On February 10, this weekend, The Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) is commemorating 30 years since it was established. The University has recorded tremendous achievements from the walls of former Nkoma Secondary School to now boasting of four campuses.
The university has graduated over 25,000 students over the past 30 years. But besides being the first non-government owned university to have opened its doors to the Ugandan public, IUIU has nurtured students by equipping them with more than just academic skills as most if not all other Universities in Uganda do.
As revealed by the University’s Rector Dr. Ahmed Ssengendo Kawesa, the university provides academic courses, lifeskills and above all, tries to shape its students into morally upright individuals.
This combination of skills and good morals, has not only endeared many parents to take their children to the University, but has also helped them to live meaningful lives when they graduate. The focus on moulding a skilled as well as morally upright individuals is a timely development especially in country bedevilled by moral evils such as corrosive corruption.
As Dr. Ssengendo (Left)observes; “As Africans and the third world generally, we don’t have a shortage of graduates as we do with people who are trustworthy and accountable.” Details of this and more about IUIU’s plans to transform the university into a community-based university can be found in IUIU’s extensive interviews here.
Dr. Ahmed Kibirige, one of the Pioneer students of IUIU attests to the University’s emphasis on inculcating good morals as one of its unique attributes.
Kibirige told The Sunrise that: “The Issue of morals and discipline is paramount at IUIU and this applies to both the students and the lecturers. Issues of strikes cannot be traced at IUIU unlike other universities.”
In the following interview with IUIU Rector, The Sunrise discovers why graduates excel beyond their professional lives.
Below is the transcript of Interview with Dr. Ssengendo:
The Islamic University in Uganda was established to address a historic problem. Muslims were lagging behind in education during the colonial period and after independence.
Although muslims were generally lagging behind in education, the muslim women were generally worse off. So when we started, clearly one of our focal point was to ensure that muslim women who were qualified, had an opportunity to pursue higher education. So we encouraged many and they started enrolling. And along the way, we wanted all the girls to be resident, except for those who were married. We however soon ran out of space. So we began leaving out some girls who were qualified. That is when we had the opportunity to buy former Kabojja secondary school.
It was basically to increase access to muslim women to attain university education and it has served us very well. In fact every female student who applies to us and is qualified is admitted and we have facilities for them.
Qn. Many educated ladies have failed to balance between career and marriage. On the contrary, many of your graduates seem to be the exception. How is this so?
The Islamic University in Uganda graduates are doing very well in the field, this is both women and men basically because we emphasize academic excellence and moral uprightness.
Our daughters, are given special programmes that help them to learn to be mothers, to learn to be good wives, in addition to being professionals.
Many people think that when girls get to university they are mature. Yes they are mature compared to secondary school kids. But they don’t have life skills.
We use live examples to tell students that they have a greater life ahead of them. They can discover their potential and discover how the real world works. We have public lectures and counsellors who come to speak to us about real life experiences.
Many of the girls come to university when they have never cooked because their parents are well off, the maids are there, the aunties are there. In fact many of them don’t even know how to wash their clothes.
But the reality is that these are going to be global citizens. They may have to be somewhere where they have no maids. They are also going to be mothers and the most important natural resource of any community are the children. How well you look after your children will determine how well you do as a community.
And the first teachers of every child are the mothers. And no body does well what he/she doesn’t know unless by accident. We try to provide opportunities to our girls to learn how to cook.
Any mother who cannot prepare a cup of tea for her child is not good news and any mother who cannot prepare a balanced diet, is bad news for that family. Any mother who does not know a traditional meal is prepared, how kids can be given alternative foods.
These are the experiences that we get senior women to come and talk to our girls about.
Even so, some of them form clubs voluntarily such as the Women Affairs League, where they learn how to bake, how to lay the bed. Some of these kids come when they have never made a bed, when they don’t know how to wash. When they don’t have the basic life-skills expected of any African woman.
As an institution, we feel we have the duty to put in place facilities and arrangement for these girls to learn the basic skills.
This is for our own good as a country. Because behind every successful man, there is a woman and behind every successful child there is a mother, who is very good.
Some of us are what we are because of our mothers. If you’ve done statistics, you’ll find that a lot of kids fees is paid for by their mothers.
So the mothers have that tender kind heart. But they need to be helped to learn how to do things the proper way. And our girls, have a better understanding of these basic skills by the time they graduate, life is not a bed of roses. But they also understand that if they work very hard, they can succeed. And that they should also be patient because Rome or even Mecca was not built in one day. So patience is one of the virtues that we encourage.
And for the boys, we have different programmes as well. They are engaged in community work, For a student who has been helping that community to get better can not turn around to hurt that community.
The colonial education system was meant to take us away from the villages so we focus on white collar jobs but against our people. And we need to decolonize our education system. So we try to take back our boys and girls to their roots by helping their communities. We tell our nursing students why children should not die of immunizable diseases in our community when we have a nursing school.
So every Wednesday, they go out to immunize kids. They go to the community and build butandaalo, (platforms for keeping utensils), dig pit latrines for communities. We let them understand that that is where they came from. We think that as a university, we’re moving towards being a community-based institution. In our new strategic plan 2021, we want IUIU to become a community-based university.