By Ivan Rugambwa
On Saturday August 3rd, all roads led to Makerere University for grand finale celebrations to mark 90years of Makerere University’s existence. The yearlong celebrations were launched by H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who was Chief Guest on August4th 2012 and came to a climax on Saturday as hundreds of Prominent Alumni, Politicians, academicians and other renown Scholars flocked the Makerere University freedom square to pay homage to their alma meter.
Started as a technical college in 1922, the University later became known as a University College affiliated to the University of London before it was renamed the University of East Africa on June 28th 1963 after the Independence of the three East African countries.
The University of East Africa would however last for only 8years before it was disbanded in 1971, thus giving birth to the three Universities of Nairobi in Kenya, Dar-es-salaam in Tanzania, and Makerere in Uganda.
The year long celebrations held under the theme; “Celebrating 90 years of Makerere University: Leadership towards Africa’s Transformation”, commenced with the hoisting of the Mark@90 flag on august 4th by President Museveni, who also laid foundation stones for among others the University library extension and lecture room blocks in the Colleges of Humanities and Social Sciences and the College of Business and Management Sciences.
They also included a public lecture in honor of Uganda’s Independence hero-Ignatius Kangave Musaaazi, Celebrations to mark 50 years of the University of East Africa and another public lecture by former Ghanaian President John Kofour on the Utilization of the Oil and Gas resource for economic Development.
The function on Saturday was attended by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi representing President Museveni as Chief Guest, former Kenyan president Mwai Kibaki, who is also an alumnus of the University, Education Minister Jessica Alupo, other government ministers and a host of other diginatories.
On the same function, Makerere honoured a one; Mr. Grace Wilson Mutekanga, the composer of the Makerere Anthem, with a plaque and a dummy cheque of shs. 5million while the Great Lakes students Association honored H.E Mwai Kibaki with the Great Lakes students’ medal in recognition of his service to both his country and the region.
Recognizing Kibaki, the Patron of the newly founded Great lakes Students’ Association, Gen. Elly Tumwiine highlighted Kibaki’s career, right from his days as a student at Makerere University where he graduated with a first classs degree in Economics in 1955, before taking the Mau Mau oath that catapulted him into his country’s pre- Independence struggles in 1960.
He then talked about his political career that spans over 5 decades and lauded him for transforming Kenya’s economy as president, fighting Corruption, and contributing his country’s troops to pacify Somalia among others as some of his achievements. Kibaki became the first recipient of the Medal.
In his speech, Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ddumba Ssentamu thanked the government for its continued support to the University which had enabled it to improve its world rankings noting that the University now ranks fourth in the Continent.
He however appealed to the University alumni to always come to the aid of the University by supplementing government allocations, saying that most prosperous Universities have become so partly because of the role played by the alumni.
On her part, the Guild president, Adeke Ebaju, criticized what she termed as an unfair tuition policy that targets private students accusing the University administration of running the University on Private students’ fees, before liking the students’ plight to ‘Scholars in a market place.’
On her part, Education Minister Jessica Alupo noted that government was doing all it could to facilitate higher Education noting that the presidential iniative for Science and Technology scheme had greatly facilitated research at the University promising that things were only going to get better with the student loan scheme. She however castigated students who resort to strikes all too often saying that they were distorting the University’s image.
Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi then noted that with increase in student population, it had become almost impossible for government to continue fully funding all institutions of higher learning, saying that that had made it necessary to allow the Private sector to invest in Education, with the result being that tens of thousands of students can access higher Education today, compared to a few hundreds in their time.
He then proceeded to lay a foundation stone for the Construction of a 30million dollar Students’ centre that would provide world class and fully fledged auditorium and one stop Information centre.