IS LORNA MAGARA SWALLOWED BY MAKERERE UNIVERSITY PROBLEMS OR SHE WILL SHINE LIKE SISTER ALLEN KAGINA?
The University Council shall be the Supreme organ of the Public University and as such shall be responsible for the overall administration of the objects and functions of the University.
President Yoweri Museveni wondered why Ugandan Universities are complaining yet they have University Councils that are supposed to be strong.
“While at the University of Dar es Salaam Tanzania, our Chairperson of Council was strong that no Vice Chancellor would mess up, like Makerere University has this lady called Lorna Magara, I knew the Father”.
According to President Yoweri Museveni and the Universities and other tertiary institutions Act 2001 as amended in 2003 and 2006 empower University Councils.
However, little is known about Lorna Magara a sister to Allen Kagina head of UNRA and their elder sister the Wife of Uganda’s Prime Minister a Journalist by training.
What makes Lorna Magara the most influential person at Makerere University yet she seems absent compared to the past ones who were in the media?
Lorna Magara and her team have spent nine months since they were elected in office towards Christmas holidays of 2018 at a time there was a looming strike after the Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe dismissed 45 staffs that infuriated the public. Almost a year in office, the tenure on job should have made her influential.
The Stature of the institution Makerere University is supposed to be the best run in Uganda but most Parents prefer Universities with religious foundations.
Lorna Magara is the Principal of little known Vine International Christian Academy and therefore she is not known for proven leadership unlike the known Dr Stephen Kagoda, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs whom she defeated.
Lastly, Lorna Magara’s visibility is not there because she is yet to make any decision that announces her arrival. Her only visibility is through family ties powerful ladies like Allen Kagina who turned around Uganda Revenue Authority and Uganda National Roads Authority.
Magara is believed to be a born again lady close to the Minister of Education and First Lady, Hon Janet Museveni who chose her after a petition by three staff associations in the University cautioning against inclusion of Bruce Balaaba Kabaasa and Hon Thomas Tayebwa in the new council as government nominees in November 2018.
Accordingly, Government to its credit replaced the two with Lorna Magara and Dan Kidega the former East African Speaker as government appointees. Lorna Magara is yet to speak to media making a case of reforms she is championing and her team.
PAST MAKERERE UNIVERSITY COUNCIL
On 2nd January 2019 Makerere University staff wrote a petition to the Speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga detailing the gist of the problem with the University Council.
Professors at Makerere University wrote saying the University Council has not satisfactorily performed its oversight responsibilities as mandated by the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act.
They said the then University Council led by Eng Charles Wana-Etyem who led the council for the last eight years, was fused with Administration. It was accused of dubious dealings, integrity of council compromised by the conduct of its members,
The staff said some members of council had created a toxic atmosphere and a general mistrust among University Community towards government. The staff said there was patronage and corruption system that they exploit for self enrichment through constant manipulation of university systems, processes, policies and activities.
The staff complained about members of management particularly Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, Prof William Bazeyo, Mrs Jackie Ayorekire, Ms Nabukera Janet, Henry Mwebe and Gordon Murangira among others often to the detriment of the University.
They say there are individuals who have become careerist members of the council, often they switch constituencies to stick to the council like ticks.
The Rwendeire Visitation Committee 2016, highlighted this careerism as part of the problems compromising the vibrancy of the University Council. The committee established that :
- That the qualifications and attributes of Makerere Council members was wanting.
- That there is deficiency in terms of the diversity in key competencies required for a governing council of a higher education institution of the stature of Makerere University.
- That the principle of collective responsibility by council members was found weak as members tended to make decisions based on the constituencies.
- That council meetings arise from the random or adhoc structuring of the agenda. Meetings are backward , lengthy, crowed with nuts and bolts and most times inconclusive.
Makerere University at crossroads: What should key stakeholders do?
By Venansius Baryamureeba former Vice Chancellor writes.
In August 2013, I published an article advising Makerere University that its decision to raise salaries by 70 per cent from internally generated funds would tantamount to committing suicide. Now as I write this article, the University is closed until further notice by the President.
Comparing Makerere University to any other public or private university in Uganda is like comparing apples with oranges. Until 1988, Makerere was the only university in Uganda. The structure and organisation of Makerere University was aimed at addressing all university education needs in the country. This led to the starting of almost every course/ programme at the university even some with less than five students. Staff had to be recruited to run these courses. Thus most programmes with small numbers are subsidised by those with big numbers in terms of staff costs, which ends up consuming most of the internally generated funds. With more than 45 universities in Uganda today, Makerere University needs to be restructured and refocused further to conform to the current realities.
Once a university exceeds 5,000 students it cannot be governed as one entity. Hence the need to ensure that the constituent colleges at Makerere University are given some level of federated autonomy. The staff and students in a college should be brought under the authority of the college administration. That’s why Makerere University is closed but Makerere University Business School is open. If colleges were autonomous it would be hard to convince the staff or students across colleges to engage in a strike at the same time.
Makerere University needs to switch to a business model where colleges retain not less than 60 per cent of the internally-generated funds. The central administration can also strategically budget for most expenses at college level. This will motivate colleges to exploit their niche and generate income under the category of Appropriation In Aid (AIA) from student fees, provision of services, consultancies, grants and donations among others. As per statistics of the current semester, the colleges that were major AIA generators like the College of Computing and Information Sciences and College of Business and Management Sciences have registered a drop in private student numbers to less than half of what they used have in 2013. The inability of the university to pay the salary incentive is attributed to the fall in AIA by over Shs70 billion in the last financial year alone due to reduction in student numbers by most colleges.
The government needs to put in place a higher education fund through which higher education institutions can access funding based on a well-developed funding model. This model can use parameters like student numbers in the sciences and humanities, graduation figures at all levels, research output and patents among others to allocate funds to higher education institutions. The strategy of government to continue to appropriate funds in the university budget for items like salaries is one of the causes of strikes.
The appropriation of funds in the budget should be left wholly to the governing councils.