Beyond regulations, Makerere should also encourage behavioural change

Recent media reports about Makerere University’s new regulations aimed at standardising students’ behaviour in accordance with the university norms have attracted flouts from students. Students opine that these rules are “quaint and draconian.” The rules were passed by the University Council.
This was after former chancellor and prime minister Apolo Nsibambi’s aice to the university management to gazette rules so that they can bear a legal effect. Prof Nsibambi argued that problems emerge when students dismissed from the university appeal to courts of law and the university loses court cases because its rules are not gazetted.

Sections of the media and students have misconstrued these regulations by reporting that they are banning sex. It is incorrect. Section 8(b) stipulates non permissible behaviour which includes “but not limited to drunkenness, abusive language, fighting, brawling, quarrelling, theft, shabbiness, sexual immorality, financial indiscipline, hooliganism and gambling.” There is a clear difference between sex and sexual immorality. Section 13(3) hints at opposite sex visitations in halls of residence “No student shall allow a personersons of the opposite sex to enter or remain in hisher room after 9pm.” There is no clause banning sex.

The new gazetted regulations will avail Makerere with an outright opportunity to punitively chastise rogue students. However, I believe, this should not be the university’s main target. Let the administration engage students in intellectual discourses on behaviour change rotating around the outlawed deeds. For instance, a chat on consequence of financial discipline can be one way deterring students from gambling and mounting roadblocks and milking money from people driving around when bankruptcy hits them. This often happens when students go on strike.

Again, most of the outlawed behaviours soar during strikes, discourses on university policies affecting students is one way of taming strikes that Makerere is yet to explore. When the new rules were passed in May and subsequently gazetted in July, the university did not bother to inform students. We came to learn about the developments through media reports. It is unfortunate. Why can’t the university administration communicate to students?

Students feel betrayed by the university’s move to craft new rules without their input. And they are still fuming and verbally protesting. I presume they would have gone on strike if this disclosure came during the course of the semester.

It is vital to cognise that behaviour is learned, and so when some students misbehave, administrators should help them learn more acceptable and responsible behaviour.
Makerere administrators should also cognise that behaviour is influenced by the situation in which it occurs, and so they should act to change the student’s behaviour by altering some aspects influencing them to misbehave.
It would be better if the university attempted to develop a behaviour management mechanism aiming at positively influencing students’ behaviour rather than simply reacting when they misbehave. It is possible.

As Prof Nsibambi proposed to the university, the basic cause of hooliganism is that some students are not properly brought up by their parents. They lack moral values. These students need a lot of professional counselling so that they do not resort to hooliganism. Unfortunately, for the past three years at Makerere University, I have not heard of any counselling session although there is a counselling department. This is a productive venture that can yield intangible returns.

The university is the final stage of preparing a student for the outside world where he or she is expected to exhibit the highest level of discipline and respect for moral principles without necessarily being reprimanded. From the university, a graduate is expected to work in a less regulated environment. Everybody is waiting for such graduates.

Mr Musinguzi is a Journalism and Communication student at Makerere University. Twitter: @Johnblanshe_m


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