BY ALEX TAREMWA
Arua District in West Nile sub-region is home to Uganda Christian University (UCU)’s study centre started as a rural trade School in 1959 by the African Inland Mission at Ringili.
Later in 1960s, the school became a Lugbara language lay readers training college, before graduating into a priests ordination centre in 1978.
For 25 years, the institution, then called St Paul’s Theological College, trained Anglican Church leaders until 2003 when it was elevated to a university campus, admitting students for degree and diploma programmes in several fields.
Some of its 800 students study at Mvara Mission in Arua Municipality due to a shortage of facilities at the main campus.
In light of this development, the UCU Career Development and Placement Office organized, as a way of giving back to the community, a seven-day career outreach programme, targeting mostly secondary schools.
The outreach, done under the theme “Making Holistic Career Choices,” reached out to thousands of students and parents in 27 secondary schools and 12 churches in a bid to awaken the spirit of responsibility in order for the two to make sustainable career choices.
The team, led by Connie Musisi, the university’s career development and placement officer, also combed the sub-region, marketing the university in order to boost the fast falling student admission numbers that UCU and its constituent campuses are currently faced with.
The outreach started on March 6 with a visit to St Andrew’s Church, Jinja, before embarking on the 12-hour journey to Arua.
By midnight, the team was touching down, ready to leave no stone unturned on its mission. The Academic Registrar, Arua Campus, Mr Ambrose Bakwasiibwe, indeed admitted that the enrolment would even have been bigger had there been a marketing strategy for the university in the region.
“If you asked me what this campus and gallant university of ours needs, I would say three things: marketing, marketing, marketing,” he told The Standard .
Indeed, a walk around the campus is ample exemplification of the desperate need for marketing as the classes seemed grossly empty and only four students we found reading in the library. Some students who preferred to speak off the record told in this writer that the university numbers were fast dropping.
In fact, Mr. Mawa Bashir, a parent, told The Standard that because of some alleged management scandals at the campus, he was forced to pull out his daughter from the campus after just one semester.
“It was a very serious issue. It was the talk of town and I knew that it was not good academically for my daughter. So I had to find her another university,” he explained.
During a talk show on Radio Pacis, the host asked one of the panelists to explain the alleged corruption scandal but since most of the team members from the main campus did not know much about the said scandal, the answers were not as absolute.
Mr John Vianney Ahumuza, a lecturer from the Foundations Department, a member of the team, told The Standard that the marketing and communications office should come out and clean the seemingly tainted university image in the area.
That notwithstanding, the outreach which stretched to three districts of Arua, Koboko and Maracha started out successfully at St Joseph’s College, Ombaci, a boys school on the outskirts of Arua town.
Other popular schools visited included Muni Girls Secondary School, Mvara Secondary School, Vurra High School at the Congolese-Uganda border and St Charles Lwanga in Koboko.
Throughout the outreach, the speakers who included Connie Musisi, Prim Tumuramye (Public Relations Office), Rodgers Tayebwa (Faculty of Science and Technology), Joseph Omonya (Admissions office), Annet Musiimenta (Education), Gilbert Adrapi (Business Administration Arua Campus) and Alex Taremwa (The Standard), explained to the students the need for a purpose driven life and how best they can achieve it.
The students were challenged to think critically about where they were coming from, where they were and where they needed to go next.
Other key points like discipline, the fear of the Lord, the need to revive a competitive reading culture were also tackled.
At most of the schools, the head teachers appreciated the outreach, some even extending invitations to the university to come back.
The students similarly expressed keen interest in UCU courses and asked particularly about the requirements for enrolment, the intakes, the scholarship opportunities and most importantly, the tuition fees that most feared as too high.
“The university has the obligation to reduce unemployment and provide skills training for future responsible citizens,” Rev. Fanuel Onzima, the vicar and archdeacon of St. Phillips Church of Uganda who also is the acting director of Arua Campus, told a congregation during an early morning service.
The country-wide career outreach programme is the precursor of the UCU Open Days that will be held on June 24 at the main campus for Mukono and Kampala campuses, July 8 for Bishop Barham University College, Kabale and July 15 the for Arua campus. Mbale University College will have theirs on July 22.