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US departments recognize UCU’s research ethics committee

By Kefa Senoga
The Uganda Christian University-Research Ethics Committee (UCU-REC) has been accredited by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Office for Human Research Protection (OHRP) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Osborne Ahimbisibwe, the secretary of the UCU-REC, said the accreditation is a result of UCU-REC’s success in fulfilling its professional duties that include looking out for the privacy and protection of persons in studies. He said the ethics committee is listed on the HHS and OHRP website as the UCU Institutional Review Board (IRB), Number IRB00013492.  

Ahimbisibwe explained that funding agencies use the HHS and OHRP websites to verify that an Institutional Review Board (IRB) or Research Ethics Committee (REC) has an active registration. The OHRP provides leadership in the protection of the rights and well-being of human subjects involved in research conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services while the FDA protects public health by ensuring safety of human drugs.  

“The accreditation means that if someone is coming from the U.S to conduct research in Uganda and they get approval from UCU-REC, the findings of their study will be recognized back in the United States,” Ahimbisibwe explained.

There are a number of Research Ethics Committees in Uganda that include the Uganda Virus Research Institute Research Ethics Committee (UVRI-REC), Mbarara University of Science and Technology Research Ethics Committee (MUST – REC), Nkumba University Research Ethics Committee (NU-REC), and the School of Medicine Research Ethics Committee at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, among others.

Ahimbisibwe explains that the UCU-REC on average does 200 protocol reviews annually and it’s mandatory for postgraduate students and other researchers outside academia, for example, clinical trials. He adds that membership of the committee is comprised of scientific and non-scientific members who are made up of UCU community representatives and non-UCU-affiliated members. 

Commenting on the development, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the Rev. Prof. John Kitayimbwa, said that the accreditation is an important development for UCU, which intends to drive the agenda of research. 

A post-graduate student works in the UCU library, which is working to drive the agenda of quality research to increase global visibility and maximize impact of these studies.
A post-graduate student works in the UCU library, which is working to drive the agenda of quality research to increase global visibility and maximize impact of these studies.

“We are transforming the university from one that’s been majorly teaching to a research-led one,” he said. “However, in order to do research, especially where you have human subjects, you have got to do that work ethically.” 

Prof. Kitayimbwa noted that UCU’s REC ensures that the standards, which have been set in terms of the ethical considerations worldwide, are followed when dealing with human subjects in research activity.   

Dr. Angela Napakol, a REC member and senior lecturer at the School of Journalism, Media and Communication, said the accreditation was not only vital in science-related research, but also in other fields, such as social sciences and humanities. 

Napakol noted one example of a researcher who is going to the field to discuss mental health and could bring up sensitive topics that may trigger trauma because of a past experience. If information is not acquired properly, including with sensitivity and respect, the questions can trigger a breakdown. Thus,  it is important to ensure that ethical practices are followed. 

“So, as REC, we want to make sure that the discussions between the researcher and the participants don’t trigger episodes of mental breakdown,” she said.  “That is why we put emphasis on ethical standards.”

Archbishop Kaziimba begins second pastoral visit to UCU: Pictorial

UCU – MUKONO: The Archbishop of Church of Uganda and Chancellor of Uganda Christian University (UCU), The Most Rev Dr. Stephen Samuel Kaziimba Mugalu has today afternoon began his second official Pastoral visit to the University at the Main Campus in Mukono.

His visit came on the same day he concluded his two-day official pastoral visit in Mukono Diocese.

On arrival at UCU, the Archbishop was received by Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi the Vice-Chancellor, Rev. Assoc. Prof. John Kitayimbwa the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Rev. Canon Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro, the University Chaplain and Rev. Richard Mulindwa, the University’s Church Relations Coordinator.

Archbishop Kaziimba cathing up with Rev. Canon. Lusania, at the latter’s home in Mukono. Photo/ Sadiiki Adams.

He then paid a courtesy visit to Rev Canon Lusania Kasamba in his home, a few meters from the University. He was accompanied by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, the University Chaplain, and the University’s Church Relations Coordinator.

“I am very grateful to the Lord for keeping him safe and sound. Rev. Canon Lusania Kasamba is a great resource to many people, especially us, that he taught. He taught me Church History and still has a huge sense of humour,” Archbishop Kaziimba said.

“My visit to him is to pray with him and appreciate his contribution to God’s ministry. There is no satisfactory price we can pay for the knowledge he gave us. Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:58, Canon Kasamba’s labour is not in vain. He was and remains a blessing to us.”

Archbishop Kaziimba and Prof. Ankrah Maxine caught up during his courtesy visit to her residence on Besania Hill, Mukono. Photo/ Sadiiki Adams.

He later paid a courtesy visit to Prof Maxine Ankrah at her home on Besania Hill also in the vicinity of the University.

Archbishop Kaziimba commended the partnership that the University has with her family foundation – Ankrah Foundation and said he looks forward to stronger and more fruitful partnerships. He said many people will be blessed by the collaborations.

The Archbishop then had a meeting with the Dean and Staff of Bishop Tucker School of Theology whom he commended for their selfless service and dedicated service to teaching students undergoing ministerial training and formation.

Archbishop then had a meeting with the Dean, Prof. Christopher Byaruhanga (L-1 of Archbishop Kaziimba), and the Staff of Bishop Tucker School of Theology pose with the Archbishop after their meeting.

He later addressed Theology Students and charged them to be mindful of their calling. He commended the team at UCU for taking care of them and the Bishops who sent them. He appreciated the remarks by Rev Canon Prof. Christopher Byaruhanga who praised the students of theology for their outstanding discipline compared to students of other disciplines.

The Vice-Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi and his wife, Mrs. Patience Mushengyezi hosted the Archbishop and senior staff for dinner in their official residence.

The following day, Archbishop met with the Students’ Guild, International Students and then attended the Community Worship Service before meeting the Academic and Administrative Heads and the Vice Chancellor’s Cabinet.

Guild leaders pose with the Archbishop in front of the Bishop Tucker Building, after their meeting with him. Photo/ Jimmy Siyasa.
Archbishop Kaziimba listens to a report presented by Lynn Tanyaradzwa Mupfudzapake, President of International students. Photo/ Jimmy Siyasa.

On Wednesday, he will visit the Kampala Campus where he will have a meeting with the School of Dentistry, School of Medicine staff and students, the students’ Guild and also attend the Community Worship Service before touring the Academic Block under construction at Kampala Campus. [ Details to come]

Norway: VC meets University Rectors

By Veronica Masinde

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi paid a courtesy visit to the Rector of NLA University College, Prof. Sigbjørn Sødal, with whom he discussed further areas of cooperation between the two universities.

UCU already has a strong collaboration with NLA University College through the School of Journalism, Media, and Communication, which is a beneficiary of the NORHED II project worth UGX 8.4 billion. The two institutions share a similar vision and mission.

Prof. Mushengyezi shares a gift from UCU with the NLA University Rector, Prof. Sigbjørn, after their meeting.
Prof. Mushengyezi and Prof. Whittaker share a photo moment.

Prof. Mushengyezi also visited the University of Rector of Ansgarsskolen, in Kristiansand City and held a meeting with the University Rector, Prof. Sunniva Whittaker. The two discussed a potential partnership, especially within the areas of theology and eLearning, which are fortes for both universities.

Thereafter, Prof. Mushengyezi visited Ansgarsskolen’s Theological College and met Prof. Ingunn Breistein to explore possible collaboration, especially with their Theology Faculty.

Prof. Mushengyezi poses with Prof. Ingunn Breistein, after sharing with her gifts from UCU.

The visits are part of Prof. Mushengyezi’s strategic agenda to intentionally grow UCU’s research and partnerships, both nationally and internationally.

Health Crises and Media Discourses in Sub-Saharan Africa: New Book

New Book: Dralega, C.A., and Napakol, A. (eds). Health Crises and Media Discourses in Sub-Saharan Africa. Springer, Cham.

A Review

This is an open-access book that brings together leading scholars and critical discourses on political, economic, legal, technological, socio-cultural and systemic changes and continuities intersecting media and health crises in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

The volume extensively discusses COVID-19 but it also covers other epidemics, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS as well as “silent” health crises such as mental health—simmering across the subcontinent.

The chapters fill knowledge gaps, highlight innovations, and unpack the complexities surrounding the media ecosystem in times of health crises. They explore, among other issues, the politics of public health communication; infodemics; existential threats to media viability; draconian legislations; threats to journalists/journalism; COVID-related entrepreneurship, marginalization, and more.

This is a timely resource for academics, advocacy groups, media practitioners and policymakers working on crises and media reporting, not just in Africa but anywhere in the global South.

Foreword

…Some African responses on media and health issues are examined in this book by a whole new generation of public health communicators who are homegrown, African graduates, sometimes of international research and training collaborations, who are responding to their own particular national environments. Just as African scholarship and health campaign strategy can positively inform global approaches, the support of the big Northern publishers—in this case, Springer—is just as important. Where the earlier generation cut their teeth on HIV/AIDS, the new generation seems destined to deal with successive and increasingly intense and interrelated crises: health, climate change and environmental degradation. Thus this is one book that can speak intelligently to these issues from the perspective of the Global South. And, the task that they are taking on is herculean.

Foreword by Keyan Gray Tomaselli– University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa

The book cover and contents can be accessed here: https://link.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-030-95100-9

About the Editors

Dr. Carol Azungi Dralega is an Associate Professor and Head of Research at the Department of Journalism, Media and Communication, NLA University College, Kristiansand, Norway. She holds a Ph.D. in Media and Communication Studies from the University of Oslo, Norway.

Dr. Angella Napakol is a researcher and Senior Lecturer at the School of Journalism, Media and Communication, Uganda Christian University. She holds a Ph.D. in Mass Communication/Media Studies, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Vice-Chancellor in Norway for NORHED project launch

By Veronica K. Masinde

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi has visited NLA University College in Norway, with a team of academic staff from the School of Journalism, Media and Communication (SJMC), headed by Prof. Monica B. Chibita (the Principal Investigator). The visit is to consolidate the NORHED II partnership between Uganda Christian University (UCU), NLA University College, University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa) and the University of Rwanda.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi (standing), addresses the delegation, during a meeting at NLA University.

A key objective of the visit is to officially launch the NORAD funded project, which will support joint research project teams, improve library and teaching infrastructure; and also, the launch of a Ph.D. degree in Journalism, Media and Communication at UCU, as well as an MA in Journalism and Communication at the University of Rwanda.

The current project is a follow-up on the NORHED I project that ended in 2019, from which UCU through the School, formerly Department of Mass Communication, received a Shs 4.7bn ($1.3 million) grant for staff capacity building.

It must be noted that the UCU SJMC received a grant worth UGX 8.4 billion, under the NORHED II, to start a Ph.D. programme in Communication and media studies in 2022. The PhD will be the first of its kind in Uganda, and the first of a very few within East Africa, to bridge the training gap at that level within the region.

Additionally, the programme will strengthen the capacity of higher education institutions in the developing world, to produce higher quality graduates, research and to promote a more inclusive educational landscape.

“This [grant] means a lot to us [as a faculty], UCU and the East Africa Region. A quality Ph.D. programme will ensure quality graduates and will contribute to a robust research culture,” said Prof. Chibita, during an interview she gave the New Vision newspaper, in January 2021, upon UCU winning the grant.

Courtesy of the same grant, the University of Rwanda, has managed to roll out the first Master’s degree in Media and Communication in the country- Rwanda.

Other project team members (from UCU) on the visit include Dr. Annette Kezaabu, the Head of Postgraduate Studies and Research in the School of Journalism, Media and Communication, and Joseph Kiva who is a Lecturer in the same School, and project teams from all the partner universities.

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.” 

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