Former UCU students establish alumni community in eastern Uganda

By Kefa Senoga
In a bold move that underlines a desire to further the comradeship created during student days at Uganda Christian University (UCU), the institution’s alumni have launched a project where they can buy land and settle in the same area. 

The project, dubbed Alumni Villages, was introduced by a committee from the UCU Alumni Association’s Eastern Chapter to foster living in one community among former students of the institution.

The UCU alumni, led by Paulo Katto, the eastern representative on the Alumni Association Executive, started the mobilization and purchase of over three hectares (7.4 acres) of land located in Bukomolo village, Budaka district, eastern Uganda. 

According to Eriah Lule, the official in charge of publicity of the project, for one to own a piece of land in the alumni village, they pay sh1.5million (about $406) for a 50 feet by 100 feet plot of land.  

Lule, who also has purchased land in the village, noted that it is a viable investment at a low cost. “Land is costly today. As a young person trying to build myself, this was a good opportunity for me to also acquire a piece of land,” Lule says.

He added that so far 76 alumni have been able to acquire plots in the area, though their target is 100 people. There are plans to establish UCU alumni villages in other parts of Uganda.

UCU’s Vision for Bukomolo Village and Beyond

Katto, the team leader of the project, said factors like accessibility and proximity were

The chairperson of Bukomolo village, Musa Kawiso, welcoming the alumni to the area
The chairperson of Bukomolo village, Musa Kawiso, welcoming UCU alumni to the area

considered before they purchased the land. People who set up structures in the village will be able to access the national grids of electricity and water, according to Katto. 

In purchasing the land, Katto said they followed due process by involving lawyers, surveyors and local leaders. 

Tatiana Wandar, an alumna dealing in real estate, said that the alumni have a bigger vision of developing Bukomolo village into an estate, providing all the social services that the residents would need. 

The chairperson of Bukomolo village, Musa Kawiso, expressed joy at the initiative, saying: “I believe the team of UCU alumni will develop the village.”

The family that provided the land for purchase by the UCU Alumni
The family that provided the land for purchase by the UCU Alumni

Dorothy Amony, the UCU Mbale College secretary, said the alumni had left a mark in the development of the community and marketing of UCU as an institution.

“As the administration, we shall support you in all your ventures as the alumni association,” Amony noted.

The development comes after members of the Engineering Development Fund (EDF), an association of older students of UCU’s Faculty of Engineering, Technology and Design, in 2021 bought land in central Uganda. The land, purchased at sh42m (about $12,000) with each member contributing sh2m, was subdivided into 30 plots, with each of the 27 members taking a plot.


Ugandan athletes in World University games in China

By Kefa Senoga
When 33 student athletes from 10 Ugandan universities met in July to flag off participants to a global sports competition, one of the items on the agenda was to select the team captain. The athletes were heading to China’s Chengdu city to compete with students from more than 150 countries in the World University Games. 

Santos Okabo, a Uganda Christian University (UCU) student in the School of Business, was chosen as team captain. Okabo, who had never been to a world competition, competed and guided others at the July 27-August 8 event in China.

Okabo (left) with UCU head of sports, Sam Rukaiire (middle), and another athlete
Okabo (left) with UCU head of sports, Sam Rukaiire (middle), and another athlete

Okabo says his duties as captain included representing the team and country in meetings and other leadership engagements during the games. He also was expected to report to the organizers any challenges that Ugandan team members faced during the competition.

As expected, the second-year diploma student of business administration says one of the benefits he got as team captain was the opportunity to interact and share experiences with other team leaders, including sharing contacts with some of the leading athletes from other countries.

At the games, Okabo participated in three races – sprint race of 100 meters and two relay races of 4×100 meters. In the sprint race, where he emerged 6th out of 8, Okabo says he had hoped to perform better, but that two days before the race, he got sick, largely because he was not accustomed to the food being served in China. 

He is, however, grateful that they were able to reach the finals in the 4×400 meter relay race, which he participated in with Chan-wengo Godfrey from Makerere University’s Business School, Akemkwene Peter from Ndejje University and Eyit Justine of Makerere University. In that race, the team broke the university national record for Uganda. 

Other UCU students at the competition

Okabo was not the only UCU student at the competition. Olipa Sharif competed in two races of 200 meters and the 4×100 meter relays. However, he and his relay teammates did not make it to the next round. 

Okabo (back, left) during the relay race
Okabo (back, left) during the relay race

The third UCU student at the competition was Nyamahunge Jacent, who got eliminated in the semifinals. In the preliminaries, Nyamahunge had emerged third in the 100 meter race for women. The athletes said UCU supported them by financing their requirements while in the camp, including paying for their air tickets.  

According to Timothy Kabuye, the coach of the student athletes and one of 20 officials who went to China with the Ugandan athletes, the team could have performed better. 

“Nyamahunge Jacent made it to the semifinals in her category even with a foot injury, Okabo ran a personal best while Olipa ran the second fastest best time in the 200 meters that he participated in,” Kabuye explained.

Next on the calendar of the UCU athletes is the Uganda inter-university competitions set for December.

Olipa Sharif and Santos Okabo after the race
Olipa Sharif and Santos Okabo after the race

At the Special Olympics World Games held in Abu Dhabi in 2019, Nyamahunge won Uganda its first gold medal in the 200 meters race, beating her closest challenger, Mayak Kimura of Japan, by more than four seconds in a lopsided race. 

She is also a double gold medalist in the 200 meters and 100 meters at the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. 

The other Ugandan institutions that had students at the event in China were Makerere University, YMCA, Bishop Stuart University, Gulu University, Ndejje University, Kyambogo University, ISBAT University, Makerere University Business School and Victoria University.

Okabo says he has been an athlete throughout school. While at Amuda Primary School in northern Uganda Okabo says he emerged the best runner in the Dokolo district, earning scholastic materials and a mattress as a gift. 

“After my primary education, I joined Dr Obote College Boroboro in Lira district on bursary. Upon joining UCU, I was also given a bursary,” Okabo explained.

He says his parents — Otile Oscar and Apollo Milly — were good runners during their youthful years, and so are four of his seven siblings.


UCU School of Business Celebrates International Entrepreneurship Success

By Irene Best Nyapendi

On September 1st, we celebrated the achievements of the students who participated in the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Business International Entrepreneurship program.

This unique initiative is a result of UCU’s collaboration with Hanze University in the Netherlands. It was created to nurture a positive business mindset in the students and provide them with the necessary skills and outlook to excel in entrepreneurial endeavors.

The two-week program started on August 21st, under the theme “Innovation for Enterprise Sustainability” with 17 students from various programs. They were divided into five groups, namely: Avo Grow, Ticket Buddy, Tidy Up, Cultural Quest, and Bright Ear.

Each group received certificates and medals for their participation, but the Bright Ear team stood out as the best group after pitching a fundable business proposal. Kristina Nabatanzi, Divine Wabasa, Arthur Ronald Apire comprise the Bright Ear team. Their exceptional ideas demonstrated outstanding innovation, viability, value proposition, market research, and presentation skills, and they were awarded golden medals. They are also gearing up to put their ideas into action this September, marking the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey.

UCU’s Arthur Ronald Apire’s Entrepreneurial Journey

Arthur Ronald Apire, a third-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Human Resource Management and a member of the Bright Ear group notes that their journey was tough yet fulfilling. At the start, their idea faced criticism, which could have discouraged them. However, they chose to learn from their mistakes and the advice of their critics.

“This is the first time in my life I have won a medal. At first, we used to fail; we made a lot of mistakes, but it’s the advice from these critics that we chose to use, and it surely helped us get here.” Apire said.

He says that throughout the program, he gained the ability to adapt and collaborate effectively with individuals who shared a common objective, he acquired the skills of cost reduction and revenue generation. Additionally, Apire learned the importance of flexibility and collaboration, and he also gained insights into managing expenses and increasing revenue.

As a team, they presented an idea for a multimedia library that included audio books, and they developed an audiobook narrating the tale of Nambi and Kintu.

“People often encounter challenges when it comes to reading, so our initiative aims to address this issue by incorporating audio and visual materials, making it easier for students to enhance their academic performance,” Apire explained.

Linda Maat, the Director of Hanze University, who joined the event virtually from the Netherlands, expressed her enthusiasm and urged the students to keep working on their ideas.

“Congratulations to all the students who pitched their business ideas, and especially to the winners; you need to continue working on these ideas,” she said.

She also mentioned that she would come to UCU soon and is curious to see these students at the next level.

“It would be wonderful to see all the students already maybe in the next level. I am really curious where these students will be in four to six weeks from now,” Maat said.

Eva Joselyn Aluka, a third-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Tourism, described the Program as the most productive two weeks of her life. She found it both challenging and enjoyable. “It was both hectic and enjoyable. During the program, we played assimilation games that taught me to think so fast,” Aluka said.

Each group had a mentor, and Aluka expressed gratitude for the valuable knowledge and skills her mentor imparted. Through the presentations, she learned how to effectively pitch a business idea and win support.

Before this program, her knowledge of pitching ideas was limited, but now she feels confident in her presentation skills and understanding of how to prepare for pitching.

Christa Oluka, the Director of Academic Affairs at UCU, appreciated the judges for validating the students’ efforts. She emphasized that entrepreneurship is something that can go from small to big as you refine it.

“Thank you for investing in yourselves as young people. I was happy that you thought about meaningful problems and how you can think together to bring those things out,” Oluka said.

She also encouraged them to put themselves out there and take advantage of this and other opportunities.

The winners pose for a photo with their facilitators. (From the left to right) Martin Kabanda, Kristina Nabatanzi, Divine Wabasa, Arthur Ronald Apire and Aston Aryamanya

This initiative has not only equipped students with essential skills but has also instilled in them the mindset needed for entrepreneurial success.

As these students embark on their entrepreneurial journeys, we look forward to seeing their innovative ideas become impactful realities in the coming months. It’s important to note that the next program is scheduled for July of next year.


Ayikoru narrates arduous five years in dental school

By Pauline Luba
“Watching your peers graduate in their third year while you still have two more to go is hard,” Hilda Diana Ayikoru said. This is what Ayikoru had to contend with at Uganda Christian University (UCU) for two years as she completed her five-year course while those who were pursuing three-year courses walked out of the university with degrees.

But that was not the only challenge she faced while a student at UCU. The 24-year-old said she barely had any holiday time since medical students were constantly studying. As a result, she said she had to forgo many plans with her family and friends. 

“That’s what makes me more excited that this day has come,” the 24-year-old said during an interview with Uganda Partners a few hours to her graduation at UCU on July 28 as she repeatedly said “finally” she was done with the course. She is not just a graduate with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery, but also is part of the nine members of the pioneer class of the course at UCU. They were among the 1,006 students who graduated on July 28. On the day, the university also graduated 45 pioneer students in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery.

“It was a long and tough journey,” said Ayikoru, adding: “I have learned a lot, and I am a different person now from when I first joined university.”

“I always wanted to be a doctor because doctors bring so much change into the world,” said Ayikoru, who was once a class leader at the university. Her love for the career started in her childhood as she often visited the hospital where her parents worked.

Why UCU school of Dentistry fills her with Pride

When UCU announced it would be starting a course in dental surgery in 2018, Ayikoru says she was one of the people excited about the development because of the university’s good academic and Christian reputation.

“The kind of course units we study, such as Christian Ethics and World Views, helped paint a picture of how best my dental sensitization dream will work,” she said in an earlier interview in 2021, noting that some of her friends in other institutions envied her especially when it came to the student-lecturer relationship for my course. “UCU lecturers know their students individually.”

While in school, Ayikoru also started a crocheting business in order to get money for her upkeep. She would crochet balls, wool or yarn into clothes for sale. When she discovered that the business was a promising one, she convinced two other students – one in the UCU School of Medicine and the other at the UCU School of Business – to join her. Most of her crocheting work was done late in the night, when she completed reading. She hopes to continue with the business of crocheting even as she joins the world of dental work.

For now, Ayikoru will undergo a mandatory one-year internship in a Uganda government health facility before she is able to practice her profession in a country with slightly over 300 dentists for a population of over 45 million people. After gaining more work experience, Ayikoru plans to enroll for a master’s course in the same field, before plunging into private practice. 

The last born of four children attended Kirinya Parents School, St. Joseph’s Girls School Nsambya for O’level and Gayaza High School for A’level before joining UCU.


UCU researchers develop three new nakati varieties

By Jimmy Siyasa
Renowned for its research excellence, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, previously led by Prof. Elizabeth Kizito, proudly presents three extraordinary varieties of Solanum aethiopicum shum, commonly known as nakati – the beloved African eggplant.

Introduced as the UCU-Nakati 1, UCU-Nakati 2, and UCU-Nakati 3, these innovative nakati varieties mark a significant milestone in Uganda and Africa. The varieties offer farmers a reliable and easily accessible source of African nakati seed. Previously, nakati farmers relied on saved seeds from previous seasons or obtained them from neighbors, friends, and relatives, leading to limited availability and inconsistent quality. One will no longer need to rely on uncertain or unreliable sources as UCU’s nakati varieties ensure consistent quality and ample supply for farming needs.

Liz Kizito,  Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovation
Liz Kizito, Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovation

The development of these nakati varieties involved making crosses over multiple generations, meticulous selection, and ensuring distinctiveness, and uniformity for improved yield and desirable plant characteristics. Each variety has been carefully tailored to meet the expectations of farmers and consumers, incorporating valuable feedback from end-users and thorough market surveys. 

These varieties have received certification by the National Variety Release Committee: A Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries, ensuring the highest standards of excellence.

Characteristics of the Nakati varieties
Each of the varieties has unique characteristics.

UCU-Nakati 1:

UCU-Nakati 1 is green-stemmed, has green leaves and leaf veins, and the leaf margins (the boundary area of the leaf that is extending along the edge of the leaf) are generally whole. Nakati-1 is not drought tolerant. In sensory evaluations with consumers and market vendors, it was found to be relatively bitter. Its average yield per acre is 982.4 kg/acre.

UCU-Nakati 2:

UCU-Nakati 2 has green, purple stems, green leaves, and green leaf veins. The leaf margins are moderately serrated. Nakati-2 has green-purple stems and green leaf blades. The mean fresh leaf yield at harvest is 936.9 kg/acre. Nakati-2 was identified as a drought-tolerant genotype. In sensory evaluations with consumers and market vendors, products had a generally appealing aroma, appearance, and flavour.

UCU-Nakati 3

UCU-Nakati 3, on the other hand, is purple-stemmed, has green leaves with green-purple leaf veins, and has a deeper serrated leaf margin. The leaf yield at harvest maturity, about 8 weeks after planting, is 976.3 kg/acre. Nakati-3 is moderately drought tolerant and has a generally appealing aroma, appearance and flavour in sensory evaluations with consumers and market vendors. 

Implications and Applications
The potential impact on the field or society
The implications of these groundbreaking developments are far-reaching. Previously, there were limited systematic efforts to improve African Indigenous Vegetables (AIVs) in Uganda. The new nakati varieties are the first of their kind. UCU has developed nutritionally rich improved varieties of nakati. This intervention will not only offer farmers quality-assured varieties of AIVs but also set standards for subsequent variety evaluation for distinctiveness, uniformity, and stability (DUS) as well as value for cultivation and use. Releasing these varieties brings to the fore, especially for Africans, the availability of quality seed to meet nutritional and income security needs because these can now be potentially accessed in agro-shops or stores, something that was impossible until recently.

Practical applications and real-world scenarios
With over 200 tons of nakati traded weekly in major markets, this crop plays a crucial role in Uganda’s urban and peri-urban areas, surpassing even the country’s main cash crop –  coffee. The popularity of nakati extends beyond Uganda, reaching Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Its nutritional and economic value makes it an indispensable part of traditional dishes and a means of livelihood for poor and unemployed women and youth.

AIVs such as the UCU Nakati varieties, hold immense practical applications and can address real-world challenges in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs). These vegetables have the potential to alleviate hidden hunger (SDG 2 – End hunger) and poverty (SDG 1 – Zero poverty), particularly among vulnerable groups like women and children under five. In Uganda, a country with high levels of undernutrition, where 3 in 10 children under five are stunted and about 3.5% body wasting, the nutritional value of nakati is significant. It is rich in fiber, minerals, carotene, proteins, fats, ash, crude fiber, carbohydrates, calcium, magnesium, iron, and phytochemicals with therapeutic properties, making it essential in preventing nutrient deficiency diseases and non-communicable diseases. By improving crop varieties and enhancing productivity and incomes for farmers, poverty reduction and improved food security can be achieved, as farmers who cultivate improved varieties often earn more and enjoy better livelihoods. 

Expert Reviews
Dr. Ssebuliba James, agronomist and former head of the Department of Crop Production at Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences:

  • “This is a great addition to knowledge. Research plays a crucial role in the addition of new knowledge, which ultimately advances our understanding of the world and contributes to various areas of daily life. When new knowledge is curated and put in the right hands, it has the power to bring about high-value change in society.” 

Dr. Godfrey Asea, Director of Research, National Crops Resources Research Institute, Namulonge: 

  • “This is a good opportunity as a starting point to harness the indigenous vegetable resources.”

Dr. Flavia Kabeere, Seed Technologist and Consultant:

  • “These varieties will guarantee quality for consumers.”

Collaborations and Funding
The UCU community, leadership, and researchers (Prof. Elizabeth Kizito, Dr. Sseremba Godfrey, Mildred Nakanwagi, and Pamel Kabod) expressed appreciation to the European Union, PAEPARD (Platform for African-European Partnership in Agricultural Research for  Development) and The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) for their valuable support. Funding from the EU through PAEPARD initiated this research, while TWAS contributed to basic research and the selection of drought-tolerant varieties.

Call to Action
Others are invited to delve deeper into this groundbreaking research and its potential applications. Seed companies or other stakeholders interested in the multiplication of seeds are invited to place their orders. For more information, visit the Directorate of Research, Partnerships and Innovation website (https://grants.ucu.ac.ug) or directly contact grants@ucu.ac.ug


  • UCU researchers develop three Nakati varieties UCU-Nakati 1; UCU-Nakati 2; UCU-Nakati 3; with immense promise for enhancing food security, reducing poverty, and promoting better health in Uganda and Africa.
  • Nakati is considered an African Indigenous Vegetable.
  • Nakati is one of the most important local vegetable species in terms of providing income and food in urban and peri-urban areas of Uganda.

New UCU graduate Wanyana narrates her medical school journey

By Pauline Luba
UCU graduate Christine Wanyana envisioned herself as a lawyer in her early life. However, all this was before she interacted with her Senior Four teacher of Biology, who saw her gifts with science. The year was 2016.

According to Wanyana, her teacher reasoned that it would be easier for her to study medicine because she was excelling in Biology. She followed her teacher’s advice and, on July 28, 2023, Wanyana was among the 45 pioneer students of the Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery course who graduated from Uganda Christian University (UCU).

“The major challenge with being a pioneer student in a course is there is so much uncertainty and, sometimes, that can be frustrating,” Wanyana said. She and her colleagues were admitted for the course in 2018.

She explained that at 16 years when she made the choice to study medicine, she had assessed the impact she wanted to make in the world. 

“I believed that with it (pursuing a career in medicine), I could touch so many lives and be the change I wanted to see in the community and in the health system,” said the 24-year-old, who studied at Kampala Parents School for primary, Mt. St. Mary’s College Namagunga for O’level and Uganda Martyrs Secondary School Namugongo for A’level. All the three schools are located in central Uganda.

For those who know Wanyana’s family well, the choice of medicine as a career was not a surprise. Wanyana’s father, Henry Kajumbula, is a medical doctor. Her mother, Abalo Caroline, is a pharmacist. Her grandfather, too, was a medical doctor and so are many of her uncles.

Wanyana Reflects on her journey at UCU

As a student at the UCU School of Medicine, Wanyana says the disruptions caused by the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic were a setback to the momentum she had created soon after joining the school. Beyond the clinical aspects, the School of Medicine emphasizes mandatory community engagement programs, to enable the students to reach out to the sick. The approach is intended to cultivate character and instill empathy in future doctors. However, for some time, community outreaches were suspended at the UCU School of Medicine, in line with maintaining a social distance, a standard operating procedure in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Wanyana says because of the intense nature of studies at medical school, she found herself losing touch with many of her old friends. However, she is happy with the satisfaction that a career in medicine brings. During the time of the placements in hospitals, she says, work would at times get monotonous. However, the news of a successful delivery of a baby or reverting a patient’s medical condition for the better always brought smiles on the faces of the medical teams. She says there were sometimes patients got admitted when many thought they would not survive the sickness, but that such people often brought joy when they were being discharged.

Now that she has completed school, Wanyana is supposed to undergo a one-year mandatory internship in a government facility in Uganda under the supervision of a senior health practitioner. It’s upon the expiry of the internship that she will be eligible for employment as a doctor in Uganda. Wanyana eyes a future as a reproductive endocrinologist — a medical doctor with training to help women become and stay pregnant.  

Wanyana also runs a home bakery, where she sells cakes and doughnuts. She says she enjoys chores that make her put her hands into good use. As a student, much of the money she used for upkeep was from the sale of her cakes. At some point, she says the orders she got increased the workload, that she had to turn down some, in order for the bakery business not to stand in the way of her studies. 

Whatever she does, Wanyana says she draws inspiration from Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”


New dental school grad describes bitter-sweet, career journey

By Kefa Senoga
“Seeing people with admirable smiles makes me smile,” said Andinda Jordan, a fresh graduate from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) School of Dentistry. That means for Andinda to keep smiling, he has to ensure people retain and obtain straight, white teeth that are evenly spaced and proportionate to the rest of the face.

Some of the things that now await Andinda as a practitioner is teaching people about the importance of teeth and oral hygiene, and re-aligning people’s maligned teeth so that they can get the “admirable smiles.” 

Andinda examining a patient.
Andinda examining a patient.

Andinda was among the nine students who graduated with a Bachelor of Dental Surgery at UCU’s 24th graduation ceremony held at the main campus in Mukono on July 28, 2023. A total of 1,006 students graduated with degrees, diplomas and certificates at the ceremony.

Andinda describes his journey through the UCU School of Dentistry (SoD) as bitter-sweet.

 “The course has many units to cover in quite a short period of time,” he says, indicating the level of sacrifice that any student desirous of pursuing a course in dental surgery has to commit. Andinda and his eight colleague-fresh-graduates in dental surgery were the UCU pioneer class of Bachelor of Dental Surgery that enrolled in 2018.

UCU Students Triumph over Pandemic Challenges

Despite challenges of suspension of education in Uganda at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the students completed their course on schedule. The time during the Covid pandemic was primarily used to cover the theory and then post-covid, the practicality of the course commenced. Dentistry is a practical course which involves meeting people and touching them. 

The nine graduates are now expected to join a workforce in Uganda where there are about 300 dental surgeons in active practice, covering only 21% of the country. One dentist in Uganda serves about 142,000 people, a ratio dangerously unbalanced, considering the World Health Organization requirement of dentist to patient ratio of 1:8,000.

Andinda said because of the low number of students for the course at UCU, they were able to get undivided attention from their lecturers and faculty mentors for the five-year duration of the course.  It is for that reason, Andinda noted, that many students have been able to identify mentors among their lecturers. Also, at UCU, students have a well-equipped dental clinic, where they are able to practice under the supervision of a doctor.

Andinda (extreme left) and his colleagues from the UCU SoD during their student days
Andinda (extreme left) and his colleagues from the UCU SoD during their student days

“My current mentor, Dr. Catherine Kabenge, is from the UCU dental school; she has shared her career journey and taught me some of the important principles to live by as a dentist,” says Andinda, the first born of six children of Uganda’s High Court Judge Justice Jesse Byaruhanga and Mrs. Betty Byaruhanga.

The other faculty members are seasoned dentists who students would like to emulate. For instance, some of the members of the faculty, such as the Dean of the SoD, Dr. James Magara, practice in the profession. They are, therefore, the most appropriate human resource to impart knowledge since they offer it in the context of the real world of work. Dr. Magara was part of Makerere University’s pioneer class of dental surgery students that graduated in 1988. 

During an interview that Dr. Magara granted Uganda Partners in 2020, he said UCU is committed to ensuring that students have good exposure to modern dentistry.

“The UCU Faculty of Dentistry’s teaching hospital has a very long history of teaching medical practitioners in Uganda,” he said. “The university has a partnership with Mengo Hospital, which has a dental unit that has been running for over 40 years now; this unit has trained dentists with internships throughout Uganda,”

Dr. Magara added that the hospital location is “recognized as the premium place to go for hands-on dental studies,”  and the main reason any student wishing to pursue the course should look no further than UCU.  


UCU aspiring leaders get help from F.U.E.L.

By Irene Best Nyapendi
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) guild government has started a leadership program, seeking to train students in management skills. The program, dubbed “First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership (F.U.E.L.) Program,” has been implemented at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana), Fordham University (New York) and Ohio State University, among other higher education institutions. .

“This program has given me confidence in the future of UCU,” said Timothy Ddumba, Mukono Campus Guild President. He believes F.U.E.L. will birth top-notch leaders while closing the gap of mentorship from one guild government to another. 

“It is possible [for other guild governments to adopt the program] because the students trained might be part of the next leadership,” he said of the eight Saturday sessions with 25 student participants in June and July 2023. “The impact it creates could inspire the need to sustain it.”

UCU Guild president Timothy Ddumba addressing students during one of the F.U.E.L. sessions
UCU Guild president Timothy Ddumba addressing students during one of the F.U.E.L. sessions

The free mentorship and training program is meant for students who are interested in student leadership, especially those who are already leaders in the guild government. 

Melissa Kamikazi Nsaba, the guild vice president, and Christy Asiimwe, the minister for presidency, are program leaders.

Asiimwe, a student in the School of Education,  said the vision of the program is to be a foundation of transformational leaders who champion and spread the core values of UCU.

“One of the reasons why we started this program is to nurture transformational leaders who are ready to transform the university and the world in a Christian way,” she said.

Unlike F.U.E.L. implemented at secular universities, the UCU program looks at nurturing and equipping students with leadership skills grounded in Christian values.  It is hoped that the classes will ignite leadership potential and empowerment among the students.

“I believe this program is good for the students because it helps them improve their managerial skills and abilities as future leaders, achieve better project leadership and improve risk management,” Asiimwe said.

She explained that by equipping and training those who wish to lead, those who vote them into power or are under their command are less likely to suffer the consequences of unsatisfactory and inadequate leadership. 

UCU F.U.E.L Program Beneficiaries Share Their Testimonies

Emmanuel Golyo, one of the beneficiaries of the program and a student of a Bachelor of Science in Food Science and Technology, said he was taught what it takes to be a good leader. “I learned to understand and embrace the dynamics of the university and discovered how I can best serve to my fullest potential,” he said. He said the program helped him clarify his leadership and vision of self holistically.

During the course of the training, different speakers were invited to coach and mentor the trainees, speaking from real-life experiences.

Golyo said the program gave him a platform to understand the importance of team building and group motivation. “During each session we had a number of physical and interactive activities that nurtured in me the spirit of working with others on a project,” he said.

Mary Mangadalene Namwanje, a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration, explained that the sessions enlightened her on how to be a problem solver as a leader. She learned the characteristics of a good team and how to build it.

Namwanje is now knowledgeable about governing authorities, hierarchy and bureaucracy.

“Through the sessions I attended, I learned how to deal with different authorities, conflict resolution and decision making,” she said.

The students trained in effective communication, branding and documentation as well as public speaking. 

“While attending one of the sessions, we heard testimonies from former guild officials. One of the things they shared was how to balance life, responsibilities, relationships and work,” Namwanje said. 

The students also were taken through lessons on discovering themselves in leadership.

The F.U.E.L. Program is one of the pledges the guild president wrote in his manifesto on creating an environment to nurture future leaders. The seminars were sponsored by the guild budget.


Vice Chancellor’s wife mentors students toward meaningful lives

By Irene Best Nyapendi
Should I get into a serious relationship now? Is it the right time to get married? How do I know if I have the right partner? How do I know if I am in a bad relationship? What about sex? How do I achieve academic excellence with all these pressures? How do I grow my career?

Patience Rubabinda Mushengyezi, fondly known as “Mama Pesh” (short for Mother Patience), has been guiding Uganda Christian University (UCU) on these topics and more during monthly forums since May 2023. The monthly “Talk to Mama Pesh,” sessions are designed to be open, honest, and informal.  

Patience Mushengyezi addressing students during the first “Talk to Mama Pesh” forum. She was with fellow mentors Faith Musinguzi (left) and Jolly Kavuma.
Patience Mushengyezi addressing students during the first “Talk to Mama Pesh” forum. She was with fellow mentors Faith Musinguzi (left) and Jolly Kavuma.

Mama Pesh, wife of Vice Chancellor Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi for 26 years,  has been working with university students for over 20 years. She has nurtured over 12 non-biological children from childhood to graduation. She is a premarital counselor for young couples, mentor for young adults and leader at church. She is a mother of four. She is a Deputy Registrar at Makerere University,

“I developed a passion to talk to university students about values and morals to help open their eyes on things that can destroy their lives,” she said. “These are issues such as addictions, which lead to mental challenges and failure to complete their studies.” 

Mama Pesh said that she was further inspired by the Bible, in the book of Daniel 1:8, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself…”. Mama Pesh acknowledged that vices of drug or substance abuse, sexual immorality, wrong relationships and unwanted pregnancies are not limited to secular universities.

 “I love the UCU motto of ‘Centre of Excellence in the Heart of Africa’ because my desire is to have academic excellence with values,” she said. “I am passionate about all students, both male and female. When we talk to them, they grow into responsible citizens, wives, mothers, husbands, fathers and have strong Christian families in the future.”.

Students discuss among themselves before the question-and-answer session with mentors at a “Talk to Mama Pesh” session.
Students discuss among themselves before the question-and-answer session with mentors at a “Talk to Mama Pesh” session.

One of the goals of the forum is to provide young people a platform to be mentored into leaders of today and tomorrow. The forum is meant to be “a secure space where young people can discuss freely with mentors about issues that affect their academic, social and spiritual lives.”

Mama Pesh emphasized that the end goal is to see that students achieve academic excellence with values. She also provides a safe space for the students that would like to share with her privately away from the presence of their colleagues.

Mama Pesh does the mentorship in partnership with the office of the Vice-Chancellor, Directorate of Students’ Affairs, the Chaplaincy, Counseling Unit and the Guild. In addition, she invites experienced counselors and mentors for the forum. The value of peer mentors is learning from someone who has more recently been where they are. 

How the forum has become a beacon of inspiration to UCU students.

The forum has become a beacon of inspiration in the lives of UCU students.

Jackson Leoru, a second-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts with Education, found the forum beneficial because it helps students prepare to be adults. “Through the forum, I got guidance to make healthy choices that create a positive impact in my life in school and in relationships,” he said.

He said he will pass along to others such learning as relationships need patience and prayer. “I learnt that sometimes you may see someone and think he or she is the one meant for you, yet they are actually not the ones, so we need to pray about it and also be patient.”

Natasha Alinda poses for a photo with Mama Pesh after one of the sessions at UCU main campus in Mukono.
Natasha Alinda poses for a photo with Mama Pesh after one of the sessions at UCU main campus in Mukono.

Natasha Alinda, a third-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Finance, said the program is a good foundation upon which a student can build themselves “in order to be first and foremost a very good child to their parents, a very good student in school, and a good citizen in their nation.”

Through the forum, Alinda (a residential assistant at the female’s main university hall) has discovered the value of intentionality and self-worth. “I learned to value myself and carefully choose the people I associate with as well as the friends I make,” she said.

She adds that as a student, the talks have taught her to schedule and maneuver around student leadership, friendships and education.

“I am so grateful to Mama Pesh for sparing time amidst her busy schedule to talk to us and hold our hands through this journey of life at no cost because so many people are charged to get such guidance,” she said.


From poverty to Social Work PhD: ‘I will persevere’

By Patty Huston-Holm
Molly Nantongo has come a long way from the 10-year-old “dancing girl with the gap in her teeth.”  

A 2015 Uganda Christian University (UCU) alum with a Bachelor of Social Work  and Social Administration, she received a Masters in Social Work from the University of California in Berkeley in 2023. Her achievement there landed her a full scholarship for a PhD in social work at Arizona State University. On Aug. 17, she started studies on the Phoenix, Ariz., campus.

“I am aware it will be a challenging journey,” she typed into an email from Uganda prior to heading back to the United States. “However, I am prepared for the difficulties and believe that with God’s grace, I will persevere.”

For Molly, her journey into social work started with dance. 

In 2002, Molly was one of four children living with a single mother, a former Hutu in Rwanda, in the Kampala slum suburb of Kirombe.  Missing school and food on the table were an accepted way of life. One such day, she jumped gleefully onto a political campaign truck filled with music blaring from loudspeakers. From there, she danced, oblivious to anyone watching, before jumping off. 

Because of her dancing, she was noticed on the truck. Because of the gap in her front teeth, she was found by an NGO. 

The Success Narrative of UCU Alumna Molly

That organization, now known as Undugu Society of Kenya, helped Molly finish primary school. Another organization, Empower African Children, got her to the United States as a member of the Spirit of Uganda Various Artists – Spirit of Uganda: 2008 Tour Album Reviews, Songs & More | AllMusic.

Her moves were natural until age 15, when there was formalized instruction to be ready for travel, do shows internationally and raise money for vulnerable children like her. She was among the 22 children in a 2008 USA tour.

“The organization called me ‘Maureen’ and taught me how to jump and move my hands in different tribal dances,” she said. Her favorite dances are from northeastern Uganda, namely the Karamoja region, with a particular affection for war dances without drums.

Molly Nantongo with UCU mentor, Dr. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo
Molly Nantongo with UCU mentor, Dr. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo

Molly never took her support and opportunities for granted. She worked hard, always seeking how she could help others. She got a meager salary from dance performances with a troupe at Uganda’s Ndere Cultural Arts Center. She pieced together earnings from dancing and teaching undergraduate students in the university’s foundation courses. Dr. Kukunda Elizabeth Bacwayo, then dean of the UCU School of Research and Post-Graduate Studies, was a mentor.

Alas, like for many, Covid was a hardship. A degree meant little without a place to teach, and dancing meant little without an audience. Molly started a fruit business to support herself and her mom.  A year into being a street seller, a friend suggested she apply for a scholarship through the American Embassy. Without much optimism as one of 60 candidates for one slot, she participated and was chosen.

Once in California, she applied for a $10,000 “Davis Project for Peace” grant – one designed to help Ugandan youth (ages 14-20) who are victims of Covid shutdown impacts, including pregnant-out-of-wedlock girls.  The 15-week project, entitled Ntongo Skills4Peace, took place through mid-August 2022 with assistance to several thousand youth.

“If we don’t do something now, these girls will end up in prostitution,” Molly, turning age 31 in October 2023, said. “I used the grant here to focus on vocational skills like catering and tailoring, hair dressing and welding for these vulnerable.”

As Molly continues her education in the USA, she has her sights on working someday for USAID, UNICEF. United Nations or World Bank, with her forever passion to help those in poverty as she once was. 

“I want to start mentoring sessions for children who have been born and raised in the slums to give them hope and connect them to different resources,” she said, smiling to show the gap in her teeth. She doesn’t intend to plug that opening.  And she doesn’t plan to stop dancing.

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