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Busoga University’s Tough Journey to Her First PhD

Come September this year, Willy Wanyenya will become the first student to graduate with a PhD from Busoga University.

Wanyenya has been studying the decline of traditional folk tales at the expense of the imbalu dance in his home area of Budhuda. This after both his external supervisor Prof Timothy Wangusa and his on-campus supervisor, Dr Frank Nabwiso, passed his research. Nabwiso is also the university’s vice chancellor.

However, 13 years ago, Wanyenya’s graduation was unimaginable, but for the dedication of several people at Busoga University, including a British couple Ann and Bryan Goude, who support education in Uganda through Busoga University among other projects. My first contact with the couple was when I was invited for the university’s annual general meeting and fundraising in Manchester in UK, last year.

However, the first connection between the couple and the university was made by the now retired Bishop of Busoga diocese, Cyprian Bamwoze, during a visit to St Peter’s church in Altrincham in Manchester, over 20 years ago. Bryan Goude, who had just retired from his engineering job, and his social worker wife Ann were part of the congregation, listening to Bamwoze, and were inspired to support the Busoga University project.

And today Bamwoze speaks fondly of the couple.

“Oh yes, those are my friends for a long time. I met them when I was still Busoga Diocesan Bishop … I was later to become a regular visitor to the church, visiting at least once a year to preach and talk about Busoga and its vision,” he said.

According to Bamwoze, the idea of starting a university had been around since 1983, first suggested by several area professionals, concerned about the increasing number of secondary student graduates, who were not being accommodated by Makerere, the only university at the time.

Bamwoze explained that after one of several conversations they had, Goude told him that he had felt a g desire to do something in Uganda. At the time, the diocese had set up a taskforce chaired by Eng Nathan Muyobo, which had set out a programme for the establishment of the university.

The couple joined this taskforce with enthusiasm and made their maiden trip to Busoga in July 1997 together with Rev Clenyg Squire, another member of St Peter’s congregation. They arrived in Busoga to view the likely campus sites and encourage the Ugandan authorities to license the university.

Lobbying:

Florence Mutyabule, Woman MP for Namutumba, remembers those days. She recalls that Iganga appeared to be the best option for a campus.

“They were very instrumental in lobbying for the university to start. By that time, I was on the board, in my capacity as the president of Mothers’ Union in Busoga diocese,” she added.

There were three buildings belonging to the Bishop Hannington Training Centre for Lay Readers, built over 100 years ago. The buildings were in poor shape but structurally sound. The fourth building was fairly modern and did not require immediate renovation. Ann Goude also recalls that there were no “facilities” at these particular buildings except one water tap.

“We understand Busoga diocese had given the land and buildings to the university with 80 acres of potential farmland,” she said, at their home in Manchester.

The government later agreed to license the university in July 1998, on condition that it would open in six months’ time however, this did not happen, prompting another trip to ensure that Busoga University would open for business.

“Although a number of drawings of buildings had been sent to us, when we visited Iganga there was no sign of activity. We had a meeting with the chairperson of the University Council, Rebecca Kadaga (now Speaker of Parliament), to discuss the possibility of opening up as soon as possible,” she added.

Using local resources and a handful of volunteers, they painted the exterior of the three buildings, leaving the interior, as it required extensive renovation. The fourth modern building was already suitable as an administrative block. Bryan, using his engineering skills, connected electricity to the two buildings, making them ready for the launch.

“I remember they brought in some prisoners from the nearby prison to beef up the preparations for the launch” she added. “None of these activities would have been possible without the help of Robert Aubwa who, having built his own school in Nawaikoke, was skilled at obtaining people and materials for the renovation.”

The university finally opened on February 12, 1999, with 19 pioneer students for a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Business Management programme. The late Prof Joseph Mutekanga Igaga-Ngobi became the first vice-chancellor, with Eng Nathan Muyobo as registrar, assisted by several part-time lecturers.

After the launch, the two missionaries returned to Uganda in November 2000, to install 35 computers donated by a British electricity supply and distribution company, Norweb and to investigate a credible auditing arrangement. They also planned some more improvements on the buildings.

Impressed:

“We visited the university on November 24, 2000 and we were very impressed by the number of students in lectures and improved state of buildings. More buildings had been obtained and renovated and latrines constructed.”

By then, the student population had grown to 183 students, 60 of them, studying full time, occupying five buildings. There were two full-time administrative staff and 51 part-time lectures, borrowed from Makerere University and the National Teachers College Kaliro.

About two acres of land were under cultivation and the food produced used on site, and the rest sold to adjacent educational establishments. Bishop Bamwoze gave the university two crossbreed heifers, which would eventually produce calves and milk. During this time, Ann and Bryan, who were married in 1963, lived a modest life. Florence Mutyabule tells a story of how she felt bad, when she saw the couple use a commuter taxi to travel from Lubogo guest house in Jinja to Iganga daily as these were the nearest hotel facilities.

“I was mortified and I said this can’t be, Basoga we are very hospitable people. I gave them a driver who used to pick them up in my car and drop them every day,” she said. She was later to decline payment for fuel costs aanced to her by the couple, insisting it was a gift.

Back in Manchester, the Busoga University Support Team (BUST), a registered charity in the UK, was born to broaden the couple’s support and mobilise other people to support this noble cause. The money raised was used to build water tanks adjacent to the women’s hostel, provide student bursaries, and improve the nursing school facilities, particularly laboratories and dormitories, among others.

The fundraising effort was also able to attract a donation of pound5,000 (Shs 21m) from Frances and Clenyg Squire for the library. A prominent British lawyer, Victor Stockinger, was moved by the Squire and Goude story and donated 850 law books to the Law library.

Most of the people supporting the university through BUST are Christians who attend St Peter’s church in Manchester. The Goude couple have been commuting between Busoga University and Manchester over the last 10 years however, with age taking its toll on them, they are making less and less travel to Uganda.

Instead, they are committed to link the university with Chester University in the UK.

“We are now chasing for a link between Busoga University and Chester University in the UK. We managed to convince the university representative to visit Busoga University … one area we want to focus on is academic excellence and academic management, as well as student and staff exchange programmes,” said Bryan.

Biggest hurdle:

He adds their biggest hurdle is the recently-passed anti-homosexuality act, which is in conflict with Chester University’s non-discrimination policy. Busoga University is not the only project Ann and Bryan Goude have supported in Busoga. They have also assisted Buckley High School in Jinja.

Mutyabule, a former head teacher there, says her school benefited from a computer donation from the couple.

“They were even in the process of giving us some water which could even serve the community but the project did not materialise,” she said.

Bryan Goude recalls supporting another school in Nawaikoke village, Naminage headed by Robert Aubwa to which he put their first iron sheet. “They had a shell but without a roof,” he said.

Today, Busoga University has a student population of over 3,000, all looking forward to the next graduation ceremony, which will feature the first PhD. Vice Chancellor Nabwiso is pleased with the Goude couple’s efforts.

“You cannot under estimate their contribution. They helped the university to start at a very difficult time. The fact that they were there from the beginning makes their contribution remarkable,” he said.

Source : The Observer

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