Makerere University Centenary Celebrations is a Once in a Lifetime Moment – Awel Uwihanganye, CEO and Head Mak@100 Secretariat

Oh, what a privilege! To serve in this role and lead the execution of this enormous project is most certainly one of the professional privileges of my life. It is a privilege in the sense that Centenaries are once in a lifetime, an occasion that won’t happen again in our lifetime.

Makerere University will on October 8th, 2022 hold the highlight of its centenary celebrations. The events marking Makerere At 100 celebrations, were set in motion on October, 09th, 2021, with the launch of the official Mak@100 logo.

In this interview, Awel Uwihanganye the Chief Executive and Head of Mak@100 Secretariat gives insight on why this once-in-a-lifetime event, is an important milestone for the University and its extended network of partners, alumni, and stakeholders to celebrate.

Mr. Awel Uwihanganye – Chief Executive and Head of Mak@100 Secretariat

Makerere will on October 8th, 2022 Celebrate 100 Years, how far with the Preparations?

The preparations are in high gear, and now in the implementation phase, after the launch of the stakeholder engagement event on November 25th, 2021. The organizing committee has since then, adopted a clear road map of events and activities, that is guiding our engagement with the different stakeholders, and alumni from all around the world.

So, suffice to say that we are ready, the party is on.

Who are the Important People involved in Planning and Execution of the Celebrations?

Makerere as a public institution has a wide range of stakeholders that include students, their families, management and teaching staff, and support staff. An extended community of stakeholders outside the University, includes service providers that serve Makerere University, friends of Makerere that fund research, fund programs, and most importantly the Government of Uganda which is the primary funder of Makerere University.

However, at the helm of the planning is the official organizing committee of Mak@100 appointed by the University Council. The Committee is chaired by Rt. Hon. Dan Kidega who also serves as the Vice-Chair of the Council.

The membership of the official organizing committee and the sub-committees which oversee the planning and execution of the centenary celebrations includes distinguished members of the Makerere community, and some of the key friends of the university.

What is the Role of the Secretariat in the @Mak100 Celebrations?

The Secretariat is constituted as a specialized team of people who have been co-opted from the University management/administration and the others from outside the University to lead, guide, plan and execute the organizing committee’s agenda.

The Makerere @100 organizing committee designs the program adopts the schedule and informs the different strategies and ideas that shape what Makerere @100 is.

The Secretariat is there to implement the adopted agenda of the organizing committee and by extension the University Council.

What is your Exact Role at the Secretariat?

I am privileged to lead a professional team of people as the Head of the Secretariat and Chief Executive of Mak@100 Celebrations.

As Team leader, I have the primary responsibility of delivering on the very ambitious agenda, that the organizing committee has set. That is my core responsibility.

To put it simply, I am tasked to lead the team in ensuring the total success of the whole events/activity schedule.

What are the key Strategic Objectives Guiding your Planning?

The centenary celebrations are organized around three key objectives;

  • One, the celebrations serve the purpose of galvanizing, mobilizing and reconnecting the University with the vast alumni that make up former students of Makerere University.
  • The second objective is to harness the opportunity of the celebrations to bring together the key stakeholders and renew commitments to each other while setting an ambitious agenda for Makerere University for the next 100 years.
  • The third, and probably most important is the celebration of 100 years of investment in human capital development, breakthrough research, the innovation that has changed the lives of people around the world, and in particular the transformative research on HIV/AIDS. 

The next time Makerere Celebrates 100 years, most of us won’t be here. Therefore, to be asked to lead the process of executing the plan to celebrate Makerere @100 is something I am truly grateful for.

Through this process of celebrating Makerere @100, we are starting to get an insight into where these people are, and how they are serving society.

There is no doubt, that Makerere University had made a significant contribution to social transformation, and the growth of society in Uganda, the continent, and the world.

What are the Key Activities lined up for the Centenary Celebrations?

Some of the events include engaging with some of the former satellite Universities of Makerere, like the Universities of Nairobi, and the University of Dar-es-Salaam. They have a special relationship that formed and continued to exist when all of them were part of the University of East Africa.

There was a special relationship that made it possible for prominent people to emerge out of the education of the time. Whether it was the late President Julius Nyerere and late President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, and some of the leading brains in the region. That requires us to celebrate, and commemorate that special relationship that existed from the beginning.

Makerere University used to be part of the University of London. The University of London provides a reference point for how the University was established.

When Makerere was being set up, all the 13 districts that constituted the different parts of Uganda, had a funding quota contribution they made to establish and build Makerere University. I think it’s an opportunity to revisit, go back and say thank you to these original districts that contributed these funds.

The Mak@100 Homecoming Dinner is an event planned particularly to bring back the University Alumni community “Through The Gates” of Makerere. The event will be hosted on May 16, 2022. The homecoming dinner is jointly organized with the current student Guild leadership. It presents an opportunity for the student body to involve the larger student community and extend an invitation for the alumni to participate in the centenary celebrations.

We have also launched a series of Mak@100 Public Lectures in honor of, and commemorate some of Makerere University’s legends.

The Public Lectures named after some of the most prominent members of the University community, provides the University, an opportunity, to honor and recognize the outstanding contribution of certain individuals. For example, the recently departed Governor of the Bank of Uganda Tumusiime Mutebile, a former outstanding student leader at Makerere University. His name remains synonymous with Makerere. 

The late Frank Kalimuzo the first Ugandan Vice-Chancellor of the University. The late Katiikkiro Martin Luther Nsibirwa lost his life partly because of his support for the expansion of Makerere University.

One of the key events that will give an opportunity of involving people in their thousands, is the Centenary Run. Organized under the banner, “running for my University,” the centenary run, will provide an opportunity for the mass involvement of the larger Makerere University community in the celebrations.

Other main events include the Centenary Conference, a University Exhibition, and the main celebration that will be held on October, 08th, 2022.  

Later in the year, we are also launching the annual Makerere Recognition and Excellence Awards which will be an annual event bringing together the Makerere community through recognition of contribution, outstanding achievement, excellence in service among staff, and also an excellent academic achievement for students.

What does it Mean to You, Serving as Head of Secretariat for such a Special Occasion?

Oh, what a privilege! To serve in this role and lead the execution of this enormous project is most certainly one of the professional privileges of my life. It is a privilege in the sense that Centenaries are once in a lifetime, an occasion that won’t happen again in our lifetime.

I am particularly grateful to the Vice-Chancellor, who I have found to be one of the most pragmatic public servants I have encountered I have the privilege to work with. But also, grateful to the University leadership, including the Council Chairperson, Vice-Chairman, and the whole council for trusting me with this responsibility, as a team leader, and generally for the opportunity to serve the country.

What I have to accept though, is that fulfilling the expectations of Makerere Alumni and the whole community is going to be difficult. Almost all the alumni, students, staff, and families associated with Makerere University, are very passionate about the University and have strong opinions on how they wish to see the centenary of their beloved University celebrated.

It is such a rare opportunity to be asked to do take on this task, and to feel like I am creating a bridge back for the alumni, former staff, to the alma-mater.

We are looking forward to doing everything we can, to ensure the current students are involved but also that the outreach to the alumni community who are spread all over the world is achieved.

It is going to be a daunting task, but one that I am thankful for.

Any specific Appeal to alumni and Students of the University?

I think the Makerere @100 celebrations, provide a unique opportunity, especially, for the Alumni, to give back to building a university that will serve the needs of society that will serve the next 100 years.

One of the things I have commonly heard people say is, “I am what I am, because of Makerere”. This appreciation and gratitude are expressed widely among the diverse communities that make Makerere University.

Alumni can revisit their former halls of residence, if one lived on campus and see what you can do. This is a common practice with philanthropy around the world where you give back to the University and ask to donate on behalf of your family. This helps bridge generational association with the University, so that children can know this is where their parents’ success came from, or where their ideas, was shaped, and leadership aspirations were guided.

The appeal is that we do whatever we can, to make this be an opportunity for re-engagement, to give back, and this can take many forms.

It could be supporting the renovations of the halls of residence where you lived, revisiting the library and seeing where you can donate books, revisiting what you do to support the student’s union for example. 

The student guild is what mostly shapes the future leaders of this country, so we can make sure the students guild is supported, build their leadership capacity in a way that we can grow the best from among the students’ leaders at the University.

This Interview was conducted by the communications and media team for Mak@100 Celebrations

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