The Bird’s-eye view: Greater good requires concerted efforts

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Hanging around a representative sample of UCU staff has revealed two perception extremes. There is a section that is passionate about the university and work wholeheartedly every day to see it prosper.

There is also another section whose association with the university is simply an opportunity to get paid at the end of the month.Sadly, the latter are the majority.

To illustrate this, let us refer to the results of the survey conducted by the Career Development and Placement office among 500 new students, representing a quarter of the registered students.

When asked about how they got to know about UCU, 11.2 percent credited career outreaches, 11.4 per cent the press, 22.2 per cent through students and staff of UCU and 55.2 per cent had heard of UCU through friends and relatives who have no history with the university.

From the above statistics, one would wonder how external forces (friends and relatives) can account for the biggest percentage of information to new students, more than staff and students who arguably have a better understanding of the university within which they work and study.

Secondly, how come the media contributes less numbers despite the university’s continued investment in commercial advertisement over the years? And how can these millions of shillings be redirected for better output?

An overriding reaction may be that the university has not invested a lot in its students and staff to partake of the marketing processes. In so doing, the students and staff see marketing as the sole responsibility of the Marketing, Communications and Public Relations offices.

When crisis hits, it becomes easier for a student or staff member to press their ‘ignore’ button and pass on responsibility for cleaning up the mess to the above mentioned offices.

In the short term, this “as long as I get paid attitude” can be sustained but as the effects sink in, especially in the light of dwindling student numbers, is this attitude tenable?

Is it not time for the university administration to adopt an intra-marketing approach through which it can motivate its major stakeholders: students and staff, to promote and defend its image as people who have something to lose?

What if part of what is invested in the newspapers and TV commercials was to be redirected into making students and staff feel significantly involved in the making of university policies so that when the need to discuss them arises, they do not begin pointing fingers elsewhere?

Superimposing policies and resolutions hatched in exclusive boardrooms is what has caused students and staff to feel alienated in policy formulation and implementation. Instead of being contributors, the stakeholders are merely shock absorbers of the outcomes.

If I did not know any better, I would say that this is what caused the strike that resulted in the expulsion of some students last semester. It did not have to get to that had the students been involved in the dialogue process and reasons for the increment explained.

The bigger picture requires a combined effort of students and staff to sail the university to greater heights in their respective capacities. This, however, has to be done in unison, not discord.

Alex is the Managing Editor of The Transparent Magazine, formerly The Standard’s Features Editor.

Is the medicine your taking prescribed


Ms Kyaligonza Betty, the receptionist at Allan Galpin health Centre, says that nearly half of the student body has no record of seeking medical care from the health centre. Following his interesting information, The Standard carried out a survey in the UCU community, asking people whether they would visit Allan Galpin or buy paracetamol to treat a headache.

Ninety percent of the respondents said they would go buy painkillers. When it was pointed out to them that the services of Allan Galpin are free, 60 percent still said they would only go to the clinic if the painkillers did not work, after prolonged use.

Dr Geoffrey Rwabaingi Mulindwa, the director of medical services at UCU, says that self-medication is when one feels unwell, skips the process of seeking medical help from a qualified medical professional, hazards a guess at the problem and administers medication accessed over the counter.

“A person is supposed to get a prescription from a technician and medicine will be dispensed accordingly,” Mulindwa said.

Causes of self-medication

“When you go to Allan Galpin, you queue to see the doctor and then queue again to get your prescription.

In the process you are exposed to more diseases than you went to the clinic with,” one of the respondents said. Such a person, a member of the ‘microwave generation’, only focuses on the time spent to access medical care, ignoring the benefits.

On 24 July 2016, WBS Television released a report showing that patients were opting for self-medication due to the high consultation fees charged in hospitals and health centers. These can be as high as Shs50,000 in private health centers.

Legal framework

The ease with which all types of medicine are accessed in drug shops also fuels the habit. Imelda Tumuhaise a retired nurse says that a drug shop should be run by a qualified nurse, midwife, medical assistant or a doctor before it is issued with a practicing license.

However, the custom is that these qualified personnel only sign as the custodians for the licence, and hand over the business to anyone else to run. This leaves many unqualified people dispensing drugs to patients.

Tumuhaise said that the national district drug inspector inspects the drug shops before they commence business, and every once a year afterwards, exacerbating the problem. The drugs need to be kept under specific temperatures and conditions, is inspection once a year enough to ensure compliance.

Attitude issues

Tumuhaise further said that individuals go to the drug shop with a decision on the medicine they want. “Such people do not follow medical personnel’s advice. They often think that because of former successful usage., they qualify for the same treatment. They even go ahead to prescribe the same to others with similar symptoms,” she said.

Dr Mulindwa said that people have a deceptive tradition of ‘the end justifies the means’, forgetting that they are now treating symptoms and not the cause of the disease. So, next time you feel tempted to reach for the non-prescribed pain killers, consider paying a visit to the health centre for professional advice

Uganda health sector problem bigger than chemistry passes


In December 2014, my nephew Sheldon was admitted at Holy Innocents’ Hospital, one of the best children hospitals in Mbarara. He was anemic, dehydrated, and he had malaria that forced him to stare death in the eye.

When I arrived, I was ushered into the ward by a nurse who I later learnt was a Uganda Christian University (UCU) Nursing Science student doing her internship.

As an alumnus, I left that day feeling safe; I knew my title of uncle would last a lot longer. When I returned in the morning, I found the nurse babysitting and feeding the baby. Her conduct, discipline, competence and knowledge portrayed nothing short of professionalism.

It is possible that this young lady did not do or pass chemistry at A-level and even armed with her four-year hard-earned degree, the Uganda Nursing and Midwives Council (UNMC) will not register her for practice.

In principle that is the right thing to do, but does it solve Uganda’s health sector problem?

The Ugandan health sector has experienced challenges related to recruitment and retention of qualified staff, mainly due to low remuneration as well as insufficient career opportunities.

According to the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit (BMAU) in the Ministry of Health report, in 2010 there was a very low doctor to patient ratio of 1:24,725 and a nurse to patient ratio of 1:11,000, way below the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of 1:439 as the health worker to population ratio.

Worse still, maternal and infant mortality are still going through the roof, traditional midwives are still delivering babies with their rudimentary tools, clinics and pharmacies across the country are manned by nurses with three months’ training or even less – some reusing syringes for injections and getting away with it.

For Uganda to meet the minimum health standards, the number of health workers must triple. Attention, therefore, needs to shift from cheap politicking to the core of the problem, which is poor composition of health professionals.

According to the 2011 Human Resources for Health Audit Report, with respect to the national level staffing, the proportion of the filled approved positions was found to be only 58 per cent.

Out of the 55,063 approved positions, only 31,797 are filled, leaving 23,321 vacant positions. The situation is worse at the level of health centre IIs. Out of 4,905 posts in 1,321 health centre IIs in the country, only 2,197 (45 per cent) are filled.

I admit that there could be life threatening consequences arising from a health worker’s lack of chemistry knowledge or background, but I submit there are greater consequences from having none at all.

Enough of the games, if UNMC lacks the guts to do the right thing; that is waive chemistry only for the degree holding nurses without it so far, for the sake of Ugandans, someone else should.

Achieving academic excellence at campus


I trust that the first year students have settled into class and most of us are adjusting to this academic setting. In the recent issue of The Standard, the Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, clearly spelt out some of the guidelines for the first year students from a moral and spiritual perspective.Here are a few highlights for adjusting to the academic environment, and successfully complete your studies.

https://thestandarducu.files.wordpres will be interacting with words like: coursework, tutorials, GPA, among others. I assure you it is possible for anyone to attain a first class or a good second upper degree if you devote time and effort to your studies.

By the time you are admitted to a specific course, it means that you are able to excel.

Do not only wait for the exams timetable to come out before you start reading. At UCU, excelling commences right from the course work results.

It is much easier to score an A+ if by the time you get to the exams you already have good coursework grades. Therefore, excelling academically starts with your first assignment, in the first semester of your first year.

Secondly, at university, you need to work smart even as you work hard. Focus on keenness.

Listen attentively, listen for details. For example if a lecturer asks you to research about a particular topic, put emphasis on that, because it is most likely you will be examined from that area. Also, take note of the key points discussed in class.

At the university it is rare that you will write notes the way we did in high school. You have to fend for yourself and probably your lecturer will not ask you to do this. The onus is upon you to research and take notes.

Another secret is discovering what the lecturer is interested in. Study the examples they cite in their work and use those as reference points even in your coursework.

I know you might be still trying to understand your lecturers, but do not think too much about that.

Focus and accept them already, without prejudice that could block your attention. For example, it is evident that dislike for someone could make you fail a subject.

Work in teams with your classmates, engage in different discussion groups. University is a place where teamwork and sharing yield synergy and push you to heights you would never have scaled on your own.

Also, there is a bulk of information in the library. Make use of the internet, and research extensively.

Lastly, make time to serve God and his people.

This could be in one of the ministry platforms at UCU, through sports, MDD, charity work, among others. Desist from time wasting, destructive behaviour and bad company. Choose to be an exceptional student; choose success.

The writer is a second year student of Bachelor of Science in Accounting and Accounting

Have we started to drop the big balls?

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While in Mbarara over the weekend, I met up with my former boss at Daily Monitor, Alfred Tumushabe, for coffee at Cafe Ark on Booma Hill.

The intention was to talk about the dynamics in the media industry but we discussed Uganda Christian University (UCU) mostly.

At the Daily Monitor, Tumushabe looked at me as UCU’s mouthpiece. Whenever the university featured in the news, mostly for the wrong reasons, he would welcome me into office with questions and demand answers.

One morning I recall walking into his office before browsing my newsfeed. Before he said good morning, Tumushabe shot at me the question: “What is wrong with your university? Now you are making sex tapes?”

I did not have an answer to that but it is among the many questions that featured from listeners whenever we held radio talk shows during career outreach sessions across the country.

On my way back from Mbarara, I read a story in The Observer that named UCU among the four universities that were producing “fake” nurses.

It said that the university admitted students to the course, without the prerequisite subjects of Biology and Chemistry and that the Uganda Nurses and Midwives Council (UNMC) had refused to certify our graduates saying that “they did not meet the minimum qualifications”.

So our coffee session discussed tuition increments, law suits, foiled demonstrations, and embargos of religion, among other. I struggled to explain the little I knew and although Alfredo, we call him, seemed impressed, his observations left me with a bigger question to answer: What is wrong with the UCU court? As Charles Onyango Obbo would say, it is dropping the big balls.

Since 1997, UCU has garnered tremendous accomplishments. It runs the best newspaper of any university in Africa, The Standard. The best law and journalism schools in the country are also based here. 

My source at the Law Development Council (LDC) tells me that 70 per cent of those who passed the entry exams this year are UCU LLB graduates.

Why then does the bad news always supersede the good? The answer is in the timing and mode of communication. The university markets and de-markets itself simultaneously.

Here’s an example:

In May, while on the career outreach trail, we had a very successful talk show on Vision Radio 89.1 FM, in Mbarara town. The Vice Chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi, had just announced that the university had waived the annual tuition increment beginning with the new students in the Advent (September) semester.

Parents, students, alumni and potential clients called into the show to express their gratitude.

I also understand that the university PRO, Prim Kesande, did not sleep that night as she was besieged with endless calls from clients seeking to pick application letters and by the time we were through with Kisoro, we were out of stock on the letters.

As we were still basking in the limelight of accomplishment, word began to circulate that the university had announced yet another tuition increment and that an imminent strike/demonstration was underway at the Mukono campus.

The successes of the outreach missions were washed away by a poorly timed and communicated policy.

Moral of the story. Timing and effective communication are crucial if the good is to outshine the bad.

Alex Taremwa is The Standard’s Ex-Officio and Managing Editor at The Transparent Magazine

Unity key to student success at university



It is with heartfelt pleasure that I welcome all the new and continuing students for this Advent Semester at Uganda Christian University (UCU).

As a man who has been here for the last one year, I can say with certainty that you made the perfect choice to be part of the intellectually enriching academic quest for knowledge and wisdom.

Usually, when one joins university, there is so much enthusiasm as one explores the new opportunities and prospects that campus has to offer.

However, caution ought to be applied when adjusting to the new environment lest you will not end up with broken expectations.

In every social setting, harmonious co-existence is vital so as to foster peace, security and co-operation.

This is what is exactly recommended for new students to ensure that they enjoy a comfortable stay at UCU.

In return, the staff is expected to treat new students to a warm reception in their various courses of study.

We owe it to each other to act with brotherly love, care and kindness rather than with acts of hooliganism, rudeness and bullying. 

Convenience brings about serenity, which translates into productive and efficient academic excellence amongst the students.

Hence, harmonisation accords students a springboard to exploit their full potential.

UCU, with a history of cultural diversity, needs unity and social integration if freshers are to benefit from vitality and diversity to our heritage.

As much as most of us desire peace, some criminal elements are lurking in the shadows ready to lure unsuspecting new students. You have got to be extremely vigilant about the new friends you make.

The most common of them all are the fraudulent conmen who come with get- rich- quick schemes targeting your tuition fees and pocket money. Do not be tempted to join as that is a shortcut to not graduating.

Unity starts from a personal initiative. It is a virtue that starts within us. In his address to the Indian people on January 27, 2015, US president Barack Obama stated that, “the peace we seek in the world begins in our human hearts and it finds its glorious expression when we look beyond our differences and rejoice in the beauty of every soul.”

UCU offers the spiritual, cultural, academic and natural environment to find the good in one another. Enjoy your stay.

How not to graduate Part 1

AwanyJoining university can be an exciting time. It is often accompanied by many lifestyle changes such as new routines, meeting new people, making new friends, and generally adjusting to campus life.

Amidst all this, students are expected to develop effective study skills in an environment different from the ones they were accustomed to. At the end of three or four years, depending on your course designation, graduation is the next and last thing on queue and obviously, not everyone will graduate. RONALD AWANY has tips for those with no intentions of graduating.

Serious students like to draw a plan. They schedule fixed commitments such as lectures, tutorials, sports training, among others. They also allocate time for recreation, socialising, family, and to themselves. But of course for you who doesn’t care about graduation, you don’t need all that.

Just go to bed and wake up without a plan, and no priorities and then you will be one of the most successful failures of all time.

By now you must have known or read, or heard, if you don’t already know, soon you will, that in UCU, only those who attend at least 75 per cent of lectures are eligible to sit for the end of semester exams and of course you must have also heard that you will need at least 17.5 percent of mid-term assessment marks to qualify for the same exams.

Well, again, that is only for those who want to graduate. For those who do not want, all you need to do is go to bed ‘high’ every day. It doesn’t matter if it is alcohol or some banned substance: wake up whenever you want to, sit on the veranda (if any) or balcony depending on where you stay and sun bathe.

Many students report to university only to walk away at the end without graduating (File photo)

When your classmates return to hostel, ask them if they had a test. If the answer is yes, go back to bed and wait to watch them on the red carpet.

The moment you stepped into UCU, you must have noticed one of the tallest buildings next to the Guild offices. It is called the Ham Mukasa Library. Its sitting capacity is over 3,000 with thousands of books and online content.

The catch is only those who want to graduate visit that place often, the ones who think they ‘know it all’. You don’t have to go there at all but this is the part that you will like though, there is unlimited wireless internet. Grab your laptop, get connected and spend the whole day downloading the latest music and movies.

Ensuring that your study area is a pleasant environment is still for only those who want to walk on the red carpet. You don’t have to organise your books, notes or papers so that they are easily accessed. You also don’t need to take or photocopy notes at all, and you don’t need to care about your grades. None of that is necessary if you actually don’t want to graduate.

Soon you will find out that course work can be stressing. Imagine 20 pages of research work with references and citations, too much work! Isn’t campus supposed to be stress free?

Well, there is a brother called Google. He knows almost everything. Simply type anything you want then copy and paste, and then submit, it is the most stress-free way to do things especially when you claim it’s your original work. They call it plagiarism and trust me; it can get you successfully sent away from the university.

Discussion groups can also be very stressful. Imagine you have to attend class, then again go for discussions yet you have google. You don’t need those discussion groups because they only help those who want to graduate. Simple, just keep procrastinating and read when exams come, you will achieve the inevitable, fail to graduate!

Over the years, many have joined the university and achieved this ‘fete’ and lived the dream, they have followed each of the steps above, partied more and studied less, one thing is for sure, they have successfully failed to graduate along with their friends who refuse to take this advice. Enjoy your time in UCU!

The writer is a staff writer and sports editor at The Standard

Treading the right academic journey

AJVLife is a journey and the same can be said of academics. I imagine a time when we could hardly walk, talk, write or even make sense of our surroundings! But surprisingly we have continued to grow physically and academically.

This Advent Semester brings to us yet another new cohort of students. Some will be camped at UCU for two years, three or even four years, depending on the course they are pursuing.

This long period of academic struggle needs a deeper realization of our purpose and objective for our life. Often applicants pray unceasingly to God to be considered for a course.

When we are admitted we feel a fulfilling joy. But as we move by and by, the dangers of getting used to the process set in. This situation is also known as institution and course familiarity.

This situation affects a learner in remaining pegged to the primary objective for achieving the intended goals.

One often gets used to the environment or course that if one is not careful he/she may bow down to poor performance. In life consistency is key, not only in academia but also daily today commitment.

In psychology it is claimed that familiarity breeds contempt! I agree with this notion. However, it is possible to overcome the above dilemma in the following ways:

Keep focused on your primary objective of your end goal. It’s good to continuously reflect on why we are where we are.

Seek for counselling from the Chaplaincy, peers, the counselling and guidance office or career office. This may also download our worries and eventually help us to move forward.

The strategy of life is to always rekindle our zeal or morale. Just like the way a car’s tire can almost deflate only to be brought to life by pumping in new air, so is the academics journey. Amidst all prayer is key.

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus gives us a way out. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you,” he said.

Determination will lead us to the Promised Land if we keep in Christ as he keeps in us by the his grace.

The writer is a lecturer in the Foundations Studies Department at Uganda Christian University

The dark side of social media


In this century, those without smart phones are considered dinosaurs and they are talked about as those ‘left behind by the world’.

But do the ‘connected ones’ ever consider the stress that comes with keeping up with the technological advancements of our time?

While technology eases communication, connects the world and opens doors of trade and commerce, it comes along with a lot of stress and other often unconsidered disadvantages that hinder productivity.

I consider WhatsApp the greatest social and economic evil of the 21st century. 

Just like the Brexit, nobody can fully measure the amount of productive time the global economy losses due to WhatsApp, Facebook and other time-consuming social media platforms.

Think about the amount of time that workers spend on social media. If quantified, this would show a significant loss on national output. An enormous amount of productive time is spent every day on this road to self-destruction.

WhatsApp is addictive as it connects a huge number of people, providing a mechanism for group gossip through the formed groups.

It is not a surprise these days to find that one is a member of 50 WhatsApp groups of varying social connections, which one attends to every day.

Cartoon: The Darkside of Social Media

Add to that another 100 or so individual connections. And these groups have very interesting names: “gogolimbo family”, “the tour experience”, “senior six of 2000”, emeeting at the well”, “Kifefe boys”, “Man U fans”, “singles only”, ncrime preventers allied”, “we are going to Heaven”, “Trump oyee”, “ the bar dwellers”, “politics at glance”, to mention but a few.

I have observed people concentrate on WhatsApp during lectures, in slow traffic, during the sermon at church, and sometimes in meetings!

I have also seen public servants attend to group WhatsApp pages at a time when they are supposed to attend to office duties. Imagine an hour spent on 50 WhatsApp at the expense of one’s expected output at work!

It is also undisputed that WhatsApp has broken marriages and spoilt relationships. In some homes, WhatsApp has taken the position of husband or wife. The attention and care that a partner is entitled to in marriage is now given to the phone or the laptop or whichever gadget is being used.

Children no longer welcome or listen to their parents since that time is replaced by WhatsApp. 

It is not unusual to find a child busy on the phone as their parents talk to them.

It is these social bonds of unity, respect, care, empathy, relationship building, active listening, and companionship that social media has cost us.

As we embrace the wonders of technology, we have got to be careful that it does not cost us our humanity. It requires extraordinary discipline on the side, including the discipline to regulate ourselves on when and where to attend to social media so as to overcome this self-inflicted harm.

It will also require corporate entities to devise means to block the use of social media for their employees whenever they are on duty, sometimes by employing tough measures such as confiscating gadgets during working hours.

Organisations might have to enact policies that regulate this dangerous habit and provide tough sanctions against those in breach, and also ensure that they pay wages commensurate with the amount of work done.

Birungi is a fourth year student of Bachelor of Laws at UCU

Learn to tame your temper at the work place

John Vianney Ahumuza

Managing oneself is one of the greatest tasks of life. Many great men and women who have managed nations and empires have struggled to manage their emotions, especially their temper.

For instance, it is recorded in history accounts that the Macedonian King Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) had an uncontrollable temper that often arose from drinking excessive amounts of wine yet he established one of the greatest empires in the world.

Shaka Zulu, one of the most influential monarchs of the Zulu Kingdom of South Africa, had a wild temper in spite of his successful military adventures and empire formation. It is recorded that upon the death of his beloved mother Nandi, an uncountable number of Zulu people lost their lives during the period of mourning on Shaka’s orders!

These two examples may not be different from modern society’s work places. The tendency to become angry very quickly seems a common phenomenon in work places. However, the ability to control anger is what distinguishes professionals.

There is a gesture known as “golden silence” amidst provocation. Sometimes people provoke us with bad intentions to trap us into error especially when they discover that we have a wild temper. That is why it is always good to overcome such traps through applying rational reasoning.

Adverse effects of lack of control over one’s temper include acts like destroying or damaging organisational property, deleting important files, documents or even locking files up with passwords to deny the organisation access to vital information. This is very bad professionally.

To manage your temper properly in the workplace, try the following:

Think before you act. In the heat of an argument, it is easy to say something you may later regret. Take a moment to gather your thoughts before saying anything, and allow others involved in the situation to do the same.

Additionally, calm down before responding. When you can think clearly again, express your frustration in an assertive but non-confrontational way. State your concerns and needs clearly and directly, without hurting others or trying to control them.

Physical activity can also help reduce stress that can cause you to become angry. Take a brisk walk or run, or spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities.

And some quiet time might help you feel better prepared to handle what is ahead without getting irritated or angry. 

Finally, instead of focusing on what made you angry, work on resolving the issue at hand.

All these options are better than a temper tantrum. It is a sign of professional weakness. Remember Christ gives us the grace to overcome dilemmas. This grace must distinguish us as Christians. And often the public is watching you closely so be mindful of your actions.

The writer is a lecturer at Foundations Studies Department