Makerere University Convocation is holding elections on 30th December but the ignorance, apathy, bureaucracy and even suspected forgery surrounding them could mar the exercise, WRITES Alfred Geresom Musamali
SPECIAL FEATURE | Makerere University Convocation is the statutory body that brings together its staff, alumni and other stakeholders. Elections for the Convocation’s 2023 to 2027 office bearers will be held on Friday, 30th December, 2022. The Independent Website walked around Uganda’s longest established institution of higher learning seeking views on what the Convocation is, what purpose it serves the university and what is the process of registering as a voter in the polls. The attempt uncovered some ignorance, apathy, bureaucracy and even suspected forgery that is threatening to mar the exercise.
To begin with, a respondent who looked like an undergraduate student appeared not knowing, not interested and not even affected by Makerere Convocation activities.
“I am in information technology. So, I do not know what those convocating chaps do,” said a male youngster we met in front of the Senate Building.
The next respondent was a guard at the Senate Building. He said, “The Convocation? I think they are part of COBAMS (College of Business and Management Studies)”. Asked what COBAMS is, he said it is a building opposite the swimming pool.
At COBAMS, however, a lady who her colleague addressed as Doctor (most likely PhD rather than MB CHB) said she certainly belonged to the Convocation but did not know where the offices are.
“Oba where did I see that office,” she said. She suggested we try Senate Building, where the guard had directed us to COBAMS in the first place. Had she paid her 2022 subscription, we inquired. Not yet, she answered. Why not? She confessed that the process was very cumbersome.
“Why would I go line up in the bank to pay only ten thousand shillings (UGX10,000) when I could easily pay by mobile money?”
It takes some half an hour or more to queue at the Makerere Stanbic branch to pay the subscription fee. The bank slip is then taken to the Convocation office located in an unlabeled, old fashioned building virtually stacked in the jungle on the hillock between the Arts Court and the University Guest House.
The road leading to the building is called “The Edge”, branching left if you are coming from the Main Gate towards to burnt down Main Building and Freedom Square. I would have sworn that despite having attended Makerere for the first time between 1982 and 1985 then been there again in 1986/87 for the post-graduate teacher training, again in 2000/2001 for the Master’s in Literature that I dropped out of and once more in 2003/04 for the post-graduate environmental journalism training – I saw that road for the first time this week, when we went to register for the Convocation.
Yet it had always been there, reportedly leading to the vice-chancellor’s official residence. So, many people will miss the polls just because they cannot locate the office. Others will come with their bank slips and be frustrated by the requirement to report back after twenty four hours to collect their receipt. The lady minding the registration desk said they suspected some chaps to be forging banking slips, thus necessitating bank reconciliation records a day later in order to issue the receipt.
As we were coming out of the university, we bumped into a lecturer fairly well known to me. We inquired from him whether he would be voting or contesting for a Convocation office.
He said, “I cannot even waste time being present on that polling day. I will, instead, be very deep in my village holding funeral rites for my people who died during the lockdown”. Then he turned to me and asked, “Are you contesting for one of the positions?” I said I was just interested in participating in the affairs of my alma matter. He dismissed me with all the contempt I deserved.
Convocation is established by law
The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act (2001, as amended in 2006) establishes a Convocation in every such educational institution covered by that law.
The laws says, “There shall be a University Council for every Public University consisting of the following members ⎯ (a) the Chairperson of the University Council; (b) the Vice-Chairperson of the University Council; (c) the Vice-Chancellor of the Public University; (d) the Deputy Vice-Chancellors; (e) a representative of a sector relevant to the University depending on its objectives and mission, appointed by the relevant body in that sector; (f) one member of the District Council elected by the District Council in whose jurisdiction the Public University is situated; and (g) a member of the Convocation elected by the Convocation. Others named are (h) two members of the University Senate elected by the Senate; and (i) two members of the Academic Staff elected by the Academic Staff Association of the Public University; (j) a senior member of Administrative Staff elected by the Senior Administrative Staff; (k) a member of the National Union of Education Institutions; and Support Staff elected by the branch in that University. Also named are (l) two students of the University, one of whom shall be a woman appointed by the Students Union; (m) three members appointed by the Minister from the public; (n) three members appointed by the University Council from the public; (o) a representative of the Ministry responsible for finance; (p) a representative of the Ministry responsible for higher education (q) two representatives of the constituent colleges, schools and institutes elected by the Chairpersons of the governing councils from among themselves; as well as (r ) two representatives of persons with disabilities, one elected by the members of staff who are persons with disabilities and another by National Organisations of persons with disabilities.”
The law says (1) There shall be a Convocation of the University which shall consist of the graduates of the University and members of staff and such other persons as the University Council may authorise. It says (2) The Convocation shall exercise such powers and perform such functions as may be conferred on it by the statutes and in particular may meet and discuss any matter within the sphere of competence of the University and transmit recommendations arising out of such discussions to the University Council. Provision (g) on the list of members of the Council ensures that the member elected by the Convocation represents views of the alumni in the University Council.
What the Convocation Constitution says
The Makerere University Convocation says its Mission is to mobilise members and well-wishers to support the welfare and progress of Makerere University and to participate in the enhancement and improvement of intellectual and material well being of the university community, including fostering close friendship and professional relations among members and between the Convocation and the university.
Among the objectives of the Convocation are to engage in fund-raising for the University and for the Convocation. The Convocation also aims to to foster and promote the spirit of institutional ownership and loyalty to Makerere University and encourage sustained dialogue with university community.
Dear supporters,fans & voters of @mak_alumn politics; without this receipt today 19th Dec 2022🤠
Yor as good as a best man or metron on a wedding night of a romantic couple!
Revolution & evolution need a sacrifice, deadline of payment is today, voting is on 30th December 2022🇺🇬 pic.twitter.com/TeyHx2Mb0a
— (JJ) Jackson Mucunguzi🇺🇬🙏💯🇺🇬 (@mucunguzi_jeff) December 19, 2022
Academic Registrar Prof. Mukadasi Buyinza is returning officer for the polls. In fulfillment of Article XII Section 12.1 of the Convocation’s constitution, Buyinza has issued guidelines for the elections, saiting that the election of office bearers will “be in the manner as determined by the Convocation Constitution”, adding that only fully paid-up members shall be eligible for election. Buyinza says, “Nomination to any office on the Convocation Executive shall only be conducted at the meeting at which elections are to be conducted, and every nomination shall be proposed and seconded by members present”.
He has called on all persons who are interested in standing for position of Chairperson and Vice Chairperson to express interest in writing to the Academic Registrar. Buyinza said the Venue for the election would be the Auditorium of the Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility (CTF), starting at 9:00 am. He required all paid-up members to STRICTLY come with proof of payment of annual subscription/ a receipt issued by the Convocation Secretariat and their ORIGINAL National Identification.
The requirement to be physically present at a specified time and on a specified venue would exclude thousands of potential voters who would already be upcountry for Christmas and the New Year festivities.
By end of Friday, 16th December, 2022 when we picked our receipt, less than 1,500 persons had subscribed.
The record book requires subscribers to indicate years when they were at the university. However, at least twenty persons who had subscribed on serial numbers 1000 and 1119 were university staff who may never have been students at the institution. Meanwhile, the graduates themselves whose prime interests the Convocation is intended to represent will be eating, drinking and dancing at Christmas and New Year parties “deep in the villages”.
The author is Founding Director of Vicnam International Communications Ltd, a private firm of communications, public relations and information management consultants. He specialises in the Proofreading and General Editing (PAGE) of documents and can be contacted by Tel: (+256)752-649519 and by Email: email@example.com.