By Oscar Rwigyema

At present, the University of choice for any Ugandan secondary school student is Makerere University. Whether it is still the best university in Uganda is conjecturable.

Over the last few years, other universities have invested in a number of programs to raise their stakes and lay a decent claim on this huge cake that was hitherto enjoyed by Makerere alone.

Today, Makerere’s Business School in Nakawa, Uganda Christian Universtity, Mbarara University and Kyambogo University form the second tier of preference by the young people.

The regional universities like Gulu, Soroti, Kabale have used proximity to their advantage and Private Universities like Kampala International University, Nkumba, Ndejje, Islamic University In Uganda now provide a wider array of choices for students.

Specialised universities like Busitema up the ante with programs like Bachelor of Anaesthesia that you won’t find anywhere else. This is the direction that Mbarara University of Science and Technology had initially taken before being won over by the unquenchable thirst for money and the allure of “Arts” programs.

Against that background, one is compelled to ask; what has Busoga University got to offer that is unique and will attract the attention of a student in Fort Portal and Lira? What will make the student in Bukoyo prefer to study at Busoga University and walk to school rather than pay through the nose to secure accommodation in Kampala because they want Makerere.

First, as government phases out the lower qualifications or grades of teachers, Busoga University could seek to take over Bishop Willis PTC, Kaliro NTC and any other government owned similar college. They would then start offering Degree programs for Primary and Secondary school teachers.

The transition would be seamless, considering that these institutions have virtually all the necessary resources (including human resources) and the expertise in the education of teachers. That would become an area of specialty for the university just like Kyambogo University.

It was formed as a result of a merger between ITEK, UPK and the Special Needs School.

Today, Kyambogo competes very favourably in these programs because the foundation upon which the degree programs were built was already strong in the areas they were handling and comprehended well.

Secondly, the University should partner with the manufacturing sector to train their staff through short programs that are partly funded by the employers.

Kiira Motors is creating a factory on Kamuli – Jinja Road. Is their any University In Uganda preparing Ugandans for the jobs that this factory will create? When the Rwandan government was working out the modalities of creating Rwanda Air, they sent a number of their young people to Soroti Flying School, Nairobi and South Africa to learn how to fly planes and also accumulate the requisite flying hours needed to operate a commercial airline.

By the time the Airline was set up, the human resources were ready. Why wouldn’t Busoga University do the same for Kiira Motors? Why wouldn’t the university take over the Tourism and Hospitality school in Jinja. I think it’s the only one in the country. I stand to be corrected if it isn’t.

Did you know that there’s no school in Uganda to teach people how to manage security outside the established government forces? The UPDF, the Police Force and Prisons Service have training schools but they can’t satisfy the security needs of the private sector.

That’s the precise explaination for the mushrooming of private security companies. These “askaris” as we call them are trained for a few weeks and given guns to go and work.

This could partly be the reason why they are underpaid. Their jobs would however be much more valuable if they had better skills; customer care, use of technology, intelligence gathering/ management, personal security management, security of installations, security in a public place, security in a war zone among others.

A security expert can develop a curriculum out of this. The programs don’t have to be degree programs. They can be short courses for the junior officers or more sophisticated programs for managers.

Many corporate organisations are keen to have education institutions that partner with them to offer bespoke and highly specialised programs. These are usually co-sponsored by the employer and the employee. Busoga University can position itself to take advantage of this under-served area.

Thirdly, Ugandans don’t compete very favourably when it comes to being multi-lingual. A typical Ugandan speaks 2 languages; English and their mother tongue. Those that did not go to school only speak their own language and sometimes understand the related dialects or the language of their neighbouring tribe.

With the advent of serious business with the Chinese, Busoga University can be the go-to place for Mandarin and any other language like Swahili or French. You only need to set up a language center, get the right resources in place and the people and the money will look for you.

By the way, Busoga University doesn’t have to be in Busoga. A study centre can be opened anywhere, say Mbale, Kisoro or Kampala.

The other thing is tuition for many professional courses like CFA, ACCA, CPA is provided by colleges and institutes in Kampala. Professional education for Banking, Insurance and Tax is also not provided by any University In Uganda.

Busoga Universtity is a government institution and can (not very easily though) seek to be the official tuition provider for this professional education. Many students pursuing these professional qualifications in Mbale, where I live, travel to Kampala or teach themselves.

Busoga University can plug this hole by providing the service upcountry. The need is there.

The promoters of the Busoga University must desist from the temptation to tread where others already have because they will struggle to beat the experts in those areas. Busoga University needs light years to beat MUBS at Business Education even if you made Prof. Balunywa its new Chancellor.

You would certainly need divine interference to beat Makerere University College of Medicine at what they do. It’s not insurmountable. It’s just hard and would need a lot of time and resources (human and otherwise) which may not be readily available.

The key success factor in today’s higher education sector, given the cut-throat competition, is that unique selling point. The days of being a jerk of all trades are gone. Makerere wound up some programs recently as a result of the same challenges; lack of competitiveness and monotony.

The University must set the agenda right and straight from the onset, by attracting the right talent. I don’t have to get the job because I was at neighbouring Bishop Willis between 1989 amd 1995.

I should compete for the job with Gidudu, Opio, Kasadha and Asiimwe and win it on merit. The risk with “inbreeding” is that we recycle failures who come with a sense of entitlement. Mbu kino kyaiffe. When you don’t cast the net wide, you’ll end up with retired people who were laid off or fired elsewhere and have zero ambition, motivation or positive drive.

They are simply resting here as they wait for God’s call. When you don’t open up the space and attract talent from across the globe, you’ll hire people with no exposure, no new ideas, myopic and provincial. Let everyone apply, whether a local Musoga, Muzungu, Indian, Rwandan, Congolese and then be subjected to the same sieve. Let the best candidate take the job.

That way, you’ll create a winning team that appreciates the job they have before them and will fight to retain it.

The idea is good because there’s still space to play in. It’s success will largely depend on execution and implementation.

The writer is a Ugandan economist and educationist.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *