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The revelation was made by the Ambassador of Israel H.E Gill Haskel during his second visit to Makerere University on Monday March 3, 2014 in a meeting with various University and government officials.
“I am hearing tremendous reports that Ugandan students are hardworking, very dedicated, absorb well what they are taught and have adapted to situations of working in deserts”, Haskel said.
He explained that although Israel has a low rainfall pattern of 22 mm compared to Uganda’s Karamoja rainfall patterns, it has made tremendous advances in agriculture expressing optimism that Ugandan students can be able to transform Karamoja into a viable agricultural zone.
He said, in the two years Uganda has patterned with Israel, it will be able to become a backbone of modern agriculture.
Ambassodar Haskel also promised to link the University to Israel institutions that are working towards boosting forestry and fish breeding most especially Nile Perch.
“I am excited about domesticating Nile Perch because this is not a Ugandan challenge but world over most especially in the revolution of Food security. If Nile perch is fully domesticated, it will propel the food security in the Victoria basin because now fishermen go into the lake with fishing gear, only to come out with nothing,” he added.
He appealed to Ugandan Government and the University to carry out reciprocal visits to its students in Israel for moral boosting and also expose staff to bio-learning and institutions for possible collaboration.
The Minister of Education and Sports Jessica Alupo applauded Israel Government for unconditional support given to Uganda in education, peace and security, “We have had a long term cordial relationship with Israel in defence. Israel has contributed immensely to the security and peace that Ugandans enjoy today. The support given to students through this Agro studies initiative will ensure that when students come back, they will be ambassadors in commercial agriculture and agro processing”.
Minister Alupo appreciated Makerere University dons for supporting the Presidential Initiatives in Science, Technology and Innovations in the various colleges and expressed confidence in their capacity to handle the Agro studies initiative to foster economic development.
She said government was looking at the Israel Agro studies collaboration as a way of equipping students with practical skills and job creation.
“I am confident that students will make an agricultural revolution in this country. Israel grows a lot of citrus and I would like to see what it takes. Eastern Uganda was zoned to produce citrus but due to lack of expertise many farmers cannot,” the Minister stated.
The Minister requested University officials to establish farms to enhance practical training and to act as a model for other Universities and Secondary schools to emulate, “We are trying to do this in secondary schools and as a university you need to become practical, then we shall replicate and send students to come and learn from the University farm” she said.
Minister Alupo expressed government commitment to strengthen collaboration with Israel Government and to consult the Ministry of Internal Affairs and that of Foreign affairs to come up with a special arrangement for gratis visas for officials travelling to and from Uganda and Israel.
The Minister also welcomed the idea of University and Government official’s reciprocal visits to Israel to moral boost students and also get exposure to modern agricultural practices and institutions for collaboration.
In his welcome remarks, the Chairman Makerere University Council Eng. Dr. Wana-Etyem welcomed Ambassador Haskel to Uganda. He said in November 2011, Makerere University Council set up a Task force to restructure the University following frequent strikes and continuous agitation by staff for better working conditions.
Dr. Etyem said the task force benchmarked Bar llan University in Israel which was not popularly known by then but has delivered the first tangible output of the Task force.
“On the 3 of October 2013 a group of 31 students was flagged off to Israel by Education Minister Hon Jessica Alupo for one year internship of the Agro Studies training centre in Israel. So an MoU was signed by Makerere University and Bar llan University as a result of the report of the task force. We are happy that additional 10students followed,” the Council Chair reported.
He hailed Israel for her technological development that puts it on top of the leading countries in the world in every aspect despite its small size.
“I have been informed that all laptops and phones that you carry have an Israel component. This is tremendous achievement for a country that is 70 years old. Uganda and Makerere are proud to be associated with Israel Universities and we hope that the collaboration with Makerere University and Bar llan will give such a collaboration the utmost benefit”, said the Council Chair.
The Task force code named “The Omaswa Task force” had clear terms of reference among which was to benchmark living conditions among leading Universities in the world in order to inform the committee on how best practices have evolved and how they are sustained in the management of public universities.
Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs (DVCAA) said all University activities point to one thing that Makerere is a keen to augment its internatiolisation to different levels as highlighted in the presentations.
He appealed for more partnership opportunities with Israel Universities in different spheres that are of particular interests and needs of the Universities and national goals, “ We will be making requests for more slots for our students which is more dear to us because these students going out would help them relate to what they study in class and also widen their horizon so that when they get into the world of realities they can fit in and connect to local and international trends; in a way they translate their opportunities and opportunities of Uganda,” the DVCAA said.
Makerere University Council Chairman (standing) giving welcome remarks
Dr. Ogwang also appealed to Ministry of Education and Sports to support the Agro studies officials to make frequent visits to Makerere by granting them gratis visas.
The DVCAA also asked Government of Uganda to support Makerere by building more collaboration with Israel Universities for capacity building and financial support.
The Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Prof. Bernard Bashaasha thanked the state of Israel for choosing to partner with Makerere in areas of human and academic endeavours among all Universities saying the Agro studies initiative is a humble beginning of something bigger.
Prof. Bashaasha described Israel as an agricultural wonder having turned desert land into a fertile and productive land, “We admire you and congratulate you and we have a great deal to learn from you in terms of knowledge and technology.
The Agrostudies internship training you are providing to our students is a timely intervention.”
The program Coordinator Agro studies program Dr. Denis Mpairwe explained that Makerere came on board very late and conducted student interviews within the deadline of four days with a few administrative issues.
He said a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Agro studies and Makerere.
“The first group had 31 students and they requested 10 more in December 2013. We have been getting positive comments from the centre. Every student is supposed to send monthly activity reports and we are happy to inform you that this year agro studies has increased the number to 120.”Dr. Mpairwe said.
“We need facilitation for the coordination team because a lot of documentation needs to be done, while at college level we need to increase on the second intake to fulfil the desire by the whole college to equip students with practical skills and all BSc. Agriculture students should be entitled to this training not according to interests,” Dr. Mpairwe said adding that students who travelled applied for a dead year to enable the internship to take place.