As Makerere University holds the grand finale of its centenary celebrations several students and staff leaders are crying foul after being locked out of the function.
With the attachment and memories of those who went through the gates of Uganda’s premier university, staff expected the celebrations to be open to their alma mater.
Whose celebration is it? This is the question that most of those shut out of today’s events are asking. One had to go through security checks to access the main celebrations at Makerere ceremonial grounds- the Freedom Square. A handful of dignitaries were invited to the celebrations and formed part of the nearly half-empty tent.
Dr. Robert Kakuru, the Chairperson of Makerere University Academic Staff Association (MUASA), could barely find answers as to why a section of staff and students were deliberately kept away during celebrations.
Kakuru notes that as the university looks ahead to the start of another 100 years, the current status should concern those who love the institution more than ever. He expressed concerns that the university whose existence is based on students is celebrating 100 years of existence at a time when the management suspended the student leadership.
“The voice of our students has been totally silenced as if they do not exist,” Prof Kakuru noted, adding that “the status of the university as it celebrates 100 years is purely the opposite of what the institution aspires to be.”
He further pointed out that besides the students, the invitations to academic, administrative, and support staff were very selective and discriminatory, and many staff who passionately wanted to attend this memorable event were left out.
Lawel Muhwezi, a student notes that the celebrations of 100 years are all about the people who are currently studying at the institution, those who went through its gates, and the staff. To him, if the above-mentioned are not included then there is nothing to celebrate.
Shamim Nambassa, the former Makerere University guild president, also criticized the way the event was organised. To her, it is a total depiction of the suppression of academic freedoms at Makerere University. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a member of the organizing noted that given the Ebola and COVID-19 diseases the event was limited to a few people.
“We also wanted a massive function but the circumstances don’t warrant this. But, each category of the Makerere family is represented. The students, staff, alumni, and former student leaders among others are all here. Those who didn’t manage to be here in person can follow the event on TV,” the staff said.
Another committee member noted that the presence of the president made it practically impossible to invite everyone, including the general public given the protocols that are followed these days. “All those who attended had to undergo COVID-19 tests. How many people could we test?” he asked.
There was no feeling of celebration at the university on Thursday morning as security officers covered every inch of the campus. Accessing the university was nearly impossible for those without invitation cards for the function. Both the students and other residents of the university were told to minimize their movements.
Prior to the event, staff and students received news of the abrupt change of Semester dates for the academic year 2022/2023 to pave way for the celebrations.
Makerere University opened its doors in 1922 as a technical school with 14 pioneer students. In 100 years, it has grown from a technical school to a college affiliated to the University of London, a constituent college of the University of East Africa and an independent University from July 1970 to-date.
Today the university has 15 colleges with a population of thirty five thousand students.
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