COVID: Makerere adjusts academic calendar, teaching methods

Thursday, 3 December 2020 - 3:10pm

Uganda's biggest and oldest university, Makerere University has revised its academic calendar, adjusting major events including semester period and duration, graduation dates, holidays and recess term. The move follows the unprecedented nationwide closure of academic institutions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected the academic calendar.

The revised calendar was approved by the university senate in a special sitting held on Friday last week. Information issued by the academic registrar’s office shows that applicants from the August intake will report for studies on January 30, 2021, and study for 13 weeks instead of seventeen weeks.

The group will break off in May for a week and resume on May 15, 2021, for semester two. The calendar also shows that senior candidates who will sit their finals in March 2021 will be admitted in September 2021. They will also study for three months and break off on December 18, 2021.

This is expected to close the gap caused by the lockdown by January 22, 2022, when the students will return to allow things to return to normal. Prof Umar Kakumba, the Makerere University deputy vice-chancellor in-charge of academic affairs, says they intend to integrate online and physical classes while observing the standard operating procedures. 

“The calendar we have produced is subject to the government’s decision on school reopening. All we are doing is preparing for all possibilities such that in all circumstances we keep engaging our learners,” said Prof Kakumba.    

He says that fresh students will be required to study under the open, distance and e-learning arrangement, adding that they intend to have a full orientation program teaching the new entrants how they can use the e-learning platform.    

“A laptop is mandatory equipment for all learners per their admission forms. And the good thing is that the first-course units and not so much practical, they can be handled on ODeL [Open Distance E-Learning]  or blended. That might be the new normal but if the physical classes are allowed, well and good,” he said.  

Prof Kakumba notes that semesters for the continuing students will also be harmonized following the same academic calendar. Saul Waigolo, public relations officer in the National Council for Higher Education says it’s good for the institution to plan ahead but they must be within the recommended guidelines.

Media reports indicate that government intends to allow another 3 classes to resume school in 2021 after previously allowing candidates and university finalists to return and complete their studies this year and early next year.

“Currently, universities can only teach using ODEL for fresh and continuing students. This system has been approved by the council. Anything outside that arrangement must be effected by official declaration or guidelines from the central governments have advised,” said Waigolo.   

After the two distorted Academic years, Makerere expects to resume the August intake in 2023. Besides, the semester dates, the senate set between March 16 and 19th, 2021 for the 71st graduation.