He is sipping at his mango juice at the Park Royal arcade when we arrive. He had called us, while our motorcycle snaked through the evening Kampala traffic jam, to remind us he had arrived at the venue of the interview.
Indeed, when we finally arrive, we realise that Ronald Mivule, who was recently elected the chairperson of the 11-year-old Uganda Management Institute Alumni Association (UMIAA), is waiting patiently.
His face lights up and we exchange greetings. We then immediately delve into the flesh of the interview as he occasionally takes sips in turns with my questions.
CHALLENGE AT HAND
He begins by admitting that the current membership of the association, which brings together all former UMI students, is way below the number of former students the institute has had since its establishment in 1969.
Estimating the total number of alumni to over 7,000, Mivule reveals the association has only 200 registered members. But he dismisses the assertion that alumni associations, are unpopular – at least not the one he heads.
“The association has been dormant for a long time. People are simply not aware of the association,” he says, raising his voice. “People are proud of going through UMI and would want to join the association.”
Mivule attempts to allay the fears of many that the institution, started to offer refresher courses to public servants, was going off the rails, following calls to turn into a university. He is not worried by the craze for universities, arguing that the country needs more universities.
FIVE PER CENT
He says the association will also not recommend the privatisation of the institution even when it continues to work on a shoe-string budget. Government foots only five per cent of UMI’s annual bills.
However, he is worried that privatisation would lead to an increase in tuition fees yet the institution already charges more than what other institutions charge. For example, the cost of a single master’s degree programme, offered to students who have worked for at least two years, at the institution could support two master’s students at Makerere University.
Instead, Mivule says, the association will lobby for an increment in government funding to 15 per cent of the total budget.
“Let us be optimistic,” he tells me, when I remind him of how government and public universities have been in a cat-and-mouse game over salaries and funding.
Besides the lobbying, the association leadership is required to work towards revamping the association founded in 2004 in their three-year strategic plan. They will start by organizing a database of all alumni, then design a website on which members will connect, be updated on events and share information on existing job opportunities.
The students need updates on available employment chances because some of them choose school (and books) as a hideout away from the after-effects of job loss. “Others want to switch from one job to another, while others want to completely change their career paths,” Mivule adds.
The association will also organise dinners and marathons to bring alumni together to raise money to run the association’s activities, publish newsletters and give back to the institution. The association relies on Shs 25,000 charged against each student. The fee was first charged in 2014.
Currently working on his thesis for a master’s degree in management studies, Mivule first joined UMI in 2012 for postgraduate diploma in Business Administration. He since acquired several qualifications, mostly to suit market demands.
“We are living in a world where employers want to employ people with multiple skills,” he says.
He adds that his kind of work – he is a consultant – requires that he studies widely.
Mivule is a tutor in the certified public accountants course and is also an associate lecturer at Makerere Business Institute, teaching Statistics and Accounting. He blames the current unemployment levels of graduates from higher institutions of education on the mismatch between what is taught and what employers want.
He argues that there should be a forum in which employers and academics meet to become aware of the former’s demands. The forum would also help employers train students through internships, he adds.
Mivule, who hopes to start teaching at the UMI, argues that the unemployment problem is not due to a large number of graduates leaving higher institutions every year but, rather, the lack of skills.
“Graduates are unable to come up with good ideas and proposals,” he explains, citing the example of China which graduates more students every year than Uganda has ever passed out of her tertiary institutions.
He also notes that some institutes were concentrating on practical skills, at the neglect of theory that is equally vital. He, therefore, aises facilitators and administrators to strike a balance between the imparting of both.
Although he argues that Uganda needs more universities – as opposed to reducing their number as some educationalists have recommended Mivule reasons that not all people should go to universities others should enrol for vocational and technical academic programmes.
Aware of the negative attitude on vocational education – some assume it is for those who failed Mivule aises, “We need to sensitise children on the need for vocational and technical skills when they are still young”.
Hailing from a family he describes as “not poor and not rich”, Mivule says his family was able to pay his tuition for his bachelor’s degree in Arts in Economics at Makerere University, but he scooped a government scholarship in 2001.
He faults the criterion for awarding government scholarships that prioritises academic performance as a determinant, arguing that the principle favours those who went to expensive A-level schools – and could, therefore, afford to pay fees.
Instead, he argues, government should award the bulk of its scholarships through the district quota scheme. The other options, according to Mivule, are for government to increase funding to public institutions – and cause a review of the tuition fees structure to make universities affordable – or increase the number of students it sponsors every intake.
Presently, government sponsors a total of 4,000 new students every academic year through its various schemes, such as direct entry and the quota system.
Although not interested in mainstream politics for now, the UMIAA leader calls upon youths to join politics, saying they are full of energy and wisdom.
“Wisdom is not about age,” he says, dismissing the belief that wisdom comes with age.
Born, in Rwampara in Mbarara district, 33 years ago, to a Muganda father and a Munyankore mother, Mivule attended Mbarara’s Katatumba PS. The last born in a family of 14 proceeded to Nganwa HS, in present-day Sheema district, for his O-level. He was a timekeeper at both schools. “Perhaps because I was short,” he jokes.
He later joined Ntare School for his A-levels, and here he served as a house captain. He then joined Makerere before pursuing two postgraduate diplomas – one in business administration, the other in project planning and management.
A Christian, Mivule believes he was born a leader he is inspired by his church leader, Pastor Robert Kayanja, “because he is a man of faith who will begin something even when he does not have the money”.
Mivule, who many a woman would describe as a hunk, is yet to get married. He spends his free time reading and he can remember the last book he read – Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad’s CASHFLOW Quadrant: Rich Dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom.
The time we had scheduled to end the interview is far spent and Mivule’s phone keeps buzzing thanks to the phone calls from his students who are reminding him of a lecture. He excuses himself.
Source : The Observer