Hon. Grace Kwiyucwiny, the Minister of Northern Uganda has tasked key planners of Gulu University’s Building Stronger Universities (BSU) programs to tackle key issues affecting Northern Uganda.
Kwiyucwiny said that researchers should address prominent issues Including; high levels of poverty and teenage pregnancies that are affecting the region.
“We want the improved research capacity developed to help us in the government properly study the impact of the many programs that have been supported by the government,” she said.
Minister Kwiyucwiny’s statement comes a day after the National Poverty Survey showed that Northern Uganda is the poorest region in Uganda with poverty levels standing at 57.7%.
Minister Kwiyucwiny said the government is wholeheartedly focused on improving household incomes through the promotion of commercial agriculture.
She urged Gulu university researchers to partner with the community leaders and the government to find the best strategies to transform the economy of northern Uganda.
The Minister made these remarks while officiating decade celebrations of the BSU program at Gulu University this week.
The celebrations were held to commemorate the achievements and assess new challenges at the University’s new library between November 24 and 25, 2022. It was held in form of a symposium under the Theme: “A Decade of Building Stronger Universities in Uganda.
The BSU program was started in 2011, as an initiative of DANIDA to enhance collaboration and capacity development for research between Gulu University and five Universities in Denmark.
Dr. Agatha Alidri, the BSU Coordinator highlighted the many contributions that the
program has made to the university and the community of northern Uganda since its inception in 2011. These included financing the development of infrastructure to support research, teaching, learning, and innovation at Gulu University, supporting the development of new Master’s and Ph.D. programs as well as supporting human resource development, especially in terms of Ph.D. training and collaborative research.
“The program has helped to put in place research infrastructure for the university including supporting the establishment of an electronic monitoring system for students and other ICT support systems for the university,” said Dr. Alidri.
“We are also proud of the fact that we helped to establish four Ph.D. programs at Gulu as well as helped up to 27 lecturers to get funded for their Ph.D. studies.”
On the broader scene, Dr. Alidri said BSU made several community outreach engagements during the COVID lockdown which helped to create awareness about the challenges of teenage pregnancies, but also sensitized people through the mass media on how to handle adolescents generally, and to reduce domestic violence.
Over 40 research papers were presented during the conference, covering these broad themes: Transitional Justice and Reparations, Land Governance, Transforming Education, and Green Energy/Sustainable Natural Resources
Management. Others are Business, Management and Entrepreneurship, and Refuges, Rights, Resources, and Gender.
Mr. Henrik Jespersen, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Denmark, said BSU is a major success as shown by its interventions in the academic field as well as in the social arena, but also with the fact that it has been approved for funding four times now. Denmark has funded the program since its inception in 2011 through the Danida Fellowship Centre (DFC).
“The BSU program is one of the successes we have in DANIDA. We are also proud of the partnerships and collaborations that have been built not only between the academia but also with different other players including the community,” said Mr. Jespersen.
Mr. Jespersen revealed that in order to support the University tackle new and continuing challenges such as climate change and the refugee crisis, his government has agreed to give DKK10m (Shs5.2bn) to BSU at Gulu to run for four or more years. Another DKK10m will be shared between Danish and East African universities which will be approved to partner with Gulu under BSU IV.
According to Prof. Charles Okumu, the Chairman of the Steering Committee of BSU, the program has supported mentorship for Gulu University researchers, besides funding numerous exchange programs between Gulu and the five Danish Universities.
Prof. John Peter Opio, who delivered the Keynote address, emphasized the need for the university to embrace an interdisciplinary approach to teaching which helps graduates to develop problem-solving skills that go beyond the boundaries of their fields of study.
“In the knowledge economy, our impact as institutions of higher learning depends gingerly on how adoptive we can be to new opportunities for creativity; how eagerly we can play a new and useful role,” said Prof. Opio.
He added: “Unless Universities open up to the dynamic forces of change, the risk
to be confined to the annals of history is a real one.”