Monday, 23 March 2015

THE RE-UNION: 3 THINGS I LEARNT IN OMBACI

Every year on 19th march when the catholic church honours saint Joseph, the husband of the blessed virgin Mary and the foster father of our lord Jesus Christ, patron of the universal church the school is named after, St Joseph’s college Ombaci becomes a beehive of activity as hundreds of old boys flock to their alma-mater to attend the popular Re-union. This year was not different as old boys from all walks of life turned up for the interface with the students and the staff. This year’s celebration fell on Saturday 21st March and saw many Old boys, a couple of muni girls (we call them OG’s) in attendance, we take a look at the 3 things I learnt at Ombaci while we visited.
The anthem is sung much faster these days
One old boy once joked ‘There are two things that distinguish a student from Ombaci from the others, he is a bachelor and he knows how to fry (in Jikko)’ and this is always the case when students clinch their fists and punch the air as they sing their beloved anthem, ‘Oh lord, I am a Bachelor boy, I am a bachelor boy from St Joscom’ this year the experience was different as the students sung with a lot of energy, sang faster and stood up on their feet rather hastily as though they were some sort of robots.
Late John folklore
For any former resident of Jerusalem, the name late john invokes some sort of haunting memory, near the entrance of the dormitory now turned entertainment centre, the patch of concrete squarely the size of an ordinary grave stands out and on it is a mark ‘Late John 1989’ two tales were told one that the patch is in fact a mass grave in which tens of people were buried after the Ombaci massacre, this for obvious reasons had a deeply disquieting or disturbing effect on all of us,  the other tale is that since the school started out as a technical school in 1949, Jerusalem was a garage and that  patch was a pit for repairing automobiles, whichever tale you believe, but be rest assured late John folklore is abiding.
Is Headmaster Andrew Tumwesige the new professor Dumbledore?
Professor Albus Dumbledore of the Harry porter fame, was a tall, thin and very old, judging by the silver of his hair and beard, wore long robes, was often known as the greatest head master of all time who tried to see the good in anybody and respected the fact that one should be assessed by his actions rather than their blood or birth, many parallels have been drawn between this mythical book character and Mr. Juruga Augustine, arguably the greatest headmaster of Ombaci because of his keen and gentle approach, The old boys fraternity honoured Mr Andrew Tumwesige with a meritorious award for being outstanding despite the strikes, challenges et cetera and unlike prof Dumbledore who was often cheered by the students at Hogwarts, the students of Ombaci just didn’t clap when their HM walked up to take his award, whereas students and some few people available kept on muttering, in the eyes of the Old boys Association, Mr. Andrew Tumwesige was evolving into prof. Dumbledore of some sort.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

MUK PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS; WHAT WOULD 18 MILLION DO FOR YOU?

You are walking down university road and suddenly a tennis bag drops out of a speeding SUV and in it are a bundle of well stashed 50,000 bills, carefully packed, you are gobsmacked, you look side ways to confirm somebody really didn’t see what you saw, at first you are tempted into thinking it is a bomb dropped at your feet by a certain Al-shabab or its affiliates but you remember the air tight security at the gates can’t let that pass, so something tickles you a little, it’s the cats familiar hobby, curiosity. Takes up your mind and you fearfully open the bag so as to peep inside, Bingo!!! It’s paper!! You hurriedly rush to the Faculty of Social Sciences toilet, you bolt the door and silently start scrutinizing the bills, you count rather hastily and you find they are exactly 360 bills bundled in 18’s. Imagine that was you; imagine you were 18 million shillings richer. What is the first purchase that comes to mind? Would you continue to eat at Hajjat’s Kikoni restaurant, would you buy your girlfriend a brand new phone, would you invest it in your classmates favourite business idea, would you help offset your friends tuition deficit, would you buy a stake in a USE listed firms, or would you invest it in the MUK presidential Elections.
This is the same question my contemporary asked when such news filtered about our very own Hon. Mwine Musa who is currently running for president in the MUK Guild Elections, the rumour alleges that while he served as the president of Makerere Engineering Society, him and his executive team pocketed 18 million, part of the money budgeted for students project at the Annual CEDAT Open Day Fair, make no mistake!! I am an ardent subscriber of the policies of the society, I am a great admirer of the great work the society has been up to lately, notwithstanding let us have a sneak peak at what a student, a Makerere university student in particular can do with 18 million shillings.
Tuition for a full engineering degree for two
The average undergraduate engineering student at the College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology coughs up 1,155,000 shillings in tuition per semester and by the time they would be lining up at freedom square for their graduation, they would have spent a collective fee of 9,240,000 shillings or look at it this way, you can use that money to train four teachers at this university, a bachelor of arts degree in education is just under 700,000 shillings per semester, by the time four students clear out their desk at the School of Education, they would have credited the university account with about 17 million.
Run a successful campaign at MUK.
Shortly after H.E Bwowe Ivan got an overwhelming majority in last year’s guild polls, rumour spread around, and they do spread very first on campus, that an astute business minded fellow, on realizing the potential in Bwowe’s unparalleled abilities to win this race, bet out a whole load of cash on his candidature, and luckily enough the young democrat though independent then, won the elections.
The cost of successfully running a meaningful election at the university is upwards of 50 m but the impact of having an extra 18 million cheque to bolster your campaigns should not be underestimated.
Buy a proprietary software start-up at CoCIS
Proprietary software apps that eventually offers businesses an affordable local alternative to solving challenges while bridging the telecommunication gap in medicine, science, engineering are the way to go, tens of students at Makerere University are coming up with apps such as winsenga, nLight Flashlight, ffene, Word book, WhirlSports et cetera that solve serious problems in society.
The growing population and the increasing cost of acquiring legit softwares have made tech start-ups  a much sought after commodity, therefore for those who think long time, an 18 million cheque can buy you a tech start-up from the student laptops at CoCIS to an upscale office in a certain silicon valley look alike serene environment in Ntinda.
Start up your favourite childhood company
The cost of registering a private limited company in Uganda all the way from name reservation to allocating share capital to acquiring lawyers to draft company books is just under 6,000,000 assuming you start with a capital of 5m at least, having got a blank cheque worthy 18 million why wouldn’t you register your firm, procure furniture and an office, hire a secretary and spend the balance to chase deals or jobs for the company.
Buy 35,000 shares in UMEME
On the USE bourse, the UMEME share has stagnated at a flat rate of 500/= for days, this implies that with 18m you could own up about 36,000 of the 622.38m shares issued at their IPO and you become part of the 23.75 % individual share holders in the company, this will eventually guarantee you a profit of over 800,000 a year in dividend payments assuming the company maintains its 25/= per share payout annually.
For a student looking at life from your senile grandfather’s perspective, and with an 18m cheque they would consider that as a worthwhile venture.
Your girlfriend’s new apparels
It would be totally unfair for me to ignore the laissez-faire type who always thinks about their partner rather liberally, whether they are feasting on a ‘hot rolex’ or munching a burger, they always want to appease their partners at all costs. Probably because you are tired of the pushing and hand pulling down town Owino, you’ll head straight to mainstream Kampala and check in at Sylvia Owori boutique and buy your girlfriend handmade latest apparel, some classy gold coated watches, fitting shoes and some lingerie at just 5 million or less.
Leave out the Muyindi at your peril
The word Muyindi in Uganda is synonymous with sports betters, for the bare fact that most sports betting firms are Asian owned with most proprietors being Indian, The phrase, "It takes money to make more money" comes in handy, you’ll ask that first year student that dropped out of school because he had spent the whole of his tuition on sports betting, a bogus Chelsea versus QPR English premier league game in which Chelsea was beaten a goal to nil in January of 2013, that one. Most students would take a portion of the 18 million and stake some of it on a ticket with the hope of creating more wealth (for lack of a better word).
I do not want to delve so much on whether Hon. Mwine Musa toke the money or not, the college principal can do an authentic audit, my interest is to give a business sense into the whole allegations by enumerating the things one would buy with that money allegedly taken by Mwine Musa and his executives from the coffers of Makerere Engineering Society.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

WHY I WOULD VOTE FOR ABIRIGA IN 2016


The afternoon is tense with dust and a crowd of people starts to swell in the least affluent Tongilo business area of Arua, from a distant mosque the singsong call to prayer shoots through the buzzing town, some youth are lined up on one of the streets, chewing khat and indulging in drunkenness and on another a group of meretricious boda-boda riders hoot incessantly ahead of 30 or so women most of them draped in kitenges emerging from one of the streets chanting ‘Abiriga oyee’ and ‘NRM oyee’ slogans over and over again.
Ibrahim Abiriga it is understood plans to run for the Arua municipality member of parliament seat come 2016, the year many local pundits predict Arua will properly evaluate its politicians and librate the performers and non-performers and when that time of reckoning comes, be sure to find the controversial Abiriga’s name on the ballots.
Maj. retired Abiriga is a man who is known widely for his frankness than his exploits with the gun, after having been appointed the Resident District Commissioner of Arua by President Museveni in 2008, the die-hard NRM supporter is no stranger to contravery, in his tenure at the helm of government business in Arua he clashed, allegedly assaulted and even had many political nemesis arrested for reasons as scrimpy as challenging him at a radio talk show.
Not much is known about Abiriga’s past but I understand the then Capt. Abiriga was a member of the defunct West Nile Bank Front rebel outfit that terrorized the west Nile region in the 1990’s. After hanging up his gun he was quickly absolved and integrated into the UPDF at the rank of the captain, His love for the ruling NRM didn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be, he rose through the ranks to become the notorious RDC that many know today. He has a knack for following orders just like any soldier would be and his love for courting controversy is an open invitation for scrutiny; anybody would at one point love to assess the performance of their leaders, wouldn’t you?
According to Groucho Marx, politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies, whereas the former is a superlative befitting Abiriga, the latter is an exaggeration considering that he is a man who delivers and hardly minces his words.
Corruption is everywhere, and fighting this vice needs not anti-corruption laws and institution but rather honest leaders with the attitude and conduct befitting of a leader of people. For many times in his tenure Abiriga demonstrated that he has a knack for identifying and uprooting the evil vice. In 2012 Abiriga openly castigated the police CID of Arua for failing to investigate and arrest the then D.E.O Nicolas Tembo on mismanagement of UPE funds for a local school. Quite frankly it takes a fella with ‘balls’ to taunt a corrupt government official.
Many critics contend that Abiriga’s albatross is his frankness and no nonsense attitude, his rebuttal of the religious leaders about restoration of term limits did as much harm to his reputation as there could be, He cleverly cited the bible and the Qur'an as books that don’t have any mention of presidential term limits and wondered why the religious leaders hold a lot of power and reign supreme over their followers. Enter Atiku Bernard the popular and much loved Member of parliament for Ayivu county, Details had emerged that Gen Salim Saleh intended to grab land in Barifa Forest, The former quickly organized his constituents and a demonstration was in the offing, however the police did quite a job quelling it, Although the actions and the comments that followed were un desirable, Abiriga demonstrated what few politicians can do, talk big and walk the talk, anyway the rest is history.
Abiriga is widely viewed to the less privileged members of the population as a man of the people, often politicians ignore the masses when elected into office, Democracy is an expensive venture because all the time a politician or a party spends a reasonable amount of time and resources trying to demonize their opponents with a view of selling themselves as the most competent, this strains the politicians and they out of utter frustration shun their electorate only to appear when the polls are near, in other wards in democratic Africa voters are exploited based on their ignorance and poverty,  Whether Abiriga will be like them remains to be seen but I think in his tenure he’ll attract a lot of support from  the ruling NRM government to Arua, He should be able to identify opportunities for the youth and the elderly.
Many a politician in this era will coin a language, for lack of a better word we will call it lies, they will make it sound truthful, in this political language they’ll say anything that will get them to parliament, some will promise dams and others will tell tales of how they will build hospitals and schools as if it is a mean feat, the few wealthy will have medical clinics organized to treat the sickly citizen’s only to fall back to their luxurious apartments in Kampala, considering his distaste for vanity atleast a lot of it, Abiriga will tell you what he’ll do and that’s it.
The middle class is on the rise in Arua, the social class is widening thanks to the entrepreneurial opportunities in the nearby DRC and Sudan, This will be Abiriga’s Achilles heel because he is known to find fault with the technocrats and educated folk, he will find a lot of resistance in his bid to become the next member of parliament for Arua Municipality, Sometimes for a community to develop the elite must re-examine their conscience and understand and accept the uniqueness of everybody and circumstances prevailing, this will pave way for positive criticism and upsurge of developmental ideas.
God luck Maj. Retired Ibrahim Abiriga, in case you choose to represent Arua Municipality in 2016 be sure you have my one vote.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

LETTER TO MY FRIEND IN KIKONI:‘MES’ IS THIS THE DEATH OF INTELLECTUALISM??


If you are out there and you still believes that the school of engineering is a hub of intellectualism, or whether this institution is a fountain of knowledge, if you wonder if the students here are a beacon of admiration, then you should think again, considering what transpired at the MES open debate in the conference hall on Wednesday 20th March 2013, I fear for the worst.

When the Electoral commission decided it was honorably enough to subject the MES candidates to an open debate, It was clear to all of us that a moment had arrived for us to chart out a new course of democracy, a moment where the choices of the students would reflect the commitment and dedication of our leaders but to my chagrin a dark cloud had darted our sky, Hooliganism and tales of indecency had replaced political maturity that was bound to ignite a lot of intellectual feelings and debate.

The Engineering society is engulfed in a crisis unprecedented, from concerns of financial impropriety to apparent neglect of the citizenry, a nearly flawed leadership transformation process where some candidates found out very late that they did not qualify, all these are consequence of incompetence on the part of some, but also the failure by the students collectively to make strong choices and decisions. As we make considerations on how to work closely with the leadership we elected to steer us into this new era, we should recognize with profoundness the willingness of these leaders to find meaning in something greater than themselves, that willingness to forgo lectures because one is coordinating a students workshop, the courage to challenge the college administration’s very unpopular policies and the hope that the silent voices of the least outspoken students have a louder voice tucked somewhere in them to speak for us, such is the MES we all want.
It should be understood that it is not only the skill and vision of the leaders in the bamboo house that has for the very many years propelled MES to its full functionality but rather the ideology of its members, that a First year Telecommunication Engineering student can come up with an award-winning project or that a final year Electrical Engineering student doesn’t only look up at UMEME for a salaried job but desires to be a job creator themselves, such determination has and is what the society desires.

Incompetence of the Electoral Commission
The recently concluded guild elections if anything should have been a credible source of edification on how a free and fair election should have been, an electoral process where no candidate is above the rule of law, where the slightest divergence from ethics is not tolerated, but such was different from the CEDAT electoral commission, lapses in management of the electoral process where observed when the commissioners failed miserably in their attempts to prevent rowdy supporters of rival candidates from being a nuisance in the open debate, campaigns on the polling day at the polling stations, interference and distraction of voters on the polling day and concerns about cheating and conspiracy to deny the students a chance to choose the candidates they want after it turned out that the number of people who voted exceeded the votes cast for some candidates, however the commission scored highly for the well made shirts and blouses the commissioners wore on election day
The unusual spectra which occurred when the organizers of the debate nearly stopped one candidate Mr. Onam Namakoola from taking to the podium because he failed to put money in the culture box should not have happened, such acts of impunity should not be tolerated because an institutionally organized open debate is a not an avenue to exercise financial might to sustain incumbent leaders’ greed but a battle ground for ideology and brilliant intellectualism as opposed to populism

Congratulations, Mr. President
The term opportunity cost is widely considered to be an alternative forgone every time a choice is made and in the recently concluded MES polls, the alternative foregone for you Mr. President was immense, for some it meant disagreements with friends and acquaintances while for others it was a case of conflicting loyalty. This cost then was paid by the more than 70%  students who overwhelmingly voted for you and now is shouldered by the rest of the Engineering fraternity, we all contend that the challenges you face are many and real, and that they are not about talking and authoring long letters on notice boards but folding your shirt sleeves and getting to work, from the MES afternoons to integration of innovativeness and earning us back the trust we vested in you because the affairs of the MES demand for a compulsory effort to transform the society into an admired institution where integrity and accountability are inevitable.

To the entire new executive, we are proud that you emerged victorious and gave us options to choose from as Engineering students and for those that didn’t win; we say you triumphed in your pursuit of the truth and of democracy. This is my debate.


LETTER TO MY FRIEND IN KIKONI: OPEN LETTER TO MY LECTURER


Dear lecturer
I have always agreed that the remarkable story of success that is, Makerere University has been propelled by the energy and built by the hands and resolve of people who have always asked hard questions that we the very students asked the moment we decided to take up the challenge of this great nation when we choose to study at the ivory tower-such is what distinguishes a student from Makerere University from a student of any other university like kyambogo, Ndejje or Nkozi, this desire has enabled the university to roll out the first home-made vehicle in the name of Kiira EV, led to the development of cost effective sanitary pads in the name of MAKpads, and the beginning of a new era of un-precendented technological advancement in the country to mention but a few and just last semester celebrations rocked the University when it was commemorating its 90th birthday and indeed we ask what will be spoken of this great hill at its 100th anniversary.
It has been  two weeks now since we last saw you in class, I recall very well with profoundness that day you made a decision not to deliver lectures to our class because the class was way beyond what you are supposed to handle in terms of numbers, and further more because the administration had failed to avail you with the necessary facilities for laboratory study, by standing up and doing what many lecturers could not do or better still by walking where angels could not trod-to walk out on 140 students or more is hilarious and admirable, to me it shows that you are mindful about the quality of people that get trained through your hands, however attention is brought to you to reflect on the plight of the student that rightfully deserves this knowledge because they paid a penny or so for this education they badly need.
Whereas it would be unrealistic not to delve into the issues that prompted you into abandoning our class, I feel mention should be made of some of the likely causes of this problem
Last year it is estimated that more than 40 students failed this course unit and were required to retake the course the next time it was offered which is this year, why do students really get retakes? Three reasons are extended to this argument, firstly that the students cannot comprehend the entails of the course unit; secondly that the lecturers are not good enough to be understood well by the students vis-à-vis the mode of dispensation or that the environment created is not convenient enough for such a course because I refuse to believe there could be such a thing as a hard course unit- a just cause to review the education status quo
It should also be understood that innovations made right here in the College of Engineering, Design Art and Technology will one day impact on the life of people in great proportions, an engineering student who publishes a paper about the relevance of using rice husks as an additive in pavement construction could attract the attention of a certain road engineer who's working on a similar design in the Works Ministry and a professor who makes a breakthrough in developing geo-technical data could save hundreds from mudslides in Bududa and such is what the nation expects from us, infact everybody at Makerere University
Therefore the hours you spend with us in class not only have the potential to improve the lives of students and their families but they also offer the nation a great opportunity to develop new ideas that will lead to creation of new jobs and development of this country as the motto states ‘we build for the nation’ and by getting to class, you're doing your nation a great honor
Think about what the nation was like only thirty years ago, when there were about 100 students in College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, then Faculty of Technology and there was only the old technology  building, back then, the big challenge was just to sit through class up to your final year and if you could graduate or not you would be assured of a job but the world has surely changed since then and today even a first class degree doesn't guarantee a job and as if that is not enough the cost of acquiring education here has risen by leaps and bounds
In light of your concern I believe it is paramount for a student wishing to be a relevant engineer to acquire the necessary theoretical and near practical skills provided for by the university that way we will be sure that new opportunities will be created amidst enormous competition because Universities like kyambogo ,Ndejje and UCU are churning out more qualified and technically able engineering graduates who can compete directly with ease in this generation, the latter posses greater comparative advantage over the former and if we need Makerere University to stay on top, we'll need great commitment by the students, lecturers and every stake holder to better and improved theoretical education and practical training relevant for the demands of this generation.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

LETTER TO MY FRIEND IN KIKONI: WE WILL TAKE BACK OUR ‘MES’

The school of engineering will soon find out if it will be the proud academic abode of the next guild president of Makerere University in today’s Guild polls in what is seen by many as an opportunity for science and technology students to adventure and set sail on the political scene previously dominated by social and political scientists, lawyers and economists et el.
The fact that the school of engineering boasts of six contenders for the position of GRC where only two persons are required to represent the constituency in the August house is an indication that interest is greatly shifting to the previously shunned political leadership
Makerere University has positioned itself as one of the best universities in Africa in the recent past with the web-metrics survey indicating an upward improvement to the 8th best university in Africa, and if the recent hub of innovation is something to go by, It’s college of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology is only second to none in fostering innovation, invention and human resource enrichment, an ingredient that is greatly lacking in many of the graduands churned out from many Ugandan universities
Makerere Engineering Society has registered tremendous success in linking students to the outside world through exhaustive campaigns to widely market the students however the efficacy of some of these policies need to be re-thought 

MES AFTERNOONS
These social interactive sessions organized in the conference hall were like a breath of fresh air on a hot afternoon, sections of all engineering students would assembly to engage in discussions and listen to keynote speakers while being entertained and refreshed at the same time, but the occurrence of these famous afternoons is as rare as seeing Professor Baryamureba on campus these days

PROJECT FUNDING
Last term at the CEDAT open day complains arose out of the manner in which the then project coordinator financially supported student projects, in some instances a mean looking gentleman would walk over to your project site at the tent and ask an exhibitor how much the project cost and would then proceeded to hand them any amount prescribed at their discretion.

ENGINEERING JOURNAL
Many student projects vanish in thin air moments after exhibition, this calls for a forum that will serve as a platform for showcasing the numerous skills and techniques transformed from theoretical knowledge obtained in class, therefore an engineering journal or magazine would come in handy and this would be a positive step towards marketing the engineering brand of Makerere university
The plight of an engineering student who subscribes to the society is highlighted in our non ceasing desire to see the best service directed towards the students cause and whoever is interested in any leadership in the society whether it being at the helm or in the lower echelons should be able to harmonize their position with the needs and expectations of the student they serve
Furthermore the leadership should be made more and easily accessible as well as accountable to encourage dialogue and interaction or else we will always roar with one voice ‘we will take back our MES’