all about the lecturer’s content,” Kyakulumbye said. “If you do it right, there is peer review, peer chatting, e-badge awards and more.” 

One challenge was the bandwidth for lecturers to upload videos, assignments, and other content. According to Kyakulumbye, another challenge was lecturer “workarounds” such as having students send completed exams as email attachments, resulting in lost marks. 

Regarding unaccounted-for student test results, Hughes said, “ln that time, there were a lot of things happening that caused that result, which is unfortunate. We are continuously working to ensure that our processes are leading up so that students don’t have that experience again.”

Hughes, a lecturer with the Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology with her first master’s degree in human performance systems, specializing in instructional design, defined the difference between online and physical studies as learner- and teacher-centered.

“A big difference is that in the classroom, it is teacher-centered education where by you sit for two hours and the lecturer talks for two hours,” she said. “Online learning should be learner-centered, by which students engage in more research, critical thinking, and analysis.” 

The UCU plan through 2025 includes delivery of face-to-face, on-line and blended curriculum. Due to emergency guidelines issued by the National Council for Higher Education, all the courses are being revised across the university to address online learning. At UCU, at minimum, all courses will be blended.

“The library is expanding the digital resources for research so that research students are able to use books and online journals,” she said. “When you come to campus, you have a blended experience, whereby some work will be online and some physical.”

Hughes said the online movement at UCU is leading the way throughout Uganda, making it “a very exciting time to be here.”

‘Giving a voice to the voiceless’ – Inspiring women into investigative journalism

By Patty Huston-Holm with Israel Kisakye, Vanessa Kyalimpa and Yasiri J. Kasango
In mid-May 2021, Cecilia Okoth broke a story about how health care workers were charging money for the government’s free vaccination against Covid-19.  The next month, she wrote about hospital patient expenses, treatment, and lax safety regulations regarding coronavirus.

UCU Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi exchanges signed copies of the Memorandum of Understanding with AIIJ Executive Director Solomon Serwanjja.
UCU Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi exchanges signed copies of the Memorandum of Understanding with AIIJ Executive Director Solomon Serwanjja.

Expose’ stories like these in the height of the pandemic are nothing new to this New Vision investigative reporter. In 2018, she uncovered a scam involving cancer patients and wrote about a possible solution to the stigma of HIV-AIDS in men. In 2019, she reported about “brokers” who lure public hospital patients to private facilities and how Karimojong girls were trafficked, with some ending up with the Al-Shabaab terrorist group.

These are only a few of the investigative journalism pieces authored by Okoth, a 2010 graduate of Uganda Christian University (UCU) and a speaker for a March 2022 event focused on engaging more women in deep, fact-finding news stories. The occasion was co-sponsored by the UCU School of Journalism, Media and Communication (JMC) and  the Kampala-based African Institute of Investigative Journalism (AIIJ) with the nonprofit, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), in Nkoyoyo Hall of the UCU Mukono campus.

The School of JMC and AIIJ  have a new Memorandum of Understanding that seeks collaboration in research and training of investigative journalists in the country.

Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, Anna Reisman, Solomon Serwanjja and Monica Chibita cut cake to mark International Women’s Day, aligned with the investigative journalism event at UCU in March.
Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, Anna Reisman, Solomon Serwanjja and Monica Chibita cut cake to mark International Women’s Day, aligned with the investigative journalism event at UCU in March.

“We are doing a lot of research in areas for journalism within Uganda and we think that UCU offers us that margin, but also think that UCU would love a space where they take their students for internships and could benefit from the guest lectures that we’ll have,” said Raymond Mujuni, of AIIJ and an editor and talk-show host at the Nation Media Group in Uganda.

Before an audience of 100, Okoth served on panel of journalists and media scholars who discussed press issues under the theme “Women and Investigative Journalism: An untapped opportunity.” Other panelists were Dr Patricia Litho, a communications specialist and trainer; Dr. Annette Kezaabu, the Head of Postgraduate Studies at the UCU School of JMC; and Anna Reismann, the country representative KAS Uganda and South Sudan.  Mujuni moderated the discussion.

“In our early time of investigative journalism, we didn’t have such training to equip the young female journalists,” Okoth said at the event. Later, she shared how, as her career seemed to be stagnant, she stumbled on a deeper story she saw at a routine press conference.

“When I arrived, I immediately noticed an anomaly,” she recalled of the press event. “Many patients were lying on the verandas at the institute. I later learned that patients had to bribe medics to access the radiotherapy machine which was known to be free of charge. That was the story I wrote after a three-month investigation. My career has never been the same.”

In an interview after the March 2022 event, Okoth shared her thoughts about challenges and opportunities, especially for women. Investigative journalism is tough enough, but tougher for women as the difficult assignments often go to men.

“The onus is on a woman to fight and prove that you can equally accomplish a ‘man’s’ task,” she said. “Investigative journalism involves unearthing well-tucked secrets by the powers that be or highlighting the injustices and abuses of power. It is giving a voice to the voiceless. However, in trying to accomplish this, you will rub some people the wrong way or even get frustrated along the way, or face threats.”

Investigative pieces require time, patience and stamina for the reporter, and a budget for a newsroom – all four of which can compromise the quality of the work, according to Okoth. The content of the investigations can be “very disturbing” psychologically with risks from perpetrators reporters are researching to expose wrongful deeds.

“As journalists, we are told that no story is worth your life,” she said. “So, you have to know when to retract when an assignment gets dangerous.”

At the same time, deeper fact-finding stories provide opportunities not only to clear up corruption but also to gain recognition as reporters. Okoth has received accolades, such as the August 2018 editorial innovations award, 2019 runner up in the Uganda National Journalism Awards explanatory reporting category, and 2020 Nominee for the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) Knight International Journalism Awards. She also has had several training and mentorship opportunities globally.

“As a field journalist, I have seized the opportunity to transform the lives of people I have been assigned to report about,” Okoth said. “The stories I have covered have helped start uncomfortable conversations that have created awareness or led to policy change.”

Another panelist, Dr. Kezaabu, implored lecturers to mentor their students on life skills, adding that “the skills taught in class can be compromised if we don’t teach or mentor our students on how to focus on their life and conduct themselves.”

“Go for it if it’s your passion, if it’s your conviction, go for it,” added panelist, Dr. Litho, encouraging upcoming female journalists to break the bias. She added that ladies should not be relegated to soft stories like beauty contests.

“As journalists, we are often told, you are as good as your last story so that technically means your best story is one that you have not yet done,” Okoth, mother of a 16-month-old son, said. “This pushes me to work harder…Plus, being a mother shouldn’t deprive someone of career goals. You can definitely achieve both.”

In addition to hearing speakers, attendees watched a documentary film known as a Thousand Cuts about the life of Maria Ressa, a female investigative journalist who put her life at stake to hold the Philippine President accountable for killing innocent people under the disguise of drug abuse.

The March activities were attended by UCU Vice Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushenygezi;  Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academics, Assoc. Prof. John Kitayimbwa; Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Finance and Administration), David Mugawe; Dean for the School JMC, Prof. Monica Chibita; head of the School of JMC undergraduate studies, John Semakula; and AIIJ executive director Solomon Serwanjja.

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