The First Lady and Minister for Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataha Museveni has launched the Eastern & Southern Africa Higher Education   Centres of Excellence(ACEII- Uganda Chapter). Uganda participated in the grant proposals calls and won four (4) Centres.

Makerere University won two $12 million USD World Bank Grants for the Centre of Excellence in Crop Improvement under College of Agricultural and Environmental Studies (CAES) while the College of Engineering, Design, Art and technology (CEDAT) hosts the Africa Center of Excellence in Materials Product Development and Nanotechnology (MAPRONANO). Each of these centres will receive USD6 million for a period of 5 years.

Other centres are the Centre of Excellence in Pharm-Biotechnology and Traditional Medicine hosted by the Mbarara University ofScience & Technology and and the African Centre for Agro-ecology & Livelihood System hosted by Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.

The project is funded by the Government Loan from the World Bank worth 24 million US Dollars (approximately 87 billion Uganda Shillings.

The project launch was held at the President’s office and attended by the World Bank Country Manager and other team members, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education, Min. of Science, Technology and Innovation Adolf Mwesigye, The State Minister in charge of Primary education Hon. Rosemary Sseninde.

The function was also graced by the Executive Secretary Inter- University Council for East Africa,Vice Chancellors from various universities, ACE II National Steering Committee and Project Coordinators among others.

Makerere University was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof. William Bazeyo, Director DRGT, Prof. Mukadasi Buyinza, the Principal CAES, Prof Bernard Bashaasha, the centre leaders Prof. John Baptist Kirabira from CEDAT and Dr. Richard Edema from CAES, as well as other members of staff.

Launching the project, the First lady and Minister of Education and Sports  Mrs. Janet Museveni expressed happiness over the  launch of the Eastern and Southern Africa Centres of Excellence project noting with satisfaction that this project is goal was in line with government priorities and development plans.

“This project is aimed at strengthening institutional capacity of selected higher education institutions to deliver quality post-graduate education and building collaborative research capacity in the regional priority areas, which include: industry, agriculture, health, education and applied statistics. These priority areas indeed speak to our own priorities identified in the National Development Plan II, as well as Uganda’s National Vision 2040”.

The first lady noted that despite the fact that  Uganda now has 9 public universities and 41 recognized private universities with a total enrolment of 182,000 students and  established campuses, which are regionally spread in order to increase access to higher education, the country, is  still battling with the problem of unemployment of the youth graduating from these institutions.

She said this problem of youth unemployment mustbe tackled through reformed approaches to education delivery.

 

The Minister was optimistic that the Centres of Excellence will provide Uganda with the opportunity to focus on development of the key human resource needs for the priority sectors of the economy, and enable the country to benchmark and acquire international standards in teaching, research, and best practices in overall education delivery.

“Today’s occasion marks the beginning of our efforts to implement a project aimed at developing four regional centers of excellence in higher education in Uganda;

I congratulate the three Universities for successfully competing and winning the awards to host centers of excellence for the region in these specialized fields” she said.

Mrs. Museveni noted that these centers are expected to deliver excellent teaching and conduct high quality applied research as well as enhance partnership with industry and the private sector to create an impact to society.

“Institutions of higher learning will play their critical role in enhancing development, reducing youth unemployment, and promoting regional integration.

What the people of Uganda expect from the Universities are innovations in technology that address societal problems and lead to transformation. We should, therefore, strive and use investments like this one to change the quality of life and ensure the real transformation of our country’s status in every aspect of life as according to our Vision 2040”, The First lady stated.

The Minister emphasized the importance of hands-on learning and University-industry cooperation as one of the most important mechanisms for practical application of science and technology saying that theoretical teaching alone has crippled the continent long enough.

“Today’s climate change alone demands that we must train our graduates to compete globally in order to survive in the ever-changing and demanding workplace.  Education should be supported with practical activity to produce knowledgeable, well skilled and self- reliant graduates.

That way, these Centers of Excellence will help us address critical human resource gaps and innovations in the priority sectors and we expect them to become the regionally leading scientific and academic institutions in those specific fields”. She added.

The First lady challenged all implementing universities to ensure that centres address the challenges of our society as well as the African region.  “We need to provide food for our communities so that they do not depend on handout,” she said adding that she was saddened by the continued dependency of the Karamoja region on World Food Programme donations, a something she was striving to stop while Minister in charge of Karamoja affairs.

The First Lady commended the Principal of CoVAB, Prof. Kabasa John David, for championing the AFRISA project which continues to skill the youth and create employment for the rural poor.

“Makerere University needs to continue in this direction especially in the area of Agriculture so that we not only feed Uganda but the world,” the First Lady said.

She said, with growth in agriculture, income from this sector would help fund other priority areas as well as other unfunded projects.

On behalf of the Government of Uganda, the Minister thanked the World Bank for this intervention in higher education describing it as a worthy investment.

She urged the leadership at these centres to ensure that the objectives of the project are met in a timely manner, and that the funds are used for the purpose for which they are provided to make a difference in society.

“ I call upon the National Steering Committee for Uganda’s Eastern and Southern Africa Centers of Excellence, to provide the guidance and ensure successful completion of the project”.

 The Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Prof. Celestino Obua, who spoke on behalf of other Vice Chancellors present thanked the government for the continued investment in research and innovation. He pledged good results and growth in research capacity of the institutions. He called on the industry to partner with universities in an effort to grow research and innovation. 

He requested the World Bank to allow the centres one more year because the projects did not kick off in time as had earlier been planned. The projects are supposed to run from 2017-2021.

About MAPRONANO

The Center was developed out of the need to strengthen research and training in the thematic areas of materials science and engineering, nanotechnology and nanomedicine in order to develop human resource capacity in applied science engineering disciplines for the development of the great lakes region.

MAPRONANO ACE will also offer highly specialized short courses in welding technology, health safety engineering, Oil & gas, Monoclonal and Nanobodies generation, Bioinformatics & Next Generation sequencing techniques. Nanomedicine Program will be implemented in partnership with College of Health Sciences (MakCHS).

The center is supported by the World Bank to the tune of USD 6 million for the period of 5 years. This money will be used to furnish laboratories as well as offer Masters and PhD scholarships. The college recently advertised scholarships for Masters in Mechanical Engineering and Masters of Science in Technology Innovation and Industrial Development as well as PhD. 5 PhD students have been admitted, while another 5 from Rwanda have also been identified.

About  MaRCCI

This grant will support the establishment of the Makerere University Regional Centre for Crop Improvement (MaRCCI) within the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. MaRCCI is an expansion of current activities of the Makerere University Regional Graduate Programme in Plant Breeding.

The main goals will be to strengthen the programme’s PhD in Plant Breeding in Biotechnology, the MSc in Plant Breeding and Seed Systems, applied research in various crops, and outreach activities. These will contribute to improving Ugandan agriculture through enhancing the skills of public and private personnel who support crop breeding and production activities. The grant provides for additional scientific and support staff as well as for enhancement of facilities and equipment, with the goal of modernizing and expanding the teaching, research and service activities of MaRCCI in a sustainable manner.

Report Compiled by:

Betty Kyakuwa and Jane Anyango

Communication Officers,

CEDAT and CAES