First Mak@100 Lecture Examines Governance Of Public Universities

The Makerere@100 Lecture Series got off to an exciting start on Wednesday 9th February, 2022 with an eminent alumnus and Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda, Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka delivering an excellent exposition of the theme “A Legal perspective on the role of Governing Councils in the Management of Higher Education Institutions”.

Delivered to a packed but SOP-observant audience in the Central Teaching Facility 2 (CTF 2) Auditorium as well as hundreds online, the first series could best be described as historic; the first to be delivered by a sitting Attorney General of Uganda.

“It is therefore a privilege for me to moderate this public lecture not only as a lawyer but also as the Principal, School of Law” remarked the Event Chairperson, Prof. Christopher Mbazira. “We know and the Attorney General knows that his role as Head of Bar comes with various responsibilities, key among which is to mentor lawyers and ensure that the law is practiced according to professional standards and codes of conduct,” he added.

Prof. Christopher Mbazira, Principal, School of Law, Makerere University.

Prof. Mbazira thanked the Attorney General for using the lecture as an opportunity to discharge part of his duties as Head of Bar and informed the audience that as Principal, he had made a conscientious decision to cancel morning classes at the School of Law so that his students could attend the lecture, “because as I Law Student I never got that opportunity.”

The Principal invited the Attorney General to take keen interest in the quality of legal education offered at the School of Law, particularly the unique innovation of offering of Legal Aid services.

“We invite you to take interest in that as we wait for the promulgation of the Legal Aid Bill, as well as use your offices to ensure sustainability of that innovation by having that particular aspect of the School of Law incorporated in the Justice Sector” added Prof. Mbazira.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe in his welcome remarks noted that in addition to being the first Makerere@100 Lecture Series, it was the first time the Attorney General was delivering a lecture at his alma mater.

“The Lecture is on a very important subject to Makerere University and all other Higher Education Institutions because the Council is the supreme governing body of the institution. We therefore thank Honourable Kiryowa Kiwanuka for accepting to come and deliver this lecture despite his very busy schedule” added the Vice Chancellor.

Prof. Nawangwe noted that the First Lecture would be followed by others in the lead-up to the climax of the Centenary Celebrations in October 2022. He thanked Prof. Mbazira for enabling his students to attend the historic lecture delivered by one of their own and Senior Counsel.

The Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara in her motivational statement prior to the lecture noted that there was no better person to deliver the First Makerere@100 Lecture Series than Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka.

“He has experienced firsthand the intricacies involved in the Governance of an educational institution of the magnitude of Makerere University” said the Chairperson, before adding that “Makerere University significantly benefited from Honourable Kiryowa Kiwanuka’s extensive legal experience, his willingness to lead; his quick incisive thinking and relentless ability to find solutions to multifaceted issues.”

Mrs. Magara further stated that the Lecture would double as an opportunity to officially bid farewell to Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka who served the Council from December 2018 to October 2021, as well as Her Worship Doreen Nyanjura who served from July 2016 to January 2022.

“As Chairperson, it’s been one of those bittersweet moments bidding farewell to two extremely resourceful Council Members, and yet at the same time, finding great joy in seeing them take on greater responsibility to serve our Nation and our City. I heartily congratulate you Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka and Your Worship Doreen Nyanjura both upon your respective appointments” she added.

The Chairperson, Makerere University Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara.

Quoting Barry Posner and James Kouzes’ book “The Leadership Challenge” wherein they state that the domain of leaders is the future, Mrs. Magara emphasised that Makerere as it celebrates 100 years of achievements must leverage its wealth of intellectual and human capital to profer leadership in transforming Uganda, “and it starts with good governance, undergirded by a proper legal framework.”

‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ is an idiom more popularly used in sport to describe the sportsman/woman that turns the tide of what hitherto seemed like an impossible score to recover from. Although no stranger to sport, Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka in this case had to deliver on a theme that was not only broad but also largely dependent on a legal framework; The Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act, 2001, that is in desperate need of amendment.

So palpable was the immensity of the task at hand that the Attorney General admitted “It’s not business as usual to deliver a public lecture like this, our business is normally behind the desk writing documents, so I’m really honoured to receive this recognition… it’s also interesting that I hear today, that this is the first lecture of the series, that I didn’t know, because if I had been told, maybe I would have had an excuse to take the second.”

He nevertheless noted that although the day’s theme sounded legal, what he was going to discuss was education, which would hopefully help the audience plan for a lifetime. He observed that “new” knowledge will be very instrumental as the country seeks to achieve Middle Income Status, which further underlines the importance of Makerere University and other institutions of higher learning, and their need to observe good governance.

Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka noted that the University Council derives its mandate from Sections 38(1) and 40(1) of the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act 2001 and its functions from Section 40(2) of the same. He added that although the broad nature of the Council’s functions occasionally makes it hard to draw a line between its roles and those of Management, Council, being the Trustee of the Government wields overall responsibility to ensure effective and efficient management and functionality of the University.

The Attorney General of the Republic of Uganda and Makerere University Alumnus, Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka.

“The role of the university council is not simply to manage the institution but to manage change. We are surrounded by an ever changing environment. We are in the age of computers, social media, IT, artificial intelligence etc.” explained the Attorney General.

In this regard, he commended the University for adapting to the changing world. “Makerere University has identified the changing circumstances and the need for research in order for us to find homegrown solutions to our challenges and has decided to make this its primary goal. To become research led!”

After delving deeply into the specific and routine responsibilities of Council such as: Making recommendations for the appointment of the University’s top leadership; Establishing the University Senate and other Academic Bodies; Establishing Boards of Faculties, Institutes and Colleges; Appointing Committees of the University Council; Management of University Property; and Submitting University Budget Estimates, Hon. Kiryowa summed it up by saying there is no point in the management and running of the University where Council does not have a direct role.

“University business is not ordinary business. The rationale of this is that the purpose of a University is for the greater good. The greatest stakeholder at least in Makerere University, is the people of Uganda; alumni, students or not. What you do here affects all of Uganda” cautioned the Attorney General.

University Councils face a number of challenges largely due to their size and flouting the Chatham House Rule. After enumerating these, Hon. Kiryowa concluded on a cautionary note, reminding his audience of the need to achieve a good balance between the Council and the Vice Chancellor/Management for the good of the university.

The risk, he noted, was in a proactive Chairperson and a proactive Council limiting the scope of activity for a Vice Chancellor. He nevertheless commended, “I have had the privilege of working with both a dynamic Chairperson and proactive Vice Chancellor.”

Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka (L) takes notes during his one-on-one with Assoc. Prof. Sarah Ssali (R).

The well-received public lecture was followed by a lively one-on-one with the Attorney General, moderated by Assoc. Prof. Sarah Ssali a Council Member and Dean, School of Women and Gender Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS).

Pertinently raised were the need to: amend the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act to move beyond the era in which Makerere was the only Public University in Uganda; and cater for affirmative action and minimum qualifications in the constitution of Council. Other burning issues touched on stifling academic freedom, losses to public universities arising out of litigation and the growing presence of the military in academic spaces. MakererePertinently raised were the need to: amend the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act to move beyond the era in which Makerere was the only Public University in Uganda; and cater for affirmative action and minimum qualifications in the constitution of Council. Other burning issues touched on stifling academic freedom, losses to public universities arising out of litigation and the growing presence of the military in academic spaces.

The Attorney General, Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka (L) receives his Eminent Service Award from Council Chairperson, Mrs. Lorna Magara (R) and Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (C).

The Attorney General in summary concurred with the urgent need to amend the Universities and Other Tertiary Institutions Act as it governs a very dynamic era, proposing it be subject to amendment every ten years. He called for the adoption of a more inclusive “Ugandans in uniform” reference to the military, and offered to create a space for the public and academia to debate their growing presence in spaces outside their usual domain. Finally, he urged his audience not to use academic freedom to trample upon the freedoms of other members of the public.

As hinted on by the Chairperson of Council during her motivational statement, the lecture was crowned by the presentation of eminent service awards to Hon. Kiryowa Kiwanuka and Her Worship Doreen Nyanjura.

In her acceptance speech, Her Worship acknowledged that although she did not know what the future held as she journeyed from Nyamabuga village in Kyenjojo district to commence her undergraduate studies at Makerere in 2009, she carried in her heart a burning desire to make her surroundings a better place than she had found them. She went on to serve on the Students Guild and in 2016, became Councillor for Makerere University at the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA).

The KCCA Deputy Lord Mayor, Her Worship Doreen Nyanjura (C) receives his Eminent Service Award from Council Chairperson, Mrs. Lorna Magara (R) and Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (L).

Nominated by KCCA to sit on the Makerere University Council in 2016, Her Worship was at the time of her departure in January 2022 serving her second five-year term.

“I want to extend my sincere gratitude to this Council and its members with whom I served. This University Council has groomed me, it has trained me and sharpened me to be a better leader. The Council has taught me that every single decision we take affects so many people and their families, a single decision could destroy a career or build it, it could shut out a whole section of our society from attaining an education or enable them to attain education” she said.

Please click the embedded video below to view proceedings of the First Makerere@100 Lecture Series