let’s all go out and wikipedia about Uganda henceforth


I WAS at a clinical laboratory doing my medicals a month ago and, waiting around for somebody to do something about a process, I ran out of things to do with my book and gadget.

During that break, my eyes were drawn to the floor whose tiling I felt was poorly chosen. Surely, I thought, the designers should have used tiles less prone to turning oil-slippery with any fluid spill – especially in a medical facility.

Then I noticed something more annoying: the tile-layers had driven nails into the floor while working, at points chipping the edges and corners of the porcelain and at others not bothering to drive the nails all the way in.

“We need a law to deal with all the people who make this #workmanship happen,” I tweeted.

Stephen Ssenkomago Musoke responded with, “This was the forte of vocational training colleges like Kyambogo (blue collar jobs) which were all changed to white collar universities. To break this cycle we need to go back to the basics grow brick and tile laying, painting, electrical wiring, plumbing, tailoring skills, etc.”

Somebody challenged him with the claim that Kyambogo had been a teacher training college and not a vocational institute, so Stephen sent the link to Kyambogo’s wikipedia page as “a little Saturday history reading.”

Always keen on such history, I read it. Stephen might have been sending us the page as another example of poor workmanship, besides educating the fellow who had challenged him!

Whereas the scantiness of information on the site was irritating, I realised this wasn’t the Kyambogo University website and that I could have gone there for more in this regard.

But a Wikipedia page is an important source of information because it is, presumably, an independent source put together by different well-meaning individuals whose information is filtered through editors who check it for accuracy and non-bias. It’s a fairly accurate crowd-sourced encyclopaedia.

Even if it’s free, to have a Wikipedia page and then not make sensible use of it is as bad as paying large amounts of money for porcelain tiles and then driving nails into them while flooring.

My bother intensified when I found the rather thin list of Kyambogo alumni on there. The only two people under ‘Business’, for instance, are Anatoli Kamugisha of Akright Projects, and Richard Musani, Marketing Manager of Movit Products.

Perhaps it’s just the two of them because they are the only ones with their own Wikipedia listings (as far as the contributor could establish with two clicks)?

Either way, this is the one job of the Kyambogo University information or public relations people – to update their Wikipedia page.

The Makerere University Wikipedia entry fares much better but is also not recently updated – which you can tell from the sentence about the Makerere University Commission of 2016: “The commission’s report is due in late February 2017.” This, meanwhile, is underneath the seemingly unnecessary sub-heading “Unrest in the 2000s”.

Why is that necessary? “Unrest in the 2000s”?! I don’t know – maybe Makerere presents more unrest than most other universities worldwide? What I do know is that this sub-heading is as annoying to me as “Other academics” on the same page, that lists just five (5) ‘other academics’.

On the University of Oxford & University of Cambridge Wikipedia pages there is no mention of unrest and certainly no listing of a couple of academics. Neither do those references exist on the University of Nairobi Wiki page.

There is a chance that the focus of the private individuals who updated the Makerere and Kyambogo pages limited their creativity to these less relevant items of information or, in the case of the ‘other academics’, they simply lost interest along the way.

And this is where we now have the chance to contribute. See, any of us with internet access can log in to Wikipedia and make edits to these pages so we enrich them and attract more scholars to our educational institutes of higher learning.

Both those pages would be massively improved if, for instance, they listed ground-breaking research and publications that have emerged from the said institutions over the years.

We could list all the Conferences hosted there and even highlight the intellectual results thereof or therefrom. The books written by all the First Class students and their later publications would make the Wikipedia entries of both institutions much more useful to internet surfers, the two Universities, Uganda and anyone anywhere at any time!

What about finding the work that the alumni or academia have done in their respective and relevant fields of study and specialisation that has stood out nationally in Uganda, on the Continent of Africa or, even better,in the world at large?

For years now, some of us have highlighted, profiled, tweeted and Re-Tweeted about various innovative and celebrated achievements in agriculture, technology, health and even the military…all originating from Uganda. Surely a few of those could have been put onto the Wikipedia pages of these two academic institutions of higher learning?

Of course.

Even now, I could go on and on but I won’t. Instead, I will hope the nail has been driven home here, but without chipping at the tiles while trying to ensuring they don’t stick out to potentially cause harm to those walking through.

designing the link between our university education and the real world


LAST week I received this electronic flyer (above) for the Makerere University Endowment Fund Run set for Sunday, May 14, 2017. That flyer didn’t make me lace up my running shoes or unfurl my thin wallet.

Instead, I checked carefully to make sure that this wasn’t a flyer from 1999 as its two-dimensional presentation was very dated and, to me, uninspiring. I do not mean to put down the person who designed it, because they were probably doing their best in circumstances I neither know nor can describe.

My disappointment was that the University, the seat of higher learning ranked number four on the continent of Africa, could produce work of this quality. Again – the work was not terrible, but it was a clear sign that the potential of the students of higher learning at this university was being wasted.

A few years ago one of my kid brothers, Paul, ranted about the education format at the university, and this flyer reminded me of that rant with some pain.

See, the Universities ideally take up the best brains from secondary schools countrywide and then give them a platform to develop their knowledge and demonstrate it in various ways even as they learn.

My brother’s rant was to do with the Engineering department. He outlined what he felt should be the system: when a student joins the university Engineering or technology department they should pick a project within their first year that they will do over the duration of their course.

The projects the students would be encouraged to choose, he said, would be projects that could be applicably put to real-life use. At the end of their four-year course, the students should leave the university with their projects and, as much as possible, deploy them in real-life.

That approach, he said, would have the Engineering lecturers spend more time supervising students closely and using their vast knowledge to nurture and develop the intelligence, curiosity and innovative capacity of the students.

When I was at the Makerere University we had a newspaper called The Makererean that students of journalism were expected to produce as part of our hands-on experience and learning.

I even edited it – or carried the title ‘Editor’ even though we didn’t produce more than two editions of it for “budgetary” reasons. I once got involved in a short discussion about diverting faculty allowances (given to individual students) to producing this newspapers, but it was a very short discussion.

The Agriculture students at the university should be producing food crops, not necessarily by digging it up using hoes, but producing them anyway; leading up to the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering which would develop or package that produce and send it straight to the market.

The story should go on and on in that way.

Coming back to the Flyer that disturbed me last week, I figured that Makerere University offers (that’s what we say) courses in Economics, Business, Computing and Information Science, Fine Art, Visual Communication, Design and Multimedia, Industrial Art and Applied Design, Liberal and Performing Arts and Film, Languages, Literature and Communication, Journalism and Communication… the list is long.

Any and every one of these departments should have students that can be made to apply themselves to simple tasks such as designing flyers and advertisements, that would count towards their learning experiences and build their portfolios for the future.

If all projects at the University gave these students the opportunity to apply their design skills, then there would be thousands, if not tens of thousands, of entries of various designs. This free platform that the University can give to the students to apply themselves is invaluable, and would make a massive difference to their entry into the real world.

Many of the people that we employ in design and creative firms actually come from this same university and do a superb job, in instances.

While thinking this through I went by the Makerere University website (www.mak.ac.ug) and got to a page that had a snazzy countdown to the Endowment Fund Run, which was impressive – at least THAT was being done right, but still didn’t work well enough to make me tie up my shoe laces or unfurl my thin wallet to contribute to the cause.

It did, however, make me feel like contributing to a strategy that will harness these bright, hopeful minds at the University so that their potential is converted!