The New Times (Kigali)

24 November 2012

Rwanda: KIU - Where Integration Is Fostered Accidentally

Photo: Eddie Ssejjoba/New Vision
DRC President Joseph Kabila, left, with South Sudan minister of commerce and investments, Garanga Dung Akwang in Kampala.

The previous days have been very noisy in a scary way. That is if you were listening to the gunfire from eastern Congo that has seen folks that matter rushing to Kampala to talk.

In Kenya, violence took on new levels when an explosion went off in a bus in Eastleigh, sparking off unwarranted homophobic fights targeting Kenyans of Somali origin. In Garissa, three soldiers and the town faced the wrath of the soldiers like the proverbial scorned woman. Again, prayers for Kenya as elections draw near.

Apart from the DRC leader, Pres. Joseph Kabila and Rwanda's Pres. Kagame meeting Pres. Museveni over the issue of DRC's security in light of M23 rebels' advancements and the capture of Goma, Kampala also saw the country's leading opposition party also chose a new leader in Gen. Mugisha Muntu.

Interestingly, an event that was not receiving enough coverage in the region is what caught my eye for this week's article. The National Police Service Commission in Kenya is currently trying to find the best Kenyans to take up the posts of Inspector General of Police as well as two deputies.

When they were looking at the credentials of the applicants for these jobs, they found something they did not like - 3 of the applicants for the police jobs had university certificates from Kampala International University (KIU). Now there is this powerful body in Kenya, better known as the Commission for Higher Education (CHE).

The above commission is charged with accrediting universities and Kampala International University is not on their list. Basically, what this means is that if you are a Kenyan and you acquired a degree from KIU, then you simply wasted your time because CHE does not recognise qualifications awarded by KIU.

Interestingly, this came just days after Uganda's National Council for Higher Education had stopped KIU from awarding 42 PhDs, on grounds that it lacked the capacity to offer the course. And guess what? 30 of the 42 PhD hopefuls were Kenyans.

Now if you really know what KIU is like then you will agree that thousands of Kenyans who graduated from KIU in the last ten years or so must be totally devastated by what CHE is saying. I am not here to talk about the quality standards of the university but its social impact and role in as far as regional integration is concerned.

Much as KIU is a Ugandan university there is really very little about it that is Ugandan. KIU's demographics quickly prove that it is indeed an 'international' university. It is one of those unique universities that have more foreigners than natives. From the onset, the university has been patronised by students from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea among others.

This university has so many Kenyans that some people claim the initials KIU stand for Kenyans in Uganda! Ugandans studying at this university are the minority as compared to the Kenyans and so they tend to feel like there are foreigners in their own country.

We may spend days arguing about whether KIU offers questionable degrees or not. But what we cannot argue about is the fact that this university has played a major role in engendering EAC integration even without intending to.

By admitting so many Kenyans, Tanzanians and Rwandans, KIU is actually the only university in Uganda where a Ugandan or Rwanda student will learn Kiswahili without having to attend any Kiswahili class. I personally know of a Rwandan who was there for three years and now speaks enough Kiswahili to get by.

Ugandans are known for showing little interest when it comes to learning Kiswahili thanks to the civil wars that demonised the language. However, at KIU, young Ugandans embrace the language without any trouble. After all, a young Ugandan boy may need to know how to say Nakupenda the moment he lays eyes on a beautiful girl from Nairobi or Mwanza.

The chances of a Ugandan winning the heart of a Kenyan at the university are quite high and many Kenyans, Rwandans and Tanzanians at this university have gone ahead to marry Ugandans.

The fact that Kenya is now not recognising the degrees from this university could mean that many students will be compelled to stay and seek employment in Uganda on completion of their studies.

On the whole apart from attending an EAC summit, KIU is the one place you can go and be sure to mingle with East Africans and come out with a more complete understanding of East Africans. It is a melting pot of East Africaness.

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