Swedish ambassador to Uganda, Per Lindgarde has warned government against abdicating its responsibility of funding university researches to international donors.
“Funding of universities cannot only be left to international donors. This is not sustainable. The issue of funding universities is a matter of development of and for a country, and needs to be steered nationally,” he said.
Lindgarde was speaking on Monday at the Makerere University-Sweden bilateral research cooperation annual review meeting for research support to Uganda.
The event that was held at the university main hall was under the theme ‘blending academic and applied research perspectives: practicing science and the science of practice’.
“Sweden, being the major funder to research capacity in Uganda, has consistently raised sustainability issue, which is especially important as SIDA is beginning its discussions with Makerere on ways of phasing out of the current support,” Lindgarde said. SIDA is the Swedish International Development Agency.
He noted that as the five year funding program is about to end, there is need for universities and government to explore opportunities that will enable the higher institutions move away from the SIDA funding.
“We expect that the government of Uganda and the universities shall allocate more local funding to postgraduate training and research and that new ways of partnership shall be promoted,” he said.
In response, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, said that government is already taking the necessary steps to ensure that when the funding program comes to an end, it will ably be able to take over the funding responsibility.
I agree with the ambassador, it’s not sustainable. We as a nation we must develop our own research capacity and indeed the government is already working towards this,” he said.
He said that Government is already injecting over sh10bn in Makerere University for research through the presidential initiative on science and technology and that it has also allocated funds for research in the budget to be managed by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The five year research funding program is ending in June 2020. By the end of the project, it’s expected that 125 PhD students, 165 Masters Students and 65 post-doctoral fellows will be trained. The funding will be shared by the five public universities.
The total funding for the five years is US$32m (about sh122.3b). According to Nawangwe, 250 staff from the five universities of Mbarara, Gulu, Busitema, Makerere and Kyambogo, have already started training.
However, the cooperation between the universities and Swedish government started in 2000 and since then SIDA has injected over US$100m which has seen over 250 university staff have receive PhD training, over 100 masters and 20 post-doc fellowship training.
“This support has been monumental and critical to the realization of our core functions of teaching and learning, research and innovations, and partnerships and networking,” Nawangwe said.
He noted that Swedish funding for research has been the largest in the history of Uganda’s higher institutions of learning, saying a fifth of the PhDs in the five universities were funded by Sweden.
He said that each of the 250 PhD students have published about five papers. Makerere University alone has been able to produce over 900 publications every year, making it second to the University of Cape Town in South Africa.
“Makerere is now constantly among the top universities in Africa because of the bigger amount of research being undertaken, the amount of publications that we have been able to do and also the new programs that we have been able to develop,” he said.
He noted that some of the researches funded by SIDA have led to policy formulations in sectors such as environment, health, engineering and agriculture.
Nawangwe noted that Sweden has also been able to contribute to human resource capacity building, library services, infrastructure development and enhancement of centres of waste management.
During the review meeting, some of the recently done researches were presented. Among them included a research done by Dr. Angeline Kakooza, a senior lecturer at the school of medicine, on malnutrition and associated factors among children with cerebral palsy in Uganda.
Her study which was done at Mulago hospital, noted that between the ages of 2-4 years, many children are registered at the hospital with severe cerebral palsy but the numbers keep reducing as the children grow.
“The numbers are fewer because these children could be dying and we do not get to know about it,” she explained.