The humbling journey of BBUC’s Principal

Rev. Dr Medard Rugyendo is the current principal of Bishop Barham University College (BBUC), Kabale.

He met with The Standard ’s Alex Taremwa for the interview at White Horse Inn on one of an hills in Kabale town, soon after the college’s graduation ceremony held on February 26.

The writer started by reminding him of the time when the Reverend prayed for him in his office, while he was the dean of the Faculty of Education and Arts at the main campus.

Having been recommended to him in a letter by Prof. Dr Monica Chibita, the head of Mass Communication as a financially needy student, Rugyendo had invited Alex, through a phone call to his office on a hot Friday afternoon, and prayed for him.

As he saw Alex off he had said: “Don’t embarrass me Alex.”

Alex had promised him that was never going to happen, and now as he conducted the interview he hoped this would be a chance to prove that to the Reverend.

Early Life: 

Medard Rugyendo was born in Nyabushabi, Kyanamira Sub-country in Ndorwa, Kabale District. He was raised in Kabale and studied at Nyamwerambiko Primary School, Kabale, before joining Makobore High School in 1983.

Due to travel complications as the school was in Rukungiri District, Rugyendo had to make a U-turn to his home district, Kabale, where he joined Kigezi College Butobere from Senior Two to Senior Four and then later to Kigezi High School for A-level.

He proceeded to Makerere University where he studied Religious Studies. He was afterwards employed as a tutorial assistant in the same department discipline before he enrolled for a Master’s in the same discipline after which he was appointed a teaching assistant.

“You know Makerere had various stages before one became a lecturer or senior lecturer. So I was first a tutorial assistant, teaching assistant and then assistant lecturer when I completed my Master’s,” he narrated.

Later, Rugyendo enrolled for a postgraduate Diploma in Education, majoring in Religious Education and History before enrolling for a PhD in 1989 which he completed in three years.

“I begrudgingly studied for my PhD to fulfill the requirement at Makerere that one would not be a lecturer unless they had a PhD, but eventually God sustained me and I made it,” he reminisces with a smile.

Over the years, Rugyendo has worked as a teacher in several schools and colleges, and is also a volunteer chaplain of Mulago Hospital. He is also the chairman of the Board of Governors, Kigezi High School.

His time at UCU: 

Since 1998, Rugyendo was a part-time lecturer at Uganda Christian University, although he was still at Makerere University. Between 2002 and 2003 he did a postgraduate Diploma in Christian Ministry at UCU after which he was ordained as a priest, a desire he had harboured since childhood.

In 2010, Rugyendo joined UCU on a full time basis as head of the Department of Education and at the same time dean of Education and Arts. He served in this capacity until July 2015 when he was appointed the third principal of Bishop Barham University College, Kabale, a constituent college of UCU, an office he took over on October 31.

Life’s challenges: 

Asked about the major challenges he has encountered in life, Rugyendo who received Christ on November 6, 1976 and was nurtured by the Brethren of the East African Revival, says the Lord has been good to him.

“I can’t claim there are major regrets in life. The mistakes are mine but the Lord has been good. I survive by repenting daily and continuing to live by God’s grace. Of course I can’t claim to be perfect but the Lord has been good,” he says.

Research, publications: 

Rugyendo argues that due to the competitiveness of education in Uganda, the growth of the university cannot be dependent on student tuition fees alone.

He is therefore focused on promoting research and publications amongst his staff in addition to writing competent research grants that can attract funding for the university.

“The enrolment at the university is currently low and we are faced with a challenge of marketing in order to attract and increase student numbers,” he said.

“Most importantly, I am dedicated to promoting quality assurance as a mechanism to have better recruitment and remuneration of staff members so as to have better productivity.”

“People come and teach at times when they don’t qualify to do so. But slowly we are encouraging them to study PhD courses so that the services they render to the university are better and better,” he explains.

The 16th Graduation group, for example, had only two first class degree graduates.

Although this could be attributed to the less number of graduands in the Easter Semester, Rugyendo adds that getting a first-class, however commendable an achievement, is not a matter to worry about as room for improvement is always available.

He further told The Standard that although it would be his intention to retain the first class graduates as staff, it is a challenge when the establishment is already full as it is at BBUC.

“Getting a first-class doesn’t mean that person should teach. They might be interested in something else. And first class doesn’t necessarily translate in good work performance or a high level of intelligence. I’m not saying people shouldn’t work for them but through experience, we shouldn’t worry when we have few,” he adds.

Rugyendo succeeded Prof. Manuel Muranga who is remembered for promoting the development of local languages during his time of service as he established a Master’s in Language Development and Translation at the university.

During his tenure, Rugyendo says he will put special emphasis on research, publication, marketing and promotion of the university to increase student enrolment. He is married to Margaret and together they have six adopted children.