Prof. Paul Waku and Prof. Openy Juru during the public debate in Gulu
About fortnight ago, contenders for the most prestigious administrative job at Makerere university held their first televised public debate at the University main campus in Kampala. The three contenders Prof. Edward Kirumira, Prof. Bernabas Nawangwe and Prof. Venancious Baryamureeba outlined their manifestos on how they want to transform Makerere.
And a week later, Gulu University, established by an Act of Parliament in June 2002 also had its version of the debate that pitted four of the candidates for the Vice Chancellor position in the last round of interview. The public debate was chaired by Dr. John Geoffrey Mbabazi, the Chairman Public Service Commission.
The debate was attended by hundreds of students and interested persons hosted at the Faculty of Medicine in Forest Ward, Laroo Division in Gulu Municipality.
First to present his manifesto was Prof. Openy Juru, 55 years, and the Deputy to the current VC Prof. Jack Nyeko Pen Mogi. Juru emphasized the need to change the current financial operating system that has fueled corruption and bribery within the institution hindering development and effective operation of the University. He said that his focus, once appointed, would be to improve efficiency in financial management to enable infrastructural development.
Prof. Openy also elaborated on his quest to change land ownership once he becomes Vice Chancellor.
“I will change land ownership through negotiation with the land owners, leaders and well-wishers because Gulu University cannot remain a squatter on Gulu District land. The University needs its own land title to further infrastructural development.”
Gulu University is currently acquiring land outside the main campus in Laroo Division with three pieces of land being considered in places like Nwoya. Since its establishment and lack of enough space, the university has faced accusations of illegal acquisition of land from the nearby community.
Prof. Openy was however criticized for being hypocritical in his speech since he has served as deputy VC but has not been able to effect the things he mentioned in his manifesto.
Students whispered in each others’ ears with some observing that he was lying in broad day light about changing the system he has benefited from for many years.
Prof. Joseph Obua
Prof. Joseph Obua, the Chairman of the Governing Council of the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) is another heavy weight in the race. Perhaps realizing his profile, Prof. Obua used little time to appeal to the audience and mentioned his international experience as position he will use to lift the university to international standards.
“I’ll bring into the University my extensive knowledge, experience and achievements that I have obtained over the years through teaching, research and other academic works. My desire is to extend the network that I have built with international institutions to attain international status for Gulu University,” said Obua.
Prof. Paul Waako
Prof. Paul Waako, 50, is another candidate who professes the need for accountability and transparency as key for the development of Gulu University. Prof. Waako is a Chemical Pharmacologist at Makerere University and a founder dean of Busitema University in Mbale.
During the debate, he dwelled on the need to fill the communication gap in Public universities saying it is the major casue of strikes at Public Universities. His coming to Gulu as Vice Chancellor, he said will help improve the communication flow in the institution.
Prof. Waako however comes from a background of an institution that has had the most strikes with heavy police deployments or closure of the university.
Associate Prof. Byeruhanga Rukooa
Associate Byeruhanga Rukooko 59 years, is an Associate Professor at Makerere University. He holds a PHD in Philosophy.
Elegantly dressed in a grey suit with matching ties and borrowing from his experience at Makerere University, Rukooka further articulated that his tenure will ensure good communication with students to avoid strikes. He emphasized on keeping in touch with the students so that issues are handled before they escalate.
“Most universities strike because the cause of the problem is not communicated in time.” Says Byeruhanga.
Despite glowing promises from the four hopefuls, some people sounded less impressed. Robert Mukembo, a third year student of Medicine and former Guild President of Gulu University told our reporter that the he was not impressed with the content presented by the candidates considering the major issues preventing expansion and development at the institution.
“They failed to clearly explain what they will do to handle this issue of land that is affecting the expansion and proper planning of this University. Look at the structures we have, scattered without hostels for the students. Our students are renting from private hostel owners and you know this comes with high costs and associated issues for us,” wondered Mukembo.
He notes that the next Vice Chancellor should be one who will be humble enough to listen to the plight of students and manage government and donor financing into the institution for it to attain the international status that one of the candidates mentioned in his speech.
This is the second appointment for Gulu University Vice Chancellor Position since the University opened in June 2002. Jack Nyeko Pen Mogi has since been the Vice Chancellor.
When contacted, he confirmed to our reporter that he shall leave office in December this year after inducting a newly appointed Vice Chancellor in Office. The new VC is expected to be announced in August this year after being vetted and selected by the University Council headed by Dr. Ben Otto.
The new Vice Chancellor of Gulu University will take on a multibillion project that Gulu University with funding from FESTO/ ALTAY SCIENTIFIC GROUP an Italian organization is planning to undertake in the next three months.
In a May 2017 report, the incumbent University Vice Chancellor Jack Nyeko Pen Mogi received the Turn-Key Project’s concept design for the construction, equipment, installation and commissioning of the Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Physical Sciences and the Faculty of Hospitality and Tourism, Four-star Hotel and Golf Course.
The new modern facilities to be constructed shall cost an estimated budget of US $146,216,831. This is expected to enable the provision of globally competitive facilities.
According to the May 10th Report, the scope of work for the project will constitute a turn-key provision for both consultancy and construction of the facilities with consideration of European standards, compatibilities with local standards and consideration for the longevity of the solutions.