30 October 2013

Uganda: UCU Celebrates100 Years

Uganda Christian University (UCU), whose main campus is in Mukono and has other subordinate campuses in Mbale, Kabale, Arua and Kampala, has significantly grown. The institute has set an indelible footprint in the country's higher education arena. It is in light of this that the institution is celebrating 100 years of service not only to Ugandans, but beyond the country's boundaries.

With the celebrations launched in October, last year, Bishop Emeritus Dr. George Tibeesigwa, who works with the university's development and external relations section, says a number of awareness and celebratory activities have been undertaken.


This year, the institution hosted the Martyrs' Day celebrations at Namugogo Martyrs shrine. From July 1 to July 5, it was the centenary activities week at UCU main campus with public talks culminating into a graduation ceremony. In the same breath, a general thanksgiving service will held tomorrow at St Paul's Cathedral Namirembe.

The offertory from the Namirembe service and collection from a football match (bishops vs clergy) to be played later in the day, will also go towards the construction of a multibillion students' activity centre.

On November 21, another thanksgiving service will be held at the main campus. The Kabaka of Buganda, Ronald Muwenda Mutebi II whose grandparents invited the missionaries, will be the chief guest. According to Dr. Tibeesigwa, it is the invitation of the Christian Missionary Society that birthed Bishop Tucker Memorial College at Namirembe in 1903. In 1913, Bishop Tucker Theological College (BTTC), which was transferred to Mukono and gave birth to UCU.

The land where it is located was donated by Hamu Mukasa, a county chief. "He also donated another land at Ntawo for purposes of agricultural training to students and sustaining the college," Dr. Tibeesigwa explains. He adds that the university, as part of the commemoration plans, will also host the inter-university games at UCU main campus, from December 15 to December 21.


The key centennial project is the construction of a multi-billion students' activity centre, which is highlighted in the university master plan. Consequently, a marathon was organised with participants paying sh5,000 and sh10,000 towards this cause. "The centre will accommodate and give students enough space for various activities, for instance, offi ces, restaurants, salons, gyms, guild offices, changing rooms, toilet facilities and banks," he says.

Dr. Tibeesigwa says the centre, estimated to cost between $3.5m and $4m (about sh10b) aims at centralising all activities scattered in the university and outside and bringing them closer to the students. "That will definitely create more space in other areas. For instance, the space currently occupied by make shift restaurants is supposed to be parking space," he notes.

Uganda Christian University has a well-stocked library. Photos by Hajara Nalwada


Having started as a teacher and clergy training college, the institution scored its leap forward in 1997 when the Church of Uganda conceived the idea to upgrade the college to a university. "The Government granted the idea and in 2004, the university got a charter," Dr. Tibeesigwa recalls. He adds that the university, which now has over 10,000 students not only draws its population from Uganda, but also from 13 other countries.


Dr. Tibeesigwa observes that the university's greatest achievement is the reputation of its graduates and alumni. He says they are unquestionably doing well in the various sectors, attributing this to the nature

and quality of training they get. "The training we give the students is a fusion of the mind, heart and the hands (integration of learning, faith and service with integrity)," he notes.


Just like any other institution, the university, too, has its own peculiar challenges. "As an institution, the more we have grown, the more our needs and challenges we have grown," Tibeesigwa says. He adds that there is need for more infrastructure and teaching/learning materials. On the other hand, Dr. Tibeesigwa says global challenges also have a direct or indirect impact on the operations of the university.

For instance, the increased infl ation makes the cost of management shot up. Similarly, the amount of aid from the institution's partners in the west has reduced and even the number of scholarships has drastically gone down Worse still, Dr. Tibeesigwa says the taxation requirements are too high and in a way prohibitive, and yet private universities are playing a supplementary role in helping the Government deliver services.


To keep its strides on course, Tibeesigwa says the university has its future plans pegged in a strategic plan that is in place up to 2018. For the land at Ntawo, there are several projects in mind like a housing estate. "With an estate, schools, health facilities and a shopping mall will be required," he notes. Dr. Tibeesigwa calls upon the alumni and parents to join in the general thanksgiving service tomorrow.

"We also thank parents, guardians and students for choosing UCU as their place of training," he says. Despite the challenges, the planned construction of a student activity centre and establishment of a housing estate, it is undeniable that not even the sky is the limit for the institution.

Life can only be said to have been lived successfully if an indelible landmark in signifying a person remains standing after them. For Bishop Alfred Tucker, we can say he left a legacy that has irreversibly touched thousands of lives in Uganda and beyond. His legacy is best illuminated in the naming of Bishop Tucker Theological College (BTTC) after him, a college he initiated to train native clergy and teachers.

According to Called to Serve, a 1989 BTTC publication written by Kevin Ward, Tucker was in 1890, at the age of 41, appointed as the third bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa. He succeeded Bishop Hannington, who was killed in Busoga. Later in 1897, the diocese was divided and Tucker chose to become bishop of Uganda alone, but even this divided diocese consisted of undefined parts of Sudan and Congo, as well as western Kenya. But this vastness was met with Tucker's strength, drive and energy.

For instance, according to the book, it is evident that service is what mattered to him most. In the days before the railway and motor car, he walked up from the coast on many occasions to Uganda. "But it is not for these feats of heroism and self-sacrifice that he is best remembered for. Rather for his vision of a self-governing and self-expanding Uganda church," the book reads in part. It adds that: "He tried to embody this vision in a church constitution, which was in many ways ahead of its time, in which the missionaries would become absorbed into the native church.

An artistic impression of the UCU students' activity centre:

" In light of that, one of his first acts on his arrival in Uganda in 1981 was to commission catechists. In 1983, Tucker ordained the first six Ugandan deacons, thus allowing the church in Uganda to develop its own leadership much quickly. The book adds, Tucker realised the second generation of church leaders needed a more formal training. For that matter, he thought of establishing a theological college, thus in 1905, he began a seminary at Namirembe.

Later, he started looking for a place that would enable provision of community and discipline away from the growing Kampala with all its temptations. At first Kings College Buddo was the thought about venue to host the college, but Mukono was later chosen. And, before work could start, Tucker retired in 1911 because he was retired and worn-out by his strenuous and tiresome work.

The college construction started in 1913 and in June 15, 1914 Tucker died suddenly in England, thus the decision to name the college after his name. Soon after Tucker's death, an appeal was launched in England to raise funds for his memorial college. This was, however, delayed by the outbreak of war in August in 1914, but by 1919, £3000 had been raised. On September 20, 1919, the foundation of the main college was laid by Bishop Willis, who succeeded Tucker, arch-deacon Baskerville and Canon Mudeka, marking the beginning of the steady growth of the institution it is today.

What UCU staff say:

For any institution to move forward, teamwork and focus are vital elements. Watuwa Timbiti talks to some of the people who are propelling the activities and growth of the Uganda Christian University

Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi, the Vice Chancellor:

We stand at a most opportune time in the history of Uganda Christian University; a pivotal time as it were. When we celebrate 100 years, we are thanking God for the past years and also thinking ahead beyond our own lifetime. We cannot afford to be small thinkers; Bishop Tucker was not a small thinker. A hundred years from now will judge our visions and labours. Let us work together to lay a firm future in which excellence prevails, for our children and grandchildren who will come to this institution.

Margaret Najita, a development officer:

I have been in this university for five years now. Doing my work means alot for the institution. For instance, interfacing with various people, corporate companies for fund and friend raising in support of our activities. It is not an easy thing, for example, others might promise you and then suddenly change their position. Institutional development is a continuous process and for us, that is why we have to work hard and look for money. The other day, it was looking for money to build Hamu Mukasa library, now it is about money for the students activity centre. I want to thank all those who have supported our development initiatives this far. It is a journey worth celebrating.

Epajar Ojulu, supervisor of The Standard:

I am in charge of editing centenary publications and highlighting activities that have gone on in this regard. There are two main publications. As a team, we are working on The Standard, which is the university newspaper and the centenary journal.

What these two publications are doing is giving a rebirth of how far this institution has come and where it is going. For instance, from a grass-thatched hut to what it is today. And from focusing training only on the clergy and teachers to a broader response to the education needs of the country.

The Standard is a conduit of information for the students at all the UCU campuses to enable them know what is going on within and outside. We intend to take the coverage of the paper to the community and probably make it a regional paper. This is possible if we give the paper a commercial element, especially through subsidised advertising space

Grace Iga, the acting director, ICT:

ICT in this institution is an issue of the recent past, say, about 10 years ago. But even in this short time of ICT, a lot has been achieved, especially in terms of network coverage both in voice and in data. We have had great impact and grown for the better.

For example, fibre connectivity of this campus is about 80% and wireless coverage is about 70%. On the other hand, the computer to student ratio has also improved over time. We have in a way enabled the teaching and facilitation of some courses.

For instance, we have provided computers and enabling software for the students of engineering. To have total computer and Internet access, we hope to roll out the students' laptop scheme at a subsidised fee to be paid in at least three installments. Being a support department to the other departments of the university, we have been vital in ensuring that those departments function smoothly.

Monica Ntege, the deputy university librarian:

In any academic institution, you cannot do without the library. In the 100 years we are celebrating, the library services have equally grown with the institution. As Bishop Tucker Theological College, there was a small collection of books and by the 1960s, the book number had hit about 6,000.

At the time of starting the university, the books were about 30,000, but this on the other hand meant more space and books were needed. With the construction of the Hamu Mukasa library, we currently have 150,000 volumes of books and hundreds not yet registered.

This big growth has been supported by some of our partners in the US and Europe who donate books or sell to us books at a subsidised fee. We also give additional services, for instance, if a student registers as a user, he or she is automatically connected to Internet services free of charge anywhere in the university. In other universities, this is not the case; students have to go into cafes to get the services. We plan to start-up a museum to hold some of the landmark pieces that best speak the journey we have moved.

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