4 October 2016

Uganda: Don't Criminalise Students' Innovations


The Makerere EV Kiira, the solar-powered bus Kayoola, and the multi-purpose tractor the MV Mulimi, are some of the innovations that Makerere University has come up with. These projects have received the government's support and or approval.

For example, under the Presidential Initiative for Science and Technology, students and teachers at Makerere University launched the EV Kiira in 2011 and later, the government, through Uganda Development Corporation Limited, took on 96 per cent share holding of the Kiira EV car investment.

The plan is that hopefully, these projects will take off and we will manufacture vehicles that we can use in the country. That is why it is rather shocking that the police have branded Samuel Mugarura, a university student who claims he can make tear-gas and smoke bombs, a criminal.

Mugarura came to the limelight a few weeks ago when he demonstrated his ability and desire to make tear-gas that is not detrimental to people's health.

The third year student of Chemistry and Botany at Makerere University was happy to reveal to the press his innovations and even called upon the government to support him. But for unclear reasons, the police believe he is a threat.

Of course, innovations in such elements will always be taken with caution. Unlike things such as cars or maka-pads which should be sold to the public, tear-gas and ammunition of any sort should ideally stay with the government.

Therefore, the government has a right and even an obligation to be interested in Mugarura's innovations.

However, hounding him and labelling him a criminal does not help. Instead of suffocating this, the police should scrutinise it.

The President has continuously talked about putting more effort on science subjects. The idea is to get people to create and innovate more as well as be technologically up-to-date in this fast advancing world.

Therefore, when anyone comes up with what they believe are helpful innovations and are happy to share them with the government, they should be given due attention and their work checked to see if it can amount to something useful.

Suffocating these works will instead discourage others interested in coming up with various innovations.

The government can start by getting Mugarura to pitch his project to the Presidential Initiative for Science and Technology. This initiative was started purposely to enhance the development of science and research in the country and seeks to advance scientific research through better funding and organisation. That would be a better place to start.


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