BY EMMANUEL OKOT
Uganda Christian University (UCU) was last weekend crowned the overall winner of the 11th Annual Higher Education Exhibition 2019 organised by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE).
It was the second consecutive year that the university was ranking the best exhibitor during the same exhibition.
A sharp ululation pierced through UMA showgrounds in Lugogo, Kampala on the quiet hot Saturday evening, after UCU was declared the best exhibitor and called to the podium to pick their certificate.
UCU won the category of Chartered and Public Universities, which is the highest form of accreditation for the Ugandan universities. In the category, UCU was followed by Ndejje University and Uganda Martyrs University, respectively.
The UCU team, led by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Development and External Relation, Mr. David Mugawe, chanted and sang songs praising the Lord.
“The Lord has seen our hard work and suffering. My prayer for UCU is to continue shining; our victory today means that what we do has been noticed,” Mugawe said.
The universities presented a number of innovations in different areas, such as agriculture, where value addition was emphasised at the different stalls.
UCU’s innovation of making juice from vegetables mesmerised many participants. Institutions also showcased innovations in technology, such as the use of modern online teaching methods; and cheap irrigations and water management systems.
Mugawe said it was not by surprise that UCU retained the award and prayed that they continue to retain it, by God’s grace.
Universities were also categorised into provisionally licensed universities and other tertiary institutions.
The University of Kisubi emerged the best among the provisionally licensed universities, followed by ISBAT University.
The theme for the exhibition this year was “Mainstreaming Information and Communications Technology: The Exploitation of Social Media for Higher Education delivery and Management.”
The three-day exhibition that started on Thursday, 21st March was officially opened by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Dr John Muyingo, on Friday afternoon and closed by the Minister for Science, Technology & Innovation, Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye.
Muyingo applauded NCHE and the exhibitors for making the effort and taking time to showcase their programmes to the general public.
He also appealed to universities and other tertiary institutions to avoid running unaccredited academic programmes or getting involved in any activity that contravenes the law.
“We must guarantee the provision of quality, relevant and research-driven education to the general public,” the minister said. Many students and teachers from different schools turned up for the exhibition.
Prof. George Kirya, a former Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University, led the team of judges that assessed the performance at the exhibition.
Prof. Kirya said his team was impressed not only with the numbers, but also by the quality of the exhibition. He urged the government to take a deliberate effort to allocate money, specifically on innovation and research.
Kirya added that research and innovation need to be irrigated.
“Every exhibition has a theme and we awarded marks on the basis of alignment of exhibitions to the theme, level of innovation and presentation, as well as looking into aspects of student-oriented innovation,” Kirya said.
The judges commended UCU for the high level of innovation, alignment to the theme, superior presentation, public relations and customer skills.
Tumwesigye observed that the world’s richest men and women are those who embraced ICT. He urged the universities to take innovation and research as a pre-requisite.
“I visited Russia and the United Kingdom recently and you can’t imagine the level of research and innovation they are undertaking,” Tumwesigye said, observing that without ICT, countries are nothing.
“That is why my docket is struggling to cement a tie between Ugandan universities and other international universities, so that we can borrow a leaf out of their book,” he said.
He also urged various learning institutions to teach learners what will be absorbed by the market.
Sebaggala Kigozi, the board chairperson of NCHE, said the council is working on monitoring university activity digitally because the prospect of higher education success contributes to the holistic development of the country.
“I believe in the digital era and I know that everybody agrees with me that without digitalising your system, you may miss out,” Kigozi said.
Dr. Nora Mulira, the Director of Research at NCHE, urged the government to review taxes that hinder accessibility to the Internet for easy access to higher learning institution to aid innovation and research.
“Hon. Minister, you are here, and I hope our outcry can reach the government, unnecessary taxes on Internet and social media will limit institutions and students from research and innovation,” Mulira said.
Connie Musisi, the career development and placement manager at UCU, who doubled as the team leader for the various departments that took part in the exhibition, said that what made them win was that they put God first and other things followed.
“Our tradition is God first and the rest follow. I am happy, and I want to say thank you all who represented us,” Musisi said.
Earlier, on Saturday, UCU vice-chancellor, Dr. John Senyonyi, who was present at the exhibition, noted that the exhibition is a great initiative because it helps students joining the universities to know what lies ahead of them.