Eleven percent of the first-year students that joined the university this semester found out about it through the career outreach programmes, a survey carried out by the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Career Development and Placement office at the main campus, Mukono, has said.
The career development office has been conducting outreaches in secondary schools countrywide since 2014. Although none was conducted in 2015, they resumed in 2016 between March and August. The survey was done to find out the impact of the programme.
“From a sample size of 500 first-year students who were asked a series of questions including howtheyfoundoutabout UCU, it shows that the outreaches impacted 56 of the 500 test subjects to come to UCU,” reads the report from the Career Development and Placement Officer, Connie Musisi, in part.
“Career outreach and exhibitions came in fourth place to other sources like friends and relatives, students and staff of UCU; and the media (radio, television and newspapers) respectively,” the survey says.
Ms Musisi informed The Standard that the outreach was a success.
“Given that the careers office has been in place for three years and we have done only two outreaches, the fact that we captured that many students is a bigsuccess for us,” she said.
Mr Alex Taremwa, one ofthecontributorsto the university outreach programme, said that the programme is aimed at improving the corporate social responsibility endeavours of the institution by extending career guidance to students in upper level secondary schools.
“The 2016 outreach ran under the theme ‘Making Hostilic Career Choices’ in different districts around Uganda such as Arua, Koboko, Bushenyi, Mbarara,Kabale,Gulu, Oyam, Lira, Mbale, Kapchwora, among others,” Taremwa said.
Some of the topics covered included drug abuse, sex education, health and hygiene, career development and academics. The Standard has learnt will be launched next topics than the previous that the next session of year. This will be one, in a bid to reach more the outreach programme packaged with more students countrywide.
And so on a rainy morning of April 1, the career outreach team landed in western Uganda’s capital, Mbarara. The team had two new team members: Patrick Lugemwa and Doreen Kajeru.
Lugemwa is an outgoing man, his beards were trimmed and his eyes deep set staring with a good dose of humour and he just had a lot to say.
Fools Day prank
Enter Ronald Awany with a phonecall: “I have got a scholarship at the University of Manchester to pursue my Master’s degree. I will be leaving this August,” he said.
“Wow!” I exclaimed. “This is great news, Ronnie. I am very proud of you. Congratulations! Go show the Britons what we are made of,” I added jubilantly.
The above comments we made in utter ignorance that April 1 was Fools Day. Ronnie, a colleague at The Standard, had not been admitted for the MA; he succeeded in fooling me and my promise for vengeance against him still stands.
As a resident of Mbarara, I offered to show the team around. I took them to Baguma Restaurant on Kakoba road, where we would have lunch. The food at this restaurant costs a uniform price (shs10,000) inclusive of drinks.
Many opted for thick millet porridge locally known as ekitiribiita but I settled for banana juice (eshande ). While I was little, my parents would make this juice for us out of yellow bananas and I loved it. I would sneak into the house to sip an extra cup or two when they were away.
Mbarara was calm as always. Apart from politicians’ posters hanging on every street corner of the town, nothing seemed different since my last visit.
We visited Mary Hill High School, St. Joseph’s Vocational School and set a date with Ntare School and Mbarara High School for the following day.
Despite making an impromptu visit to St. Joseph’s, the powers that be remembered me from six years back.
“OB,” the deputy headmaster shouted before he gave me a hug. I visited the burial ground of Bishop Emeritus, John Baptist Kakubi who had passed on February 11, 2016 at 86 years. Kakubi was the Bishop of Mbarara Diocese between 1969 and 1991 and he was a great witness for Christ.
Fast forward to Kabale. The debate of whether this southwestern town is the Switzerland of Uganda is yet to be settled but from an aesthetic standpoint, the scenery is breathtaking. It is apparent that God became extra creative when he got to designing this part of the world as his hand is visible in every aspect.
Although I had been to Kabale before, I had never got the courage to use the bicycle boda-bodas there. This time I did though and I enjoyed them, soon after our visit to
St. Mary’s College Rushoroza The bicycle boda-boda experience was memorable.
Besides being affordable, the riders have endless conversation that keeps the passenger, especially who speaks the native language, entertained. If Kisoro had not been so hilly, I would have opted to travel by bicycle there too.
Kisoro is 63 kilometres from Kabale, a one-hour and 50-minutes drive through the bamboo forests, steaming mountains, steep mountains and suicidal corners and bends. The roads crisscross the hills in a manner mankind cannot comprehend. The drivers have to stay very alert.
Suffering from acrophobia (fear of heights), I would not even gather the courage to gaze at the cliffs but the people who live there have adapted both to the weather and the landscape. Their houses dot the steep hills with silver roofs and their agricultural systems compliment the beautiful hillsides.
This is where even atheists pause and reflect on the existence of the great God whose existence they doubt. From vantage points, one can catch a glimpse of the deep Lake Bunyonyi, and Mt Muhavura, key physical features in the region. It was a rainy day in Kisoro. In fact it rained four times that day in this part of Uganda famous for the Mgahinga National Park and the gorillas there.
This was my favourite trip across this our motherland.
Every morning begins the same for me: jogging, coffee, a crossword puzzle and a flip through the papers on my mobile phone, writes Alex Taremwa.
But there have been forced changes to this routine in the past three months as I traversed the country ,courtesy of the Uganda Christian University (UCU) Career Development and Placement office inspiring young people in secondary schools about making holistic career choices.
To prepare for life on the road, I packed three novels, a camera, two lenses, sneakers and the journalist’s companions – notebook and pen. On the first day I was up at 5 am but still I missed my transport.
The rest of the team had left without me and 1,000 copies of the best university community newspaper in East and Central Africa, The Standard .
Unaware of my predicament, I walked into the office and made a mug of coffee, which I sipped as I skimmed through the social media news feed.
At 6:30am, I decided to reach out to one of the members on the career team only to be informed that they were already in Jinja! Fast forward, the vehicle made a U-turn picked me and we were soon Arua bound.
Most of this 12-hour journey was used to compensate for my lost sleep. I woke up after every hour or so to alert a friend I made on the journey, Joseph Omonya, to the need to eat something. Joseph slept for most of the journey!
At Karuma Falls I tried to take a picture of the beautiful waters but I was warned that it was illegal. How then can I market Uganda’s tourism features without showing visual evidence?
The threat of arrest notwithstanding, I managed to capture the scenery and soon I was asleep again.
Kampala-Arua is the farthest I have ever travelled by road and my patience wore thin with every passing kilometre. At some point when Vianney woke up from a seemingly disturbing dream, he murmured, “210kms to go!” I wished he had stayed asleep, how discouraging!
At midnight we finally made our entry into Arua town and checked in at California Hotel where we camped for the next eight days. The hotel was food free, electricity free and soon would be water free but the people were the opposite; welcoming, warm and friendly.
By the power vested in me, by me, I conferred a PhD in ironing using charcoal, to one of the team members. Over the days I saw why electricity had little relevance in this area. Sadly the same did not apply to water.
The resource was so badly needed yet scarce! Possibly that is why every smallest water body in Arua is called a river? So I made a mental note to sensitise the populace there about the difference between stream, tributary and river next time I visit.
The hissing trees
One morning we set out to visit Yivu High School. All of us, except our navigator, Gilbert Adrapi, did not know where we were headed. After driving 55 kms out of town with no sight of a school, we were perplexed.
“Gilbert, where is the school we are going to?” a team member inquired. “Just here,” Gilbert responded pointing ahead. The ‘just ahead’ turned out to be another 20kms away so we consoled ourselves with views of communal huts, fuel sold by the roadside in mineral water bottles, ox ploughing and others breastfeeding.
When we arrived at the school we were welcomed by a hissing sound. It was as though there were hundreds of snakes in the trees.
The sound intensified in tandem with the speed of wind. I then noticed that the sound came from a species of trees the school had planted in the compound. Since I did not have a lot of time to learn names of the trees, I named them – white explorer style – the ‘hissing trees of Arua’.
There is boundary line between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is found at Vurra, in West Nile.
After visiting a school close to the border, the team unanimously agreed to cross the border on foot. We thought this would be a walk in the park, but then again we had not factored in the formalities required for the stroll.
The welcome on the Ugandan side was customary. We were ushered into packing, shown into the border police station for formal introductions. After we made our intentions known, a young man in his mid-20s offered two things free of charge: to walk us to the no-man’s land and to inform us that no pictures, sneezing or short calls were allowed across the line without a nod from the DRC officials. Talk of freedom and good neighborliness!
Not much fazed, we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless. Standing on that land not claimed by anyone, we sipped our beverages and felt like international free men and women. The DRC officials later allowed us a brief tour of their side of the border, but still insisted that I take no photos and as a law-abiding fellow, I obliged.
Ox-tail and walking stick matooke
We later strolled into O&S Restaurant for lunch and I immediately scanned the menu items and corresponding prices. There I landed on this rare item, the oxtail, which in all honesty I was afraid to try but cunningly asked a colleague to try so I could see what it actually looked like.
I signalled the waitress and ordered for the ‘normal stuff’; beef stew matooke and rice and then switched my attention back to the television. Soon
Vianney’s ox-tail arrived and I remember saying that it would take him two hours to clear the plate. “That cannot be just a tail,” I whispered to a neighbour who was busy charging his phone.
My order arrived just in time to save my taste buds, which were now about to lose the patience strugggle. However, I noticed the matooke looked strange. When I atempted a bite, the matooke was so hard and dry that I could use one as a walking stick if I wanted to.
After one or two fingers, I settled for enyasa (millet paste) and anyoya (a boiled mixture of maize and beans).
The team left Arua town at 5:30am in order to be in Kampala before nightfall. This was in a bid to get a few days of rest before heading for eastern Uganda, the next stop on our regional tour.
Nyero paintings; a blend of God and the Batwa
My geography lessons had introduced me to the Nyero Rock paintings in theory. But I had never been to there physically. So on our way to Serere, I asked the team if we could make a stop-over in Kumi to see the famous rock paintings dating to before 1250 AD. The paintings, largely attributed to the Batwa indigenous people, are a great tourist attraction.
They stretch out over six different rocks but we only managed to visit three, one of which is believed to be for fertility. After feeding my eyes on the rocks and how meticulously they are placed, I was convinced that they were really one of God’s great creations.
The following day was spent in Kapchorwa, a hilly and equally rocky area that forces roads to snake through the hills at the mercy of the driver.
It takes brave souls to withstand the sharpness of the corners and the chills they send down one’s spine. The Sebei region, unlike West Nile, has good matooke to the extent that some of the team members who had been brought up in predominantly matooke growing areas bought a few bunches to bring home.
The matooke might have been good but I could not say the same about the roads. Our transport came to a standstill in Bukwo District through to Chemwaniya High School when the vehicle failed to climb a slippery hill on a dry sunny day. Extra manpower had to be used to enable us make it to our destination on time. Sadly, we did not stop by the Sipi Falls but from a distance I could hear the water roll over the rocks.
The Uganda Christian University career outreach team recently traversed northern Uganda districts such as Lira, Oyam, Gulu, Pader, Kitgum and other neighbouring areas, to guide learners and teachers on making holistic career choices.
As every learner begins the long journey of pursuing your dream career, the subjects offered at O-level define the ladders to be followed in realizing that dream. Then comes two years of A-level pursuit, defined by choice of the selected combination
This stage is very critical in defining a career choice. The way one performs at A-level will usher one into a particular course at a tertiary institution. That decision of course eventually catapults the student into future professional practice and for some that will be their dream career realized.
In short for many, life begins and ends with knowing and realising a dream career. Short of achieving this may result in low output at work, frustration and grumbling.
This semester brings to UCU yet another cohort of new students. To some it is the first step on the journey of their dream career. For others it may be total frustration because they are undertaking a course contrary to their dream.
As a young student, my dream was to become a lawyer. I ensured that the back covers of my primary and secondary school books were decorated with this ambition. But at the end of my A-level, the story changed.
I was admitted to a Bachelors of Arts with Education degree. So I quickly changed my mind to focus on yet another dream of joining the military. In fact I stayed in the hostel an extra three weeks waiting to be recruited.
Every week the reporting dates were postponed. One week later, though I was called to report at home for some urgent assignment, by the time I came back all my friends’ phones were off and the rooms closed. I had missed recruitment (both my friends are captains in the air force now).
It is then that I realised that God wanted me to serve him the biblical Jonah way. I have since devoted my life to the teaching profession. This is a calling I do wholeheartedly. I am sometimes convinced that God inspires us to our dream career.
D e t e r m i n a t i o n , good performance and discipline are key. Remember, at university level degrees are classified according to performance. This is not different from shortlisting candidates for interviews!
My advice to new students is that your life is bigger than your imagination; follow your dream and live it.
The writer is a lecturer in the Foundation Studies Department
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