Makerere University’s star might be shining brighter across the continent, but her financial woes are far from over.
Over the past few years, the institution kicked off a myriad of innovative research projects which saw it being ranked second best in Africa last year in regard to research and publications.
The Ivory Tower, however, is currently staggering in a lake of financial constraints and most of her innovative projects stand threatened.
With about 40,000 students, Makerere is the 6th biggest university in Africa, and accounts for over 55 percent of all university enrollment in the country.
The institution also accounts for over 90 percent of all research publications in the repository.
On his visit to the university in November 2011, President Yoweri Museveni commissioned a Sh 25 billion Presidential Initiative on Science and Technology, to bolster scientific research and innovation in the current colleges on a veterinary medicine, Engineering, and food science.
Prior to this, Makerere’s research projects were majorly funded by development partners.
According to Deputy VC (Planning and Administration) Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, Museveni had initially agreed to make the Shs 25billion an annual disbursement, saying that that was even a small amount compared to the impressive students’ innovations he had seen.
However, the Finance Ministry was later to assert that the amount was not available and the Shs25 billion was spread over a period of five years.
A number of projects have since been initiated out of this funding, with some being successfully rolled out to help communities in the sectors of health, food security, among others.
The presidential fund’s overall objective was to harness technological innovations, rehabilitate and modernize laboratories, but Prof Nawangwe says the money has proven too small.
“We have so many laboratories here, but if you walked around some of them, you would be shocked by the level of dilapidation,” he said on Wednesday at a stakeholders meeting in the presidential fund.
His comments were echoed by the university Vice Chancellor Prof Ddumba Sentamu, who noted that funding to the university needed to be enhanced to consolidate the achievements of these projects.
“Today, some of the innovations funded by the presidential initiative have already been adopted by the industry and communities, while others are still work in progress, but they all face a major challenge of sufficient funding.”
He called for expansion of the fund as well as its institutionalization by the Ministry of Finance, noting that Makerere has no internal abilities of funding all such innovative projects.
Ahead of the opening of this academic year’s first semester, the institution was faced with lecturers’ strike threats over payment arrears.
The University, which recorded a Shs 21 billion deficit last financial year, resorted to a 10 percent fees increment, amidst furious students’ resistance.
It’s unclear whether the semester will open peacefully especially following students’ failed attempts to have the fees policy reconsidered.
The University Vice Guild President Ms Aber Lilian told Chimpreports on Thursday the option of challenging the policy in courts of law was currently out of question.