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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 signs MoU with UNBS to standardize academic products

By Jimmy Siyasa

Uganda Christian University (UCU) and Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at collaborating on the formulation and promotion of quality standards in Institutions of Higher Learning.

According to the MoU signed on Wednesday, UCU will operate in the core capacity of a ‘research agency’, and supply the Bureau of Standards with the necessary research data that will inform the standardization of curricula, short courses, student internships, and training, among others, nationally.

In return, UCU students will be attached to the internationally accredited laboratories of UNBS and trained on how to undertake quality analysis of product samples, in order to establish safety features UNBS considers before certifying a product. 

“Part of our mentoring and coaching of the university students will involve attaching them to our international standard laboratories,” said David Livingstone Ebiru, the Executive Director of UNBS, who further noted that it is important that students are initiated into a “quality culture” while they are still university.

“The students are future manufacturers, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Therefore, it is important that we try to create awareness on quality standards before they go out into the business world,” he said.

The recruitment of UCU trainees in the laboratories will in the long run enrich the manpower at UNBS, easing the problem of “understaffing”, which was cited as a major challenge in the agency’s 2020/2021 Annual Report to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.

“The university takes excellence as its mark and this is what we hope for in what we do. So we are very excited for this opportunity since we are at a point where we are transitioning into a research-based university,” said Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito, Director of the Research, Partnership and Innovations directorate. “

UCU’s Vice-Chancellor Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi welcomed the initiative in his speech. “We are ready to work with you on developing standardization curricula, quality assurance courses, teach standards to students and our staff, and other people out there,” Mushengyezi said, after signing the MoU, during the ceremony held at the UCU Principals’hall.  

The UNBS team led by Executive Director David Livingstone Ebiru (Front row- 2nd Lt) and UCU top management staff led by the Vice-Chancellor Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi ( Front row- 2nd Rt)pose after the signing of the MoU. Photo/ Jimmy Siyasa

This is the first Memorandum of Understanding that the Bureau gets to sign with a Ugandan University for this cause; UCU has been prioritized as a piloting ground for the project before it can be extended to tertiary institutions and other universities- both private and public. 

SSRC Symposium at UCU: Scholars speak out on experience

By Jimmy Siyasa

“It can be scary for your work to be criticized by other scholars; you never really outgrow that fear. But we have to be okay with others finding loopholes in your research work.”

Those words constituted the closing remarks of Dr. Emilly Maractho, convener of the 2022 Social Sciences Research Council (SSRC) symposium themed “Ideology, Identity and State Formation in East Africa”, held at Uganda Christian University (UCU). Emilly is the Director of Africa Policy Centre (APC) at UCU. She noted that the debates and discussions- laced with incisive criticism of some papers- that ensued during the symposium were crucial and relevant, especially to the scholars who had presented.

Emilly also reminded fellow scholars that academic criticism and/or rejection of one’s research should not be taken in bad faith, but instead, embraced as “cause” for the researcher “to go back and revisit your research”.

The two-day symposium started on February, 24-25, 2022, and attracted scholars from at least four universities including: Makerere, Kyambogo, Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) and Uganda Martyrs University. They presented various papers, both complete studies and those underway; 14 papers were presented all together, on divergent topics, but all converging at the general theme.

Day two of the symposium started with a percipient keynote address by Prof. Apuuli Phillip Kasaijja, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University. He dissected the sub-theme “Resource-based Conflicts in Uganda”, crowning his presentation with a call upon the scholars in attendance to work hand in hand with policymakers in order to ensure that their research findings eventually, directly inform policy in the country.

Prof. Apuuli Phillip Kasaijja was a keynote speaker at the symposium. Photo/ Andrew Bugembe.

“People are doing a lot of original research. But it will not be helpful if it does not influence policy. It should be able to…,” said Prof. Kasaijja, arguing that part of the cause of this trend is an ‘unhealthy’ division between academics and politicians. He urged the two to forge common ground for coexistence because the former do research that the latter [ who don’t do research] need [because it is backed by empirical data] to make informed policies make policies.

The air inside the UCU Principals’ hall was rife with upbeat intellectual discourse as the different scholars presented their studies for peer-review, and therefore, scrutiny.

Jimmy Siyasa caught up with some of the scholars to learn their experience from the symposium and reflections on its significance and relevance to Uganda’s academic and policy landscape. [Photos by Andrew Bugembe]

This is a very important conference. I am very grateful to the convener because it is very important for us scholars to meet and share our experiences on our journey as academics, but also on how to impact policy and practice in our country. Other scholars [from other universities] should take the initiative to be part of such arrangements because it is one of the best ways to mentor the younger generation of scholars.

Dr. Resty Naiga, Lecturer in the Department of Development Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, at Makerere University

The symposium was fantastic and a great opportunity to meet some of the scholars we had taken long without meeting. It was also a good introduction to the research of other scholars and insights from their fields of study. It really rejuvenates and helps us to also shape our own thoughts. I noticed that some of the people here are rich in methodology and different things, although, interestingly, much of the work presented was related. Generally, there was a lot to learn from each presenter. We have left different people challenged to revisit their work and to work harder, while encouraged that they are on the right track. We hope these papers will be published eventually, and the knowledge disseminated because we have agreed on polishing the works for publication.

Dr. Robert Ojambo, Senior Lecturer and Head of Department of History and Political Science.Kyambogo University

First of all, I love the UCU environment. Perfect. I thought Makerere was the highlight of everything [a University should be in Africa], but this is a beautiful space [for thinking and studying]. As far as the conversation in the symposium is concerned, I felt at home because the scholarly topics and faces I interacted with were familiar. The debates were top-quality debates. So, I am happy, I enjoyed every bit of it and was not disappointed at any point.

Yosef Sintayehu Jemberie, Ph.D. Candidate at Makerere Social Research Institute (MISR)

Fascinating papers! Fascinating presentations. The keynote today [Day two] was on-point for me. High-level engagement! I was inspired by some of the young people, the students inside the room who were asking very critical questions without feeling intimidated by the PhDs and Professors present. It was good watching some of the students I mentored present papers. When we come together from different backgrounds, we have a larger conversation, otherwise, we are always talking to each other and there is nothing new. For me what excited me was hearing from people coming from elsewhere [other universities]. We should think about organizing research panels in order to generate synergy that often comes in handy when writing grant proposals as a panel as opposed to individual effort.

Dr. Pamela Kanakhwa, Lecturer Department of History, Archaeology, and Heritage Studies at Makerere

This symposium was excellent because it has brought us together, and the focus on “State, security…” was very clear and relevant. The presentations were great and everyone participated. This symposium is going to take us a long way into academia, specifically exiting gaps in the available literature. Most researches were empirical, others desk studies, but were all informing policy and existing gaps we have in knowledge as a country.

Dr. Specioza Twinamatsiko, Lecturer, MUST

For me, this was a fascinating experience. I would like to thank the Africa Policy Centre at UCU for organizing this symposium. My major highlight is the experience of sitting in an interdisciplinary conference: People have different approaches to research. So, this was very fascinating and exciting for me. Secondly, I am happy to have disseminated my finding about the experiences of children living with violent caregivers. I am grateful that I was able to attend.

Herbert Twinamatsiko, Ph.D Candidate, MUST

The symposium brings to us the academic engagement that we have been missing for a long time. It has enabled us to; sit down, discuss, theorize, and think beyond the boundaries, and critic one another’s work. That is my major highlight. It was an opportunity to interact with fellow scholars and I think we should have it more often. It is a platform to speak a common language; when you speak to most of the people out there sometimes, it is like you are speaking Greek; because you are talking about theory, methodology, informing policy, etc. It is like you are speaking to the wrong audience. But here, you are able to engage, wrap your head around concepts and how they can be applied in real life, societies and our community for their betterment.

Dr. Ronald Kalyango Sebba, lecturer in the School of Women and Gender Studies Makerere University

As Africa Policy Centre, this is why we exist; to do research that informs policy and therefore, these were insightful and relevant discussions. I am happy with this meeting and that it happened. I have gotten to meet and know people who are passionate and knowledgeable about their field. I hope that we are not going to stop this conversation here and I look forward to the time when we can have an annual symposium.”

Dr. Emilly Comfort Maractho, Director, APC, UCU

Background

The symposium convened the inaugural Uganda Fellows of The Africa Peacebuilding Network (APN) and the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa (NextGen), both programs of the Social Science Research Council (SSRC), courtesy of APC, UCU, which collaborated with the former institution(s). The APC is a Think Tank at UCU which aims at advancing research and evidence-based policies in Africa, whereas the SSRC is an independent, international non-profit organization that fosters innovative research by supporting scholars through its Africa-related programs.

The symposium brings together former Uganda-based grantees of the two programs to present and receive feedback from their peers on their latest research projects. Open to the wider university public, the symposium shall involve paper presentations from the alumni.

Dr. Emilly Maractho publishes and launches health research report

By Jimmy Siyasa

The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Finance and Administration, David Mugawe, has launched a health research report by Dr. Emilly Maractho, the Director of Africa Policy Centre. The report, which was launched on February 23, 2022, is the result of a collaborative health research between UCU and US-based Lehigh University. Dr. Maractho is one of five scholars, four from Lehigh, who prepared the report; they include: Judith Lasker, Sirry Alang and Kelly Austin.

At the launch, Mugawe, noted that the study, entitled “Enhancing the value of Short term volunteer missions in health from host country perspectives: The Case of Uganda,” is timely and brings relevant empirical data that is of utility to national stakeholders in the health sector. “This report, as a case study of Uganda, is going to be a point of reference and source of empirical data that will inform and influence policymakers and other relevant stakeholders that are looking for such data to advocate for change, investment, etc.”

David Mugawe receives a copy of Dr. Emilly’s research. Photo: Andrew Bugemebe.

Mugawe also welcomed more like research partnerships with other universities, acclaiming Lehigh’s collaboration with UCU. He further emphasized UCU’s robust commitment to the research agenda, encouraging other UCU scholars to publish their works, while counting on full university support. “This is exciting, for us to see products that are homegrown, and we are glad for the partnership [with Lehigh university],” Mugawe said.

“Within top management, we do have research as a key agenda and this has been seen in our [significant] budgeting for 2022. As a University, we’ve supported research initiatives by some of our professors, who [early this year] formed teams and competed for a grant that the University did award.”

During her presentation to both an online and physical audience that had gathered at the UCU Principals’ Hall, Dr. Maractho noted that her research study, which kicked off in 2018, was inspired by the overall health needs of Uganda, which relate to Short Term Medical Missions (STMMs).

Within the context of the research study, STMMs refer to the various medical teams that come to an area to offer medical assistance within the host communities for a given period of time, then later return to their countries of origin.

According to the study, by 2018, Uganda was having a rapid population growth, especially within the rural areas, a trend which made them more susceptible to STMMs, and therefore, there was an overwhelming need to assess, “ the perspectives of host communities on STMMs, their practice from host country perspectives, the extent to which sending organization aligns with host communities in order to understand their need and, final, the regulatory and policy environment within which they operate in host communities,” Dr. Maractho said.

She also noted that by 2018, STMMs involved about 1.6 million volunteers and were estimated at US$ 2-3 billion annually. The majority of the STMMs came from the USA (46%), followed by Europe (36%), then Asia (13%), among other origins.

Data for the study was collected from 10 districts which included: Gulu, Nebbi, Arua, Lira, Mbale, Kasese, Mbarara, Bududa, Kampala and Mukono

UCU Directorate for Research, Partnerships and Innovation: The Vision

By Jimmy Siyasa

At the end of 2021, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Council sat and carefully contemplated a way to fortify the UCU aspects of Research, Partnerships, Innovation, Postgraduate studies. Among the results of the meeting was the evolution of what was once the School of Research and Postgraduate Studies, headed by the Assoc. Prof Elizabeth Kukunda Bacwayo, as Dean.

The School has since evolved into two Directorates; one for Postgraduate Studies and the other for Research, Partnerships and Innovation. The former is headed by the Assoc. Prof Bacwayo and the latter by Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito, both serving as Directors.

This evolution centralizes the two entities to their forte, in accordance with the University’s Strategic Plan 2019/2023. The Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovations (DPRI) will now henceforth- as its nomenclature suggests- focus strictly on grants, partnerships and innovation aspects of the University.

Assoc. Prof. Elizabeth Balyejusa Kizito is the Director of DPRI at UCU.

Recently it rolled out a strategic plan on research with a commitment to “promote rigorous, focused research that leads to improved understanding as well as innovations to solve specific challenges in Uganda and abroad,” according to the document, as presented by the Director, Assoc. Prof. Kizito.

She notes that research is integral for university ranking world over, and therefore ought to be a prime focus area for investment. “Higher institutions are increasingly subject to comparisons and rankings, and those deemed to be the best in these rankings of research universities will continue to be considered the best in the world,” she noted.

In her presentation, she further argues that for universities to maintain and improve their global competitiveness, “there is need among others to build a niche focus, internalization, apply innovative teaching and research systems and a well-formulated and strategic plan.”

Background

A committee was instituted by Senate in October 2020 to assess UCU’s research and innovation environment and productivity and to make recommendations to enable the creation of a more robust research infrastructure and environment.

Several aspects of the institution’s day-to-day operations were scrutinized by the committee, including “policies and plans, structure and management of research and innovation, funding for research and grants management, research outputs and dissemination, quality assurance and ethics, M&E and partnerships,” according to the DPRI director’s presentation.

Recommendations

Upon evaluation of the status, the committee made many recommendations which were captured in the Vice-Chancellor, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi’s report on Research, Partnership and Innovations. The recommendations included:

Defining of structures and responsibilities to faculty and department level

Consultations on developing an inclusive and mission-aligned University research agenda

Identify our niche, building of school/ faculty research teams

Mapping of specialties of academic staff to align with new RPI strategy

Building the capacity of research managers and teams

Mobilizing resources for appropriate infrastructure, and more.

Prof. MUshengyezi (Right) and Prof. Maxine Ankrah pose after signing the lease agreement.

Just this year alone, the institution has signed Memoranda of Understanding and sealed agreements with at least three institutions, notably Tokyo Christian University, Hanze University in the Netherlands, and Ankrah Foundation Limited.

Therefore, it is not uneasy to see the UCU vision- A Centre for excellence in the heart of Africa- manifest sooner than, otherwise expected.

Whole-Genome analysis of African influenza

By Jimmy Siyasa

In collaboration with five research institutions, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Centre for Computational Biology has concluded and published a most recent Research study entitled; “Whole-genome analysis to determine the rate and patterns of intra-subtype reassortment among influenza type-A viruses in Africa”.

The UCU Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Assoc. Prof John Mulindwa Kitayimbwa, is one of the six scholars who conducted the 2022 study published by Oxford University Press

This study, nested within the Uganda National Influenza Surveillance Programme addresses Genome reassortment -a mechanism in which “epidemiologically novel influenza viruses emerge and a core step in the safe reassortment-incompetent live attenuated influenza vaccine development,” according to the abstract.

Furthermore, the study aimed to “detect intra-subtype reassortment among Africa pandemic H1N1pdm09 (2009-2010), seasonal H1N1pdm09 (2011-2020), and seasonal H3N2 viruses, and characterize the genomic architecture, and temporal and spatial distribution patterns of the resulting reassortants.” Yourgenome defines a genome as an “organism’s complete set of genetic instructions. “ Each genome contains all of the information needed to build that organism and allow it to grow and develop.

Other top biologists involved in the study include; Grace Nabakooza, MSc, Andrzej Pastusiak, MSc, David Patrick Kateete, PhD, Julius Julian Lutwama, Simon David William Frost, DPhil. They represented the following institutions: 

  • Department of Immunology and Molecular Biology, Makerere University
  • Makerere University/ UVRI Centre of Excellence in Infection and Immunity Research and Training (MUII-Plus)
  • Centre for Computational Biology, Uganda Christian University
  • Microsoft Research, Department of Arbovirology Emerging
  • Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases, Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI)
  • London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

The UCU Centre for Computational Biology is an interdisciplinary centre that conducts cutting-edge research in genetics and biology.

UCU partners with Japan-based University

By Jimmy Siyasa

Uganda Christian University (UCU) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Japan-based Tokyo Christian University (TCU). This marks the beginning of an unprecedented collaboration between the two universities, which will from now onward conduct joint research and exchange programmes for both students and staff, as part of the terms of the agreement.

The bilateral agreement is part of UCU’s commitment to research and partnership with both national and international universities and other non-academic, but relevant organizations.

“ We want to partner with more universities in Europe and Asia such that our students get as much exposure as possible to other environments and cultures,” said the UCU Vice-Chancellor, Prof Aaron Mushengyezi, upon signing the agreement.

According to the document co-signed by Dr. Randall Short, Vice President of International Affairs at Tokyo Christian University, the MoU will also include, among others: participation in seminars, innovations, meetings, exchange of students, academic materials and special short-term academic programs.

Pamela Tumwebaze, Head of Department of the UCU Honors College says the collaboration between the two universities is easily most beneficial to students, since they are the major stakeholders of the two signatories. “Through the exchange programme, our students will get the opportunity to travel and study in Japan in the same way Japanese students will come and study from UCU,” Pamela said.

The MoU between UCU and TCU is one of many partnerships the University is establishing with notable national and international organizations.

A new Publication: “Effective Coaching Through Webinar Integrated Tools: A Research-Based Chapter for Promoting Active Learning in Online Environments,”

By Jimmy Siyasa

This is a publication by Dr. Stephen Kyakulumbye, a senior lecturer and scholar at the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Business. It makes the Chapter Ten (10) In Hunaiti Z (2021) Coaching Applications and Effectiveness in Higher Education, published by IGI Global, 2021.

ABSTRACT

Webinars are very powerful yet less used strategies for building the capacity of teachers to improve their pedagogical and andragogical practice, let alone to be used by teachers to offer education to their learners. The classroom learning environment has evolved to meet the needs of today and tomorrow by providing students with access to technology and online resources that support instruction especially during times when face-to-face interactions are impossible. This chapter offers research-based experience for the limitations and framework solution for effectively applying webinar through integrative tools as a framework for coaching educationists to promote active learning in blended environments. This chapter proposes an implementation framework based on a situation awareness model within empathetic participatory design principles. This model results in empowering and motivational outcomes for the instructors to extend the application of the use of the webinar tools among their fellow instructors.

Dr. Kyakulumbye holds a Master’s in Project Management and a Post-graduate diploma (both aligned to ICT) from the Uganda Management Institute. His bachelor’s degree, attained at Nkumba University in Uganda, was in computing education.

He is a registered Graduate Educator by Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports. A well-published scholar, Kyakulumbye chairs the UCU Research Ethics Committee, a body that plays the oversight of research involving humans as research participants in Uganda.