Nawangwe is 14 months as VC: The scores and blanks

Monday, 22 October 2018


Kampala. When he took the reigns as Makerere University Vice Chancellor in August 2017, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe’s in-tray piled with promises.
In the campaigns, one in which ex-VC Prof Venansius Baryamureeba fought hard for a comeback, candidates’ pledges were endless. 
During the final pitch to the public at Makerere University Main Hall on why he was the most suitable, Prof Nawangwe envisioned a high-tech, spruced up institution at peace with itself and all stakeholders. He hoped to turn things around by investing in real estate, through public-private partnerships (PPP), to guarantee sustained income and heal the university’s perennial cash flow problems. 
The Professor was aware of the institution’s money woes, having served as deputy VC in-charge Finance and Administration. He promised to erect five-star hotel and three-star hotels on campus through PPP, modern students’ hostels and apartments and a state-of-the-art teaching hospital to substitute the near dysfunctional university hospital.
Also on his list was enhancing staff salaries and effecting staff health insurance. The Professor also set his eyes on implementing a new fees policy, improve on-campus security by lighting streets, rebuild roads and touch up the Main Hall.
Other promises included instituting a new policy to end sexual harassment, protecting the university’s integrity, erecting a new College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology block and modernising the university’s gate. 
Some of the on-campus infrastructure upgrades, such as re-modelling the postern, re-surfacing and lighting the streets, were pioneered during Prof Edward Ddumba’s tenure in exchange of the university surrendering part of its land to expand Makerere Hill Road.
So, how does the VC’s out-tray look like fourteen months into the job? 
He has pushed a new policy through the University Council to increase tuition by 15 per cent, each year over five years, for new students and declined to budge in spite of reprisal demonstrations. Prof Nawangwe has adopted a zero-tolerance to indiscipline, and suspended striking students. 
An ad hoc committee under his watch that investigated on-campus sexual harassment has developed a blue-print to address the vice, including obliging staff to declare love relations with juniors or students. 
With the modernisation of the gate almost complete, streets and lighting fixed, refurbishment of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences building underway and the Main Hall re-done, the VC says his achievements demonstrate that he has “over-performed”. 
“I could rate myself at 100 per cent because I have done things which were to be done later; like the indoor stadium, restoration of stability, integration of community in decision-making and [enactment of] different polices,” he said. 
Whereas the university hosted potential investors for a PPP meeting, actual progress on the real estate development initiative is pending Makerere Holdings’s approval of submitted development proposals.
In any case, Prof Nawangwe says the big-ticket brick-and-mortar projects were meant to be achieved in 10 years. That would assume he is eyeing a second term. Repeated students’ strikes, open fights with academic staff and counter-accusations in political fights mean reform to keep Makerere at peace with itself is far from done.
Prof Nawangwe finds himself in a spot of bother, with employees and students accusing him of being a dictator and blind to their collective welfare. Makarere Academic Staff Association (Muasa) passed a vote-of-no confidence in the Dr Wana Etyem-led University Council accused of interference. The VC’s attempt to calm the troubled waters by asking the lecturers to reverse the resolution, which he said was outside their remit, remains unheeded. Muasa says Prof Nawangwe is superintending irregular staff recruitments and mistreating incumbents, allegations he denies.
“As soon as he started his tenure, bad appointments especially in the support functions started showing their ugly face. He started cracking down on dissenting views with dictatorial tendencies,” said Muasa chairman Deus Kamunyu.
The VC claims that many of Makerere’s problems are politically motivated.