Banja narrates how UCU prepared her for greatness

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Hard work rarely goes unacknowledged. For the Rev. Canon Assoc. Prof. Olivia Nassaka Banja, the sweat that she has been breaking in the academic sphere has yielded results with her appointment to the apex management position of a university in Uganda.

Banja is the new Vice-Chancellor of Ndejje University. Her appointment makes her the third Vice Chancellor of Ndejje, and the first woman to hold that position in the university. Banja was the Dean of the School of Education at Uganda Christian University (UCU) for about a year prior to her new position.

“I’m grateful to God for giving me the opportunity to serve at UCU, where I have been groomed, shaped, mentored and equipped with skills that I am taking with me to serve and lead in another institution,” said Banja, who was headhunted for the position because of her stellar performance and tested legacy as an administrator at UCU.

Banja became the first female dean of UCU’s Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology in 2008 and served in the position till June 2014, when she became UCU’s Director for Teaching and Learning. It was from this position that she switched to head the UCU School of Education as its dean in September 2021.

L-R UCU bids farewell to the Rev. Canon Assoc. Prof. Olivia Nassaka Banja: The UCU Vice Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, his wife, Mrs. Patience Mushengyezi, Rev. Canon Olivia Nassaka Banja and her husband the Rev. Can. Moses Banja, inside the UCU Pricinpals’ hall.

Formerly Bishop Tucker Theological College, the school, which started in 1913, gave birth to UCU, in 1997. Looking at Banja’s academic journey before becoming the dean of UCU’s Bishop Tucker School of Divinity and Theology, it was evident she was undergoing formative preparation for the big job. For instance, as early as 1993, she was the curate of St Andrew’s Cathedral Mityana Diocese and was made the acting vicar of the same cathedral the following year.

Banja was part of UCU’s inaugural staff members, serving as a lecturer and also the Female Students’ Warden. In 2004, she was promoted to the position of Senior Lecturer. She was part of the team that developed the first PhD program at UCU, the Doctor of Ministry.

The holder of a bachelor’s degree, three master’s and a PhD was ordained deacon in the Church of Uganda on December 19, 1993. She says that the day she committed her life to God was the day she “saw her path.”

Also in 1993, she was a recipient of a First Class in Bachelor of Divinity at the Bishop Tucker Theological College Mukono. In 1996, she earned a Master of Arts in Religious Studies of Makerere University and added another master’s degree, MA, Mission and Ministry of St John’s College, Nottingham University in the UK, the following year.

And Banja was not done yet, with her master’s degrees. In 2000, she earned her third, Master of Theology by Research of the University of Edinburgh. In the same year, she started her PhD course in the same university, graduating in 2004.

As she leaves UCU, Banja looks back with great pride at the first graduation ceremony of the university in 2000. She remembers typing and printing all of her exams before heading to the nearby Mukono town to photocopy because the university did not have such services at the time.

“After all we had done, seeing the university produce its first graduates was a great joy to me,” she said.

For all that the 55-year-old has achieved, she thanks her parents, James Lwanga and Daisy Ndagire. “My father didn’t have gender stereotypes, and he believed in me to be an achiever at a very young age.”

For her primary education, Banja attended Bat Valley Primary School and Nakasero Secondary School for both her O’level and A’level. Both Bat Valley and Nakasero are located in Kampala.

She married the Rev. Canon Venerable Moses Banja in April 2001. Banja says she spends her free time cooking and reading when not busy with academic or religious work.


UCU students graduate from UN Campus programme

At least 15 students of Uganda Christian University (UCU) have graduated from Millenium Fellowship, a semester-long Leadership Programme that advances the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Majority of the graduates, at the virtual graduation ceremony held on Wednesday, 17 November 2021, were female.
They will be issued Certificates, having fulfilled all the requirements of the online mentorship program to which they enrolled in August 2021, alongside thousands of University students all over the world. Some of the Ugandan institutions involved were Makerere, Gulu, Ndejje Universities, among others.
During the course of four months, the participants (Class of 2021) learned an array of skills including Leadership, project management, social networking, among others. The UCU Campus Director of Millennium Fellowship, Peter Kabuye, a fourth-year student pursuing Bachelor of Dental Surgery says the Fellowship has played a pivotal role in expanding his team’s professional network, including himself.

“I and my colleagues have been given an opportunity to network with students from various campuses of UCU and universities worldwide, he said,” adding “ I was able to meet like-minded people that have visions and beliefs similar to mine.”
Kabuye urges other students from UCU to enroll for the virtually-oriented fellowship whose application window is open for the Year 2022.” Millenium Fellowship is “ an opportunity to network with respected worldwide leaders of all walks of life,” he argues.
On her part, Syndia Chemutai, a fourth-year student of Bachelor of Laws is excited to be contributing to the SDGs, having been equipped through the Fellowship.
Due to various challenges, including poor internet connectivity, some five students did not graduate. They had to have attended all Zoom sessions held during the nearly four-month-long Fellowship.
The Millennium Campus Network (MCN) is a Boston-based, global Not-for-profit in Partnership with the UN Academic Impact. Each year it selects 20 students from different University campuses to develop projects that advance the 17 UN SDGs.