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Siyasa applies learning for Partners organization

By Nickie Karitas
Recent Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduate Jimmy Siyasa didn’t wait to have a degree in hand before applying what he learned in his journalism program. And it has paid off – in experience and money to support his next level of master’s degree studies. 

On October 22, 2021, Jimmy Siyasa was among the more than 3,000 students who graduated at UCU’s 22nd graduation ceremony. He bagged a Second-Class Upper Division, with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.38 out of 5.0. A First Class starts at 4.40. 

In December 2021, he is enrolled in a UCU post-graduate degree path in Strategic Communication (MA). At the same time, he has been helping the UCU Partners NGO by producing videos and print stories for several months and is a writer in the UCU Office of Communications and Public Relations. He gets stipends for each. 

Before all this, here’s his story. 

Siyasa attended Mbuya Church of Uganda for primary education and St. Kizito SS Bugolobi for O’level. For his A’level, Siyasa attended Bishop Cypriano Kihangire Secondary School. All three schools are in Kampala.

UCU and Partners e-lab communications team member, Jimmy Siyasa, playing guitar in UCU’s Nykoyoyo Hall in 2017.

Jimmy Siyasa never dreamed of studying at UCU. In fact, he knew little about the institution as he thought about studies after high school. In Senior Six, while making choices for courses to study at a university, he opted for the Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Bachelor of Arts in Education, in that order, at Makerere University. 

In 2017, Makerere admitted him for his second choice, the Bachelor of Arts in Education, specializing in English and Literature in English. Siyasa’s father, Robert Waiga, insisted that his son live on campus for added security that an outside hostel wouldn’t provide. Siyasa was admitted to Mitchell Hall where, because of high demand for slots, students were asked to pay accommodation fees for the first semester in advance. 

The lodging payment was the first of the many hurdles for the second born of the three children of Waiga and Celine Ayikoru.  The family did not have the money to secure the slot. This setback caused Siyasa to ask himself whether he really should pursue a course in education, where he did not have much passion anyway.

One of the members of the church band that Siyasa was in suggested he consider applying at UCU. Siyasa did and was offered studies toward the Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication.

“I heard of UCU from my friends at church,” the 24-year-old Siyasa said. “I also discovered that friends from my former school were already there. . . but I feared the expenses associated with private universities in Uganda.” 

University fees in private institutions in Uganda tend to be higher than public institutions, largely because of no funding support from the government.

Now, Siyasa’s younger sister, Peace Asara, is the one trying to ensure that she graduates in the course her brother did not pursue at Makerere University. Asara, who wants to become a teacher of English and Literature in English at an institution of higher learning, is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree at Kyambogo University in Uganda.

As Siyasa was getting ready for his second semester in first year at UCU, Waiga’s contract at his workplace ended, and it was not renewed. That meant one thing – Siyasa had no tuition to continue with his studies. His father advised him to take a “dead semester” as he tried to find more solid financial footing. 

When Siyasa shared his challenges with some friends he had made at UCU, they were against the dead semester. They mobilized funds and paid his tuition. For the second-year first semester, Siyasa’s friend, Rick Kagoro, and his father, Ivan Lumala, met the tuition requirements. The two are based in Washington State, USA. Rick, whose family is acquainted with former UCU Vice-Chancellor, John Senyonyi, had come to Uganda for a visit. He resided at UCU for a while, and at some point visited Jimmy’s class as a Teaching Assistant for a foundational course unit- Elements of Math. 

By the next semester, Waiga (Jimmy’s father) had found financial stability, having been recalled to his former workplace, the U.S Embassy in Iraq. 

Fast forward to December 2021.

“Siyasa is a brilliant, and dependable young man,” Frank Obonyo, UCU’s communications manager, said. “He is a valuable addition to our great team as we can already see his contribution.’’ 

The platform that offered Siyasa the opportunity to cut his professional teeth months ago is the USA-based UCU Partners.

This happened because his lecturer, John Semakula, now head of UCU’s journalism department, asked if he could write an article about dental challenges that students face at UCU. He says that story ushered him into writing for the non-profit’s Web site, an opportunity that helped him turn classroom knowledge into real-life practice.

Stephanie Gloria, who studied with Siyasa, says he has worked his way to the top.

“His hard work and integrity cannot go unnoticed,” Gloria says of Siyasa, adding: “His greatest happiness is not in having everything he wants in life, but in appreciating the little or whatever that is available.” 

In the next five years, Siyasa hopes to have his master’s degree as well as a Ph.D. in a media-related field. At the same time, he is engaged in music. He has some original songs, including this one he has recorded here: (https://soundcloud.com/siyasa-jimmy/workingfromhome)

Agaba overcomes financial challenges to earn First Class Degree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UCU New Associate Dean focused on ‘glory of God’

By Ivan Tsebeni

In 2017, when Charlotte Kabaseke embarked on a PhD program, she knew that the path to victory would be rough, but did not know how rough. Had she known the challenges that awaited her in the course, Kabaseke says she would have opted out.

“It was not a bed of roses,” Kabaseke said. “The higher I went in my academic career, the more challenging it was and, in many cases, Christ was my only solace.” 

Because of obstacles, however, she said she had become “stronger, more resilient, more mature, more analytical, more courageous, more confident, more organized and more intellectually alert.”

It is that maturity and confidence that she exhibited at the interview to hire a new Associate Dean for the Faculty of Law at the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Kampala campus. And she emerged victorious.

The academic terrain she traversed during the time she pursued her Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice in Uganda as well as for her doctoral degree was tough. The legal practice diploma is required to practice law in Uganda.

“The Post-Graduate Diploma and PhD journeys presented some of my life’s lowest moments,” she said. “My intellect was put to a true test during my pursuit of both journeys.”

Upon her graduation with a PhD in December 2020 at the University of Wuhan in China, Kabaseke posted on social media that she did not expect the kind of challenge she got during the program. 

In the role of Associate Dean, Dr. Kabaseke replaces Prof. George W. Kasozi, for whom a farewell ceremony was conducted during a community worship service, at UCU, on October 5, 2021. The position of Associate Dean is the highest in the faculty at the Kampala campus. 

She says Prof. Kasozi laid a firm foundation that she hopes to build on. Kabaseke says she intends to contribute to making the UCU Law Faculty and the entire UCU a better place “for the glory of God and for the satisfaction of all our clients.” 

Dissemination of knowledge through teaching, research and publication is the heartbeat of Kabaseke. 

“Seeing my students make it in life, as well as transforming communities through pro bono legal services gives me satisfaction,” she says.

Some of Kabaseke’s works are published in popular journals, such as Gender and Behavior, an interdisciplinary publication dedicated to articles that reflect psychological and behavior aspects of gender. 

One of her most popular publications is a chapter in a book titled Climate Change: Hazards and Adaptation Options, published by Springer International PublishingHer chapter in the 2020 publication is titled Legal Recognition of Women’s Role in Combating Desertification in Africa: The Case For Uganda

Kabaseke holds a Master’s of Law from Makerere University, which she acquired in 2012. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of Law from UCU in 2009, and acquired a Post-Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice, from the Law Development Center in Kampala the following year. 

For her secondary education, Kabaseke attended Maryhill High School, a prestigious institution in western Uganda. Budo Junior School in central Uganda is where she had her primary education.

Before her appointment as Associate Dean for the Faculty of Law, Kabaseke was the Acting Dean and, before that, the Head of Department at the Faculty of Law at Bishop Stuart University since 2016. 

Kabaseke grew up in Kabale district in southwestern Uganda. She says her compassion, and love for Christ and the truth are virtues instilled in her by her mother, Birungi Specioza. When she is not engaged in academic work, Kabaseke spends time evangelizing, listening to gospel music, travelling, reading and making friends.

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