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CHUSS Symposium Restores Hope in the Face of Disruptions by the 4IR

The Chief Guest-Mr. Mukwatampola Muzamir (4th R) representing Hon. Dr. J.C. Muyingo poses for a group photo with L-R: Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi, Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi, Keynote Speaker-Prof. Peter Wasamba, Prof. Edward Kirumira, DVCAA-Assoc. Prof. Ernest Okello Ogwang, Hon. Mrs. Joyce Mpanga, Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire and Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni at the CHUSS Symposium, 6th March 2018, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

Defined by the symposium brief as the destabilising impact of, especially information mediated reality on account of advances in social media and the Internet, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) has caused quite a stir in the Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines especially in the face of outward promotion of Science and Technology by projects such as the Uganda Millennium Science Initiative. It was against this background that the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) organised a symposium based on the theme “The Humanities And Social Sciences In The Age Of Disruptions: Policy Challenges, Praxis Benefits And Intellectual Engagements” on 6th March 2018.

Giving an overview of the of the symposium held in the Main Hall, Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi paid tribute to the event sponsors; Gerda-Henkel Stiftung Foundation, for not only offering 30 full PhD Scholarships to students, but also agreeing to re-allocate the balance of funds to sponsoring public debates on issues affecting Humanities and Social Sciences disciplines. Dr. Nabutanyi is the Coordinator of the Gerda-Henkel Stiftung Foundation CHUSS PhD Training Programme.

Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi helped organise the CHUSS Symposium

“This symposium is meant to cause us to ask questions that unpack this age brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What are the challenges affecting the Humanities and Social Sciences? How can we harness the tools of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to centre Humanities and Social Sciences in the search of answers to the most important questions facing Africa in the 21st Century? Hopefully we shall have more questions than answers at the end of today’s symposium for that is indeed our nature; to question,” remarked Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi.

“Disruptions are not all negative but are instead events that make things happen,” remarked Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire, Deputy Principal CHUSS and Chair of the Symposium Organising Committee. “Humanities and Social Sciences are the pulse of the University and we are planning how best to refashion these disciplines in the new era” she added.

Assoc. Prof. Ahikire went on to say that the Humanities and Social Sciences provide ideational leadership to the university as they are the eyes, ears and hands of society. She called upon PhD Students at the symposium to emulate their leaders in CHUSS.

Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire chaired the CHUSS Symposium Organising Committee

“We want to leverage our cohort of PhD graduates to strengthen the supervision capacity in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. I therefore thank all members of the organising committee especially Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi for their hard work that has made this event possible” concluded Assoc. Prof. Ahikire.

In the remarks that followed, the Principal CHUSS-Prof. Edward Kirumira thanked the Guest of Honour, Hon. Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, who was represented by the Acting Commissioner for Higher Education, Mr. Mukwatampola Muzamir, for coming to witness the revival of debates at Makerere University as led by CHUSS. He welcomed the keynote speaker and Dean, School of Humanities at the University of Nairobi, Prof. Peter Wasamba and thanked him for taking time off to deliver the address.

“Prof. Peter Wasamba is part of the leadership for the Next Generation of Africa Academics; a program I was privileged to head for seven years, which has trained 16 PhDs at Makerere including Dr. Edgar Natubanyi. He is now giving back by organising such symposia and I thank all colleagues in Administration and at CHUSS for pushing the agenda beyond just training of Masters and PhD students to engaging in intellectual discourse” added Prof. Kirumira.

Prof. Edward Kirumira (L) and Prof. Peter Wasamba (R) interact during the CHUSS Symposium

He paid tribute to the Gerda-Henkel Stiftung Foundation for sponsoring 30 fully paid PhDs in Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the Andrew Mellon Foundation for an additional 7 PhD scholarships. Prof. Kirumira added that the college is reviving the creation of a community of scholars at Makerere so that individuals who return from their studies do not feel isolated; a factor that will help improve the University’s staff retention statistics.

Prof. Kirumira concluded that the symposium was one way of Makerere; a government institution, providing accountability to the public and the taxpayer. “Stay with us on this journey of taking Makerere to the public and please participate and challenge the presentations: be constructively critical, not destructively critical” he advised.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs)-DVCAA, Assoc. Prof. Ernest Okello Ogwang is no stranger to the intense scrutiny directed at the Humanities and Social Sciences in the wake of disruptive digital technology and social media. An accomplished publisher with a PhD in Literature-Folklore from the Indiana University, Bloomington, he started off his remarks by acknowledging the presence of his fellow alumna and Uganda’s first Minister of Women and Development, Hon. Mrs. Joyce Mpanga who graced the symposium.

Assoc. Prof. Ernest Okello Ogwang (R) addresses the symposium. Left is Symposium Opening Session Chair-Assoc. Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi

“The issue of praxis, beyond the ideas in our field is critical. Beyond the classroom and scholarly discussions, it has become imperative that African Humanities and Social Sciences scholars must become active advocates following in the footsteps of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Ali Mazrui and Thabo Mbeki, among others,” remarked Assoc. Prof. Okello Ogwang, who also represented the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.   

Assoc. Prof. Okello Ogwang expressed happiness that the symposium would be immediately followed by a graduate workshop, which would help to inspire and guide the emerging scholars in the field on an appropriate path. “In times when we as scholars of people, society and relationships are being tasked to deliver tangible contributions in the midst of a global technological explosion, we must rise to the challenge and provide irrefutable evidence that indeed the humanities and social sciences are the foundation and basis of all human civilisations” he added.

The DVCAA thanked CHUSS for this timely intervention aimed at fostering the humanities and social sciences and their role in development processes and also appreciated the Gerda-Henkel Stiftung Foundation for sponsoring the symposium.

Mr. Mukwatampola Muzamir represented the Chief Guest, the State Minister for Higher Education-Hon. Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo

“I bring greetings from the Ministry of Education and Sports and apologies from the Minister of State for Higher Education Hon. Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo who was unable to make it today owing to state duties of equally great importance” remarked Mr. Mukwatampola as he prepared to read the Guest of Honour’s remarks.

The Minister’s speech acknowledged that Humanities and Social Sciences are important disciplines in the development of society and symposia act as beacons of hope and conveyor belts to academic excellence for all stakeholders who participate in them. On behalf of the Government, he extended his appreciation to the Gerda-Henkel Stiftung Foundation for the financial and material support extended to CHUSS and implored the University Management to ensure that this programme and many others deliver to the expectations of humanity and society.

“I appeal to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and Makerere University to remain vibrant and relevant to both National and International development agenda. In so doing we shall be able to to attain a lower middle income status by 2020 as spelt out in the National Development Plan II, sooner rather than later” concluded the Minister’s remarks.

Prof. Peter Wasamba delivered the Keynote Address at the CHUSS Symposium 2018, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda

Right from the onset, Prof. Peter Wasamba left his audience spellbound as he effortlessly defined the elements that characterise the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the air of a seasoned IT Specialist. Listening to him rapidly advance through the applications of disruptive technologies like the Internet of Things-IoT, Virtual Reality-VR, Robotics, Cloud Computing, Big Data etc. could easily leave one wondering if they were actually listening to an academic whose specialty is African Oral Literature.

“By adopting digital Humanities and Social Sciences, we have been ushered into the Fourth Industrial Revolution; we are into the digital age, not outside it. We can now carry out data analysis using computer programmes by ourselves” remarked Prof. Prof. Wasamba, demonstrating how fine the line of separation between Humanities and Social Sciences and the Fourth Industrial Revolution had become.

Prof. Wasamba noted that the advent of Humanities and Social Sciences was a response to the disruptive effects of the First Industrial Revolution which used steam engines to mechanise production. He however noted that the problem facing the Humanities and Social Sciences presently is official neglect by the authorities which resulted into shrinking of funds allocated and the terming of the disciplines as “useless” by policy makers.

The Department of Performing Arts and Film-PAF put up an energetic performance. Talent is the fifth factor of production in the 4IR

He however stated that back home, it is more common to find graduates of engineering jobless as compared to their Humanities and Social Sciences colleagues. “In Nairobi, employability of Humanities and Social Sciences students is high because they are flexible and therefore able to adapt to the changing job market” Prof. Wasamba pointed out.

Not all disruption pointed out by the keynote address was negative though. Prof. Wasamba was happy to note that the 4IR had through mobile phones brought increased access to market information especially for small scale farmers, an intervention that saved them from being cheated by the greedy middlemen. He also pointed out the advent of feminisation of the workforce as another plus “ladies bring a lot of new ideas to industrial production compared to their male counterparts in this patriarchal society.”

“The Fourth Industrial Revolution will change the way we have been governing ourselves” said Prof. Wasamba as he launched into governance. As an example, he shared that students today by the power of their mobile phones have access to a lot of information and as such, their rights cannot be trampled upon.
Additionally, the citizenry was much more informed about their constitutional rights and with the speed of evolution, policies were increasingly being rendered obsolete, owing to the long periods of time it took to formulate and effect them.

Hon. Mrs. Joyce Mpanga (R) congratulates Prof. Peter Wasamba (2nd L) upon delivering a brilliant presentation as Dr. Edith Natukunda (2nd R) and Dr. Aaron Mushengyezi (L) witness

Prof. Wasamba however shared that the 4IR brought a number of advantages to the Humanities and Social Sciences. “It is only our disciplines that can secure values and ensure that our societies survive and thrive” he remarked, before adding “Values of safety, need for justice and equality to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor are more critical in the Fourth Industrial Revolution than ever before. Scientists will always protect themselves. It is up to us in the Humanities and Social Sciences to protect the values.”

Additionally, Prof. Wasamba noted that this was the time for students of Humanities and Social Sciences to thank God for what their training equips them for. “The Fourth Industrial Revolution calls for men and women who can solve problems. To be effective in the digital era, people must be able to think critically, listen attentively and speak coherently” he advised. This he opined would give arts graduates a competitive edge over their science counterparts in the job market.

Prior to the 4IR, economists cited only four factors of production namely; land, labour, capital and entrepreneurship. Prof. Wasamba however, shared that talent had now joined this list as the fifth factor “That is why Silicon Valley is looking for graduates from the Liberal Arts because that is where talent is groomed and promoted” he said.

Dr. Tanga Odoi called for the creation of Think Tanks to help criticize and direct Government

Prof. Wasamba concluded his address by insisting that the only way Humanities and Social Sciences would benefit from the 4IR was through the development of policies that support inclusive goals and avoid segregating minorities and groups such as women and the youth. “Let us not have a revolution designed to benefit only a few in power or those with money. Our Governments must protect us by coming up with regulations that protect our innovations. We also need fast policy development procedures that protect our people from disruptive innovations such as crypto currencies,” he concluded.

The reactions that followed were all full of praise for Prof. Peter Wasamba’s presentation. The Head, Department of Literature-Dr. Okot Benge appreciated the presentation for its breadth and depth. He reiterated that in the face of rapidly evolving disruptive technologies, Humanities and Social Sciences remained the glue of an organised human society. “Scholarship these days isn’t about the priority of discipline but the enrichment of interdisciplinary discourse” he said.

Hon. Mrs. Joyce Mpanga was also all praises for the keynote address, describing it as “simply brilliant!” She further expressed her desire to see a faster policy formulation process; citing the Biotechnology bill which was introduced to the 6th Parliament (1996-2001) but is still being subject to debate in the 10th Parliament (2016-2021). She however reassured the audience that Humanities and Social Sciences were not dead, as long as creative ideas were still springing forth from people.

Director Research and Graduate Training, Prof. Mukadasi Buyinza thanked CHUSS for organising a wonderful symposium

“In Uganda today, we lack a Think Tank that should criticise and direct Government” said Dr. Tanga Odoi as he weighed in on the day’s theme. “We lack critical thinkers to advise Government and Humanities and Social Sciences are where these critical thinkers are” he added.

“The College of Humanities and Social Sciences is going to bring back these debates on a quarterly basis and we are committed” said Prof. Kirumira resolutely as he brought the responses to a close. “Let us know what topical issues we need to discuss so that we move from justifying our existence to engaging our existence” he added.

In a panel discussion chaired by Dr. Sarah N. Ssali, Associate Professor and Acting Dean of the School of Women and Gender Studies, the audience listened to a discourse of researched knowledge, words of wisdom and philosophies aimed at repositioning the teaching of humanities and social sciences to the digital era and the trends of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The Panelists included:  Mr. Oscar Semweya Musoke, Principal of Taibah International Schools who advocated for a teaching approach that focuses on producing a flexible and adaptive student; Dr. Charlotte Karungi Mafumbo from the Department of History and Archaeological Studies emphasized the need to change the curricula so that the course content engages the minds of the learners; and Dr. Edward Kaweesi from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration who envisaged  that the Fourth Revolution  would cause disruptions and tensions within the disciplines that constitute humanities and social sciences.  Cognizant of the Fourth Revolution, Dr. Kaweesi called upon academicians in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to embrace a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning as well as research in order to survive and remain relevant to the society they exist to serve.

Article by Public Relations Office

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