It is an October morning at Gulu University in northern Uganda. Outside Agatha Alidri’s office clouds start to gather. We expect it to rain any time from now. A Problem Based Learning (PBL) workshop is going on in the block opposite, facilitated by two professors from Aalborg University in Denmark. Alidri paces up and down. She is fast in her steps and when she stops to listen to someone she gives them maximum attention. The will to help is written all over her face.
On a cloudy October Friday at Gulu University, a few dozens of Masters students from the Faculty of Business and Development Studies fill up a little shelter set up by the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) project for workshops and conferences. One group after another, from within themselves, they step forward to present their research works to a makeshift team of internal and external examiners. The audience includes their peers, their supervisors, and professors Inger Lassen and Iben Jensen from Aalborg University in Denmark.
The first time I spoke to Dr. Expedito Nuwategeka was on the telephone. In my mind I saw the image of a 60-year old man sitting on a wooden chair with piles of books at his table. However, that is not the image I arrived to at Gulu University on an April afternoon to meet him.
In Gulu University’s history of nearly two decades, the story of ENRECA is told and retold with passion. The four-year Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) funded 10 million DKK project was the university’s turning point in many ways: It delivered its first PhD, its first female PhD, 20 master’s degrees, several research collaborations, experience in managing large grants and a lot more.
Many Ugandans are quick to identify themselves by tribe – 56 tribes there are in total. They like to describe themselves, and are also often described by others, as humble, welcoming and peaceful but Uganda’s political history hardly reflects the peaceful part. When I visit Associate Professor Charles Amone on a July afternoon, Kyambogo University is in recess so it is generally quiet. His reflections paint a picture of a country less united than the world may be led to think – a crisis that fuels inequality and conflicts from within.
A dusty road leads me to Pece Primary School on the outskirts of Gulu town, a city in the northern Uganda. Just opposite the school, is a signpost that reads: “Gulu University Institute of Peace and Strategic Studies [IPSS].” It points towards a sizeable block sitting on an enclosed acre of land. The building’s cream walls and green roof have greyed due to age, Dr. Stephen Langole is a social scientist, who has studied different aspects of post war life in northern Uganda. This time we are going to talk about his PhD thesis, UrbanYouth in Post-conflict Northern Uganda: Networking Livelihood Resources.
One of Uganda’s key concerns in education over the years has been the growing rift in performance between urban and rural schools. Primary and Secondary school grades in the national examinations largely tend to decline with distance moved from the country’s capital, Kampala. Solutions to bridge this gap and restore parity, however, could be in a book gathering dust in Gulu University’s library. Dr. Stephen Odama is fully aware that the knowledge in his PhD thesis could go unutilised, the way of most academic research in Uganda, unless there is publicity and awareness about his findings and recommendations.
Dr. Christine Oryema’s experience studying in Denmark would be the envy of any Ugandan PhD student who does not get the opportunity to study abroad, especially in countries that provide an ideal study environment.
An ethnobotanist based at Gulu University, one of Uganda’s public universities, Dr. Oryema was among the beneficiaries of a PhD sponsorship through DANIDA’s ENRECA programme. This gave her the opportunity to spend more than 12 months of study time at the University of Copenhagen as part of her PhD programme.
Standing at the entrance of the Faculty of Medicine at Gulu University, Dr. David Musoke looks a calm man. He has been waiting here for …
In 2010 Christine Oryema set out to do her PhD. She was, through the process, to find and document the diversity, uses and nutrient composition of indigenous edible fruit trees of northern Uganda, particularly in Gulu and Amuru districts. Although she later narrowed her study site to just six sub counties of Gulu, she found more disturbing questions beneath the answers she sought, leading her to conclude: “I think I have just brought out this area. It has not been studied.”