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Kyambogo University mission a lost cause

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th August 2003 03:00 AM

On August 10, 1998, F.X.K Lubanga, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports, appointed a task force to effect the merger of the Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo (UPK) the Institute of Teacher Education (ITEK) and the National Institute for Special Education (UNISE) into Kyambogo U

On August 10, 1998, F.X.K Lubanga, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports, appointed a task force to effect the merger of the Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo (UPK) the Institute of Teacher Education (ITEK) and the National Institute for Special Education (UNISE) into Kyambogo U

By Adyeri Kanyaihe

On August 10, 1998, F.X.K Lubanga, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Education and Sports, appointed a task force to effect the merger of the Uganda Polytechnic Kyambogo (UPK) the Institute of Teacher Education (ITEK) and the National Institute for Special Education (UNISE) into Kyambogo University.

The task force, initially consisted of 14 members and was headed by Dr. F. Tusubira of Makerere University. Six more members were co-opted to expand input to the proposals of the merger.

According to the final report of May 12, 1999, the original mission of the merger was to establish a university that would specifically “advance the academic and professional skills in the area of technology, teacher education and to bring to prominence technical and vocational education.” Therefore, teacher education was to emphasise science in order to produce teachers who would facilitate vocationalisation of education from lower levels.

Prior to the merger, former UPK students admitted to Makerere University for courses in civil engineering complained that Makerere made them repeat in the first and second years what they had already covered.

In this context, therefore, the establishment of Kyambogo University was a great boost to the morale of upgrading students at Kyambogo, since the courses were designed to take into account their prior education at UPK. Unfortunately, however, this might be nipped in the bud.

The birth of Kyambogo University was a direct result of the government’s vision to create an integrated self-sustaining economy. This objective could only be realised through industrialisation which in turn required a large pool of technical and management manpower.

In a similar manner the Makerere University Business School (MUBS) was already addressing the shortage of management manpower.

Kyambogo University was therefore set up to address the shortage of properly trained technical manpower. It was also to ensure that entrepreneurial and vocational skills were imparted to all students at all levels of Uganda’s educational system. This would be done by equipping teachers with the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes. This mission has been ably discussed in Dr. Tusubira’s report to the Ministry of Education.

It is therefore disheartening that the focus of this mission has been overshadowed and Kyambogo University has taken on the characteristics of any other universities mushrooming in the country.

The alarming truth is that technical education is being given minimal emphasis. This is exemplified by the enrolment of Kyambogo University.

In the 2002/2003 academic year, Kyambogo admitted about 850 students on government sponsorship. Out of this, 255 were admitted in technical/engineering courses. This figure, ironically, represents only slightly over a quarter of the total enrolment in a University whose mission it is to promote science and technology!

Out of the 1,100 students admitted on government sponsorship this academic year, only 350 have been admitted on technical/engineering courses. This defeats the purpose for which Kyambogo University was established.

Another anomaly is that of the sh1.5bn contingency fund released to cater for government sponsored students, only sh0.5bn has been utilised to support engineering students on government sponsorship for the year 2002/2003.

It cannot be over emphasised that engineering programmes are more expensive than arts programmes in terms of faculty requirements, workshop practicals and industrial training.

How has this focus been lost? A member of staff who requested anonymity, blamed this on management line-up.

“A four-member task force management committee was appointed by the Ministry of Education and sports with two key officers from ITEK — the vice chancellor who is the chairman and another member who is the university secretary responsible for finance and administration, including personnel,” he said. He said the vice chairman of the task force who is the deputy vice chancellor is from UPK and the fourth member is from Makerere University and is working as the academic register.

UNISE has no member on the task force which is seen as lopsided because the most important players are the first two. The UPK board of governors was dissolved in 2000 and the ITEK council and Appointments Board were inaugurated as interim organs for the university with no representation whatsoever from the UPK and UNISE boards.

In effect, ITEK seems to be the leader and UNISE and UPK were followers. The interim management and council do not seem to be prepared to adopt the original mission that led to the merger into Kyambogo University. They seem to insist that whatever was being done at ITEK before the merger, is the one and only way forward.

This puts former UNISE and UPK at a disadvantage because they seem to be no more than constituent institutes of former ITEK rather than equal partners. What started as a merger seems to be evolving into a take over by ITEK.

There is no establishment structure in place yet, although attempts have already been made to consolidate all funds into one vote to be controlled by the task force management committee.

Inevitably, this is giving the former UNISE and UPK staff much discomfort because they fear it might affect their salaries.

In order to redirect Kyambogo University to its original mission, neutral and balanced management needs to be put in place. At least the vice chancellor to manage the transition should come from outside the merging institutions. This will automatically tone down the staff polarisation.

The best of UNISE, UPK and ITEK aspects need to be incorporated into the management of Kyambogo to cater for a uniform and unbiased university policy with specific reference to the terms of the merger.

Kyambogo University mission a lost cause

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