On Thursday, 28th June 2018, Makerere University paid well-deserved tribute to one of the most hardworking researchers and publishers in his day and first African Dean of the School of Public Health (MakSPH), Prof. Capt. Dr. Virginio Lachora Ongom. Appropriately described as the “Meteorite from Pakwach” by the day’s emcee, Mr. George Piwang Jalobo, Prof. Ongom’s light brilliantly flashed across the sky of Pakwach District to the rest of Uganda, then to Kenya onto India and then vanished after only forty seven years, leaving behind a trail of achievements and publications.
The writing on the wall became clearer as speaker after speaker paid tribute at the Inaugural Memorial Lecture. Prof. Ongom was a hardworking academic and army officer who was passionate about using his time and resources to cause a change in his community. As a father, he was a strict disciplinarian and time keeper whose home often turned into an impromptu ‘reception centre’ for patients he often ferried over hundreds of kilometres from his Panyagoro village to Mulago Hospital.
“Prof. Ongom intervened and treated those who had been ‘bewitched’ and they recovered. That is how those ‘witches’ survived being lynched by their community, thanks to his research” said the College of Health Sciences (CHS)’ Deputy Principal-Dr. Isaac Okullo in his welcome remarks.
Representing the CHS Principal-Prof. Charles Ibingira, Dr. Okullo paid tribute to Prof. Ongom’s perseverance and determination in the face of resource constraints, to arrest the spread of bilharzia and treat affected persons. “This is what we always want as the result of our research.”
Dr. Okullo congratulated MakSPH upon continuing to raise awareness about bilharzia and other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and thanked partners such as MaxMind Corporation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) as well as stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health (MoH)’s Vector Control Division (VCD) and the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) for supporting bilharzia research. “The event is a first step to galvanise support to eliminate bilharzia and other NTDs and so we still need your continued support to take this cause forward” he added.
Describing the late Prof. Capt. Dr. VL Ongom as a true patriot, the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe in his remarks said, “The major purpose of this function therefore is to honour the patriotism, commitment and hard work of all researchers including Prof. Ongom, whose selfless effort and dedication brought these findings to light.”
Prof. Nawangwe further stressed that as the leading research university in Africa, Makerere would provide leadership in the endeavour to raise funds for training and research, in order to contribute to elimination of Bilharzia in Uganda. He shared Makerere’s pride at being research leaders in areas such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola, Malaria, as well as other diseases that hamper socio-economic development in Africa.
“We thank the Government for the support it continues to give this institution and pledge that every single coin will be put to the good cause of eliminating bilharzia and other Neglected Tropical Diseases” he concluded.
Introducing the Inaugural Memorial Lecture, the MakSPH Dean, Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze shared that the event was a continuation of an initiative embarked on by the School in December 2017; to honour all its erstwhile Heads. Four of these namely; Prof. Josephine Nambooze, Prof. John Kakitahi, Prof. Fred Wabwire-Mangen and Prof. David Serwadda were present to celebrate Prof. VL Ongom’s rich legacy, appropriately described by Dr. Wanyenze as “a trail of evidence through his scientific publications for posterity.”
The Dean further shared the School’s proposal to establish the Prof VL Ongom Endowed Chair and Endowment Fund, to support capacity building, research and innovations towards eliminating bilharzia and NTDs, including nodding disease. “This Endowed Chair presents a great opportunity to enhance the capacity of the University, Ministry of Health and UPDF Medical Services, to ably contribute solutions to this big challenge.
“Our target is to raise at least US$2million by June 2019, when we hold the next Prof. Ongom Memorial Lecture and at least US$15million by June 2024, a landmark year, when we celebrate 50 years since the Institute of Public Health was established, and the 6th annual Prof VL Ongom Memorial Lecture. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not just about money, but the real impact that we can and should make on the affected communities” remarked Dr. Wanyenze.
The choice of the person to deliver the Inaugural Prof. V.L. Ongom Memorial lecture couldn’t have been more appropriate. Prof. Birgitte Vennervald is no stranger to Uganda’s fight against bilharzia. Having first come to Uganda in 1989 under the auspices of the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Prof. Vennervald has gone on to traverse more Districts and villages in Uganda than the average national, thanks to the inspiration awakened by Prof. Ongom’s research and publications on the same.
“Prior to Prof. Ongom’s publications, most of the research on schistosomiasis was conducted outside sub-Saharan Africa, especially in Egypt, South America and Asia” shared Prof. Vennervald. “In this presentation we quote two of his papers on The Epidemiology and consequences of Schistosoma Mansoni” she continued.
Taking note of the aforementioned papers published in 1972, Prof. Vennervald stressed that these had to be revisited and further examined because Prof. Ongom had the benefit of understanding the local dialect and culture in his native Panyagoro community. “He had to rely on his hands to do all the necessary tests and his research demonstrated that in a community where bilharzia exists, it may end up being the most important public health need. We therefore should follow in Prof. Ongom’s footsteps for he indeed demonstrated that research must be evidence-based” she enthused.
Prof. Vennervald went on to congratulate MakSPH, the Ministry of Health (MoH) as well as other partners upon their continued research and vector control programmes that have led to the elimination of the previously endemic river blindness in from 18 out of the original 39 Districts of Uganda. “I nevertheless call upon the School of Public Health to make bilharzia and NTDs an attractive topic to students and researchers so as to keep the subject vibrant. Additionally, general drug distributors should be trained on how to handle or refer cases of bilharzia and other NTDs.”
She nevertheless called for a multi-sectoral approach in the fight against bilharzia and NTDs by involving agencies such as; MoH, Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES), Ministry of Water and Environment (MWE) as well as the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, in order to safeguard tourists from being infected by diseases especially waterborne ones such as bilharzia.
Prof. Vennervald however took note of poor medicine uptake due to fear of side effects, the lack of child-friendly treatment and poor sanitation especially among migratory fishing communities as problems that still threatened the fight against bilharzia. “Some areas such as the islands of Lake Victora and districts in the Albertine region such as Hoima, Buliisa and Pakwach have experienced bilharzia upsurge.
“Despite all this, we learn from Prof. Ongom that we should remain focused on bilharzia by insisting that this is our problem, our community’s problem and Uganda’s problem in order to bring it to an end. You have the knowledge, research base and dedicated people in Makerere and Ministry of Health. You should be able to find a lasting solution to this problem and meet Government’s Vision 2040 goal” she concluded.
“We have done a lot of research and made a lot of interventions but we must admit that the bilharzia problem is much bigger than we thought” remarked Dr. Narsis Kabatereine, the discussant of the Inaugural Memorial Lecture. As one who joined the MoH’s Vector Control Division (VCD) in 1980, Dr. Kabatereine paid tribute to Prof. Ongom, who despite living for a short time wrote very prolific papers that demystified previous notions that only Caucasians were susceptible to schistosomiasis.
“I therefore thank Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze and Dr. Christopher Orach for encouraging research on schistosomiasis. This goes to show that research in implementable activities is still much-needed in today’s public health interventions” added Dr. Kabatereine.
The day’s tributes would have been incomplete without voices from those who knew Prof. V.L Ongom way before he became the trailblazing researcher and publisher. Speaking as a trio; Former Prime Minister-Rt. Hon. Kintu Musoke, Second Deputy Prime Minister & Minister of East African Affairs-Hon. Kirunda Kivejinja and Former Minister and Ambassador-Prof. Semakula Kiwanuka oscillated the audience between spellbinding silence and bouts of laughter.
“In 1958 I attended an interview to secure a scholarship to India, where the other interviewee was a young man called V.L Ongom” reminisced Rt. Hon. Kintu Musoke. “While I went on to secure a scholarship from the Government of India, V.L. Ongom received the Madhvani scholarship. Later when we met in India, it was ‘love at first sight’! The Ongom we knew was a serious student, a serious religious man and a serious political operator” he added.
“Hearing my senior colleague describe VL Ongom as a political animal was the biggest surprise to me” began Prof. Semakula Kiwanuka in reference to Rt. Hon. Kintu Musoke’s remarks. “Ongom and I met at Namilyango College in 1953 and what I remember is that he was extremely serious, hardworking and very clever.
“I was the President of the Uganda Students Association at the University of Nairobi but I never knew Ongom to be political! I don’t know what happened to those who went to India” remarked Prof. Semakula Kiwanuka, sending the audience roaring with laughter. “Today is therefore a wonderful day and we thank Makerere for honouring the distinguished scholar that Ongom was. Your presence here especially that of His Excellency the Vice President is testimony to that and I thank you for honouring my classmate, my schoolmate and my universitymate” he concluded.
“Your honouring Ongom and indeed honouring us today has fulfilled in our lives that when you do something good for your country, you will one day be recognised” eulogized Hon. Kirunda Kivenjinja. “As leaders, we hold positions of power and can get things done, but we didn’t want to remind the President to honour Ongom” he continued.
“As freedom fighters, there are three things we don’t do; we don’t seek our own glory, we don’t mourn our dead and we don’t lobby. We therefore thank the organisers of this Memorial lecture for befittingly honouring Prof. Ongom and his family today” summarised Hon. Kivejinja.
In his remarks, the Vice President H.E. Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi who represented the President H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni saluted the University for honouring distinguished leaders, noting that in so doing, “Makerere University, as a whole, and the College of Health Sciences and School of Public Health, in particular; have embarked on becoming transformation agents!
“This is a wonderful example of Academia getting out of its traditional “ivory tower” mentality into the real world to solve real problems that affect real people! This is re-orientation from ideological dis-orientation which has been a real obstacle to Uganda’s transformation since colonial times!” he added.
The Vice President observed that Prof. VL Ongom had the energy of an Army Captain Doctor even in Academia and seamlessly blended into the Army and Government in service of his community and Nation. “He was also a very religious man, who put his Catholic Christian faith in practice. For he was Chairman of St Augustine’s Chapel Community, and was a true patriot who drove the Chaplain, Rev. Fr. David Kiyingi, to the Uganda-Kenya border and to safety in the 1970s! This occurred when Idi Amin’s soldiers wanted Rev. Fr. Kiyingi dead or alive” he further praised.
H.E. Kiwanuka Ssekandi further noted the importance of a skilled and healthy population in enabling Uganda to realize her Vision 2040 and pledged the Government’s as well as UPDF Medical Services’ readiness to join MoH at the frontline of the struggle to eliminate Bilharzia and other NTDs by 2040.
“These historic projects have been eloquently articulated by the Dean, Dr. Rhoda Wanyenze. I will arrange to meet with the leadership of the University and School of Public Health in the nearest future to discuss these proposals in detail” concluded the President’s speech.
“If there was anyone who learnt anything from his strict timekeeping it was me” shared Ms. Elizabeth Ongom as she paid tribute. “You knew him as Professor but we knew him as Daddy. All we wanted was a father but we understood his commitment, he had to treat people” she added.
“As a family, we are extremely grateful and dearly thank Makerere University for honouring our late father Prof. Virginio Lachora Ongom. As you have heard from Prof. Vennervald’s lecture, Prof. Ongom’s research had impact and some of the bilharzia survivors he treated are today happily married. We also pay tribute to the gift of friends that our late father left behind who have been an integral part of our lives” shared the eldest son Mr. Godfrey Ongom.
There was a hushed silence from the audience as Mama Cecilia Ongom took her turn to pay tribute to her dearly departed husband. Speaking gently and yet authoritatively, Mama Ongom thanked Makerere University and all the organisers for the wonderful tribute to Prof. Ongom. She also thanked the Vice President for representing His Excellency the President at the Inaugural lecture, as well as all in the audience who had spared time to attend the event. “We were both in the same medical profession and we knew the call. We had to care” she summed up.
Prof. Capt. Dr. VL Ongom made a great contribution to science through his research in parasitology, especially in bilharzia and sexually transmitted infections. He published profusely; with over twenty five peer-reviewed publications as the first author, and overall, had over 35 publications including four theses. He was a Board member of the Uganda Commercial Bank; now Stanbic Bank, and oversaw the establishment of the bank’s branch in Pakwach district. In recognition and honour of his outstanding contributions, the Pakwach District Council on Saturday, 30th June 2018 renamed its Health Centre IV the Prof. VL Ongom Memorial Hospital.
Article by Public Relations Office
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HERS-EA Fourth Leadership Academy
The Higher Education Resource Services-East Africa (HERS-EA) provides an intensive residential one-week leadership and management development curriculum focused on women, mainly in higher education institutions and administration.
In response to the current Covid-19 pandemic, HERS-EA Fourth Academy will be a totally virtual one. As such, the Academy previously scheduled to take place between June 28th – July 3rd has been postponed by one week to July 5th-9th.
Theme: “Positioning Women for Leadership in Higher Education”
A. Institutional Development
1. Managing and Leading Change
2. Reframing Organizations for effective work
3. Developing Effective Partnerships in Higher Education for Women and gender focused advancement
B. Personal Development
4. Career Mapping/building dossier/personal development
5. Professional Women’s economic empowerment through Enterprise development and management for profit maximization
6. Research and Publishing; Leadership and Fundraising for projects including research and publication.
7. The Power of Mentoring; Networking
Who Should Attend?
HERS-EA expects many diverse and dynamic women leaders to attend the ACADEMY, to share and learn from multiple institutional perspectives with guidance from women with a wealth of experience in higher education, national academic organizations, government and non- governmental organizations. Participants are expected hold mid to senior-level positions and bring expertise from all parts of a college or university. They also represent a range of national groups, ages and years of experience in higher education and other fields.
Applying to the ACADEMY:
The deadline for registration has also been extended to June 30th. For more information regarding registration, please visit the website: www.hersea.org Completed registration forms should be emailed, with a scanned payment slip to: firstname.lastname@example.org, by 5.00 p.m. on Wednesday 30th June.
A complete application includes:
b) A self-descriptive letter (not > 500 words) to include:
- Current Title (e.g. Associate Professor of Economics; Deputy Dean, e. t. c.)
- Name and Contact Information for 2 Recommenders (e.g. Vice Chancellor, Head of Department, Chief Officer in your area, and/or direct supervisor)
- Short- and long-term career goals
- Your expectations for the HERS-EA ACADEMY.
c) Passport size photograph
d) A developmental project you have been assigned or you would like to initiate at your campus (maximum 500 words)
e) Registration fee of $100, please attach a copy of the deposit slip to your application (Bank A/C details below):
If you have any further questions, please email:
info[at]hersea.org or call the HERS-EA Administrator on: +256 (0)772082011 Please,also, visit the HERS-EA website for further updates: www.hersea.org.
Payment Bank Account Details:
Account Name: Higher Education Resource Service East Africa
HERS-EA US $ ACCOUNT
Name of Bank: DFCU Bank
Makerere University Branch
A/C No: 02083553153181
Swift Code: DFCUUGKA
HERS-EA UGX ACCOUNT
Name of Bank: DFCU Bank
Makerere University Branch
A/C No: 01083553153172
Mak Commissions CoVAB@50 Celebrations, Awards Certificates
The College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (CoVAB) on Thursday 17th June, 2021 commenced celebrations to mark 50 Years of Veterinary Higher Education, Science, Technology, Innovation and Services (HESTIS) in Uganda. The blended event held at the Industrial Livestock Research, Incubation and Skilling (ILRIS) Center at Nakyesasa, Namulonge as well as online was presided over by the Chancellor, Prof. Ezra Suruma and First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports (MoES), Hon. Janet Museveni both represented by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.
The event, held as part of Makerere University Centenary Celebrations (1922-2022) was a moment of celebration for 1,930 skilled livestock agribusiness entrepreneurs who were awarded certificates in recognition of completion of their respective courses. Owing to the strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) instituted by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to curb the spread of COVID-19, the students from Incubation Hubs in Atiak, Butaleja, Mubende, Nakyesasa, Sheema and Wakiso were awarded their certificates virtually.
In her remarks read by Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Hon. Janet Museveni thanked Makerere University for supporting grassroots level development through groundbreaking innovations under the Africa Institute for Strategic Services and Development-Skills for Production Enterprise Development and Accreditation (AFRISA-SPEDA) model.
“I am extremely pleased that Makerere University, through those innovative approaches, has developed and launched the alternative approach to building human capital and transferring knowledge to enterprises in communities.
“I would like to encourage all those involved in skills development to adopt methodologies that transform those trainees that go through these programs in ways that enable them also transform the societies they live in” read the Minister’s remarks.
She further noted that commissioning of the CoVAB@50 celebrations was both timely and rewarding. “The commissioning of the college innovations indeed has made meaning. This is a true path to growth of an Academic and Development College of the University, and we congratulate you again.”
Addressing the congregation as Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe congratulated CoVAB alumna and incoming Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MoSTI) under the Office of the President, Dr. Monica Musenero upon her recent appointment. “We thank His Excellency the President for identifying you. Science is in good hands.”
Prof. Nawangwe urged Dr. Musenero to address the structures of managing research and innovation in Uganda, “including the role of the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology and the apparent need to establish a Research Council for Uganda.”
In the same breath he thanked the outgoing and pioneer Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Hon. Dr. Elioda Tumuwesigye, for his role in ensuring that the ministry is empowered to carry out its mandate.
The Chancellor congratulated CoVAB upon training the bulk of Veterinary Doctors in Uganda over the last 50 years and more recently, Laboratory Technologists at the highest level. He recognised Makerere University‘s obligation to contribute to the economic self-determination of Uganda and thanked CoVAB for conducting research that addresses hindrances to national development, especially in the livestock industry.
“The anti-tick vaccine is one of such innovations which will solve the huge problem of tick-borne diseases that have caused enormous losses to our farmers. There are many other problems on which the college is researching and we thank you for the enthusiasm” he added.
The Chancellor commended CoVAB for being the vanguard of transformation of the grassroots communities through the SPEDA model. “I urge Government to fund this important initiative so that it can more meaningfully contribute to solving the big problem of youth unemployment.”
In her remarks, Dr. Monica Musenero commended the Principal, CoVAB, Prof. John David Kabasa for fulfilling the College’s dream of enabling the masses who drop out of the education value chain as well as those who complete education but have no skills for livelihood, to attain certification in agribusiness entrepreneurship.
“Many people attain academic success and write papers, publish and they become professors but without demonstrable impact on their nation. You have shown by the thousands that you have touched nationwide that indeed you are a professor of national transformation. Congratulations,” remarked Dr. Musenero.
She therefore congratulated the teams at CoVAB and AFRISA upon successfully conceiving and executing a model that is non-traditional, informal, not easily understood and not documented in any textbooks.
As Minister, Dr. Musenero noted that witnessing thousands of individuals from across the country whose skills had been honed through a university programme receiving certificates gave her a lot of hope and material to embark on her tenure with. “I will be looking forward to harnessing these resources as we initiate work on the next leg of Science, Technology and Innovation in the country under the President’s Office.”
The invitation to the Principal, CoVAB to present students for the award of the ordinary diplomas, ordinary certificates and artisan certificates was given by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Dr. Umar Kakumba. He congratulated the awardees upon successfully completing their respective courses and graduating with evidence on an enterprise.
Prof. Kabasa clarified that the approach used to train the day’s awardees was not simply a vocational skilling. “The combination of action research with knowledge transfer, skilling, plus assessment and accreditation processes done by organs like the DIT (Directorate of Industrial Training, MoES) has given us this result, for the University to provide true leadership and transformation of the community.”
Present at the celebrations were the Director, DIT, MoES-Mr. Byakatonda Patrick and the Deputy Commissioner Social Services Development, MoES Madam Elizabeth Bateme who have worked through the Academic-Community-Public-Private-Partnership model to ensure that students graduate as entrepreneurs with micro enterprises.
Prior to presiding over the ceremony, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, on behalf of the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports officially commissioned the SPEDA Training, Incubation and Research Centre – Nakyesasa.
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