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Mak Launches Online National Biodiversity Data Bank

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The Acting Commissioner Biodiversity in the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Dr. Akankwasa Barirega (Right) assisted by Dr. Daniel Waiswa (Left) launches the Online National Biodiversity Data Bank (NBDB) on Thursday, 5th September 2019 at Speke Resort Munyonyo, Kampala Uganda.

Makerere University with support from USAID and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has launched an Online National Biodiversity Data Bank (NBDB) software application to boost research in Uganda’s Biodiversity.

The Data Bank software application was launched by the Acting Commissioner Biodiversity in the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Dr. Akankwasa Barirega at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Thursday, 5th September 2019.

The Coordinator of the Data Bank Dr. Daniel Waiswa from Makerere University’s School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences (SFEGS) in his remarks highlighted that without data on Uganda’s biodiversity, the tourism sector will head into sleep mode.

“The Data Bank is a central repository for biodiversity data in Uganda to serve the public, private and civil society domain,“ he said.

He explained that biodiversity data for most of the work done at the University is scattered, requiring a central place which can help to make informed decisions on the status of biodiversity resources.

“Currently we collect data from the field and stakeholders, keep it and make it accessible to all those interested in conservation of biodiversity. For students we use the data for research to inform policy with regard to management of biodiversity resources” remarked Dr. Waiswa.          

He said the Data Bank will move towards increasing access to data, considering the case of the online and offline database donated to the NBDB by WCS. He also reiterated that the online Data Bank is quite important in broadening the scope of the current databank to include aquatic biodiversity and environmental quality data.

According to Dr. Waiswa the NBDB was formulated with a vision of becoming the leading centre of excellence in quality biodiversity and environmental data collection, processing and management in Uganda.

Dr. Akankwasa Barirega (Left) chats with The Dean SFEGS, Assoc. Prof. Fred Babweteera who represented Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, the Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and another official at the Online NBDB Launch

Its mission is to inventory and monitor the national biological resources and provide biodiversity information to conservationists, government agencies, land managers and others interested in the conservation and sustainable utilisation of these resources.

The NBDB future outlook includes Capacity Building in biodiversity and related issues as well as generation of funds through proposal writing, fundraising. Others are consultancies and increased participation in university programs of teaching and research among increasing relevance of stakeholders through provision of demand driven products and services.

The Dean SFEGS, Assoc. Prof. Fred Babweteera who represented Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, the Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) said the Data Bank software application was a great milestone for the college to make its resources more accessible in the public domain. He lauded USAID for providing resources and technical support for the conference.  

Dr. Akankwasa Barirega who also heads the Department of Wildlife Conservation at the Ministry of Tourism applauded Makerere for launching the Online National Biodiversity Data Bank.

“For us as a Ministry responsible for Tourism and Wildlife, we have great excitement because we cannot develop tourism products without biodiversity data.

You must know where the animals, plants, birds, mammals, reptiles are so that we can promote them for Tourism, “he noted.

He observed the need to know what is available so that it can be managed better, saying unknown data cannot be managed.

“Government is responsible for management and conservation of wildlife, there is no way this work can be done without having information on where these things are. To us this is a great tool that will help in the day-to-day conservation management, decision making, tourism product development and conservation as well as tourism development policy formulation, “he emphasized.

The Country Director Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Mr. Samuel Nampindo Takozekibi (Left) and Dr. Akankwasa Barirega interact during the NBDB Launch Event at Speke Resort Munyonyo

He reported that lack of updated data has been one of the biggest challenges faced by the Tourism and Wildlife sector,

“There are many species of animals that we don’t know about, people only know about big mammals like the elephants, Gorillas, yet there are a lot of insects like beetles and butterflies which can contribute to tourism in addition to their ecological benefits like pollination which masterminds the agriculture sector in Uganda, “he said.  

Taking into consideration the recent debate on the proposed construction of a dam on Murchison Falls, Dr. Waiswa said that such a resolution was not being guided by the available data on biodiversity, noting that the availability of resources like the National Biodiversity Data Bank will easily guide decision-making.  

The Country Director Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Mr. Samuel Nampindo Takozekibi said that his organisation has worked closely with Makerere University particularly the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) to ensure that the platform is accessible by the public through the internet.

“The Data Bank is as good as having the data which we have also contributed to collecting; we also support academic training so that the students can collect the data as they earn their degrees, “he revealed.

He said that WCS is working towards negotiating the international treaties like the post CDD 2020 to come up with the targets which will become key frameworks for governments, so as to contribute to slowing down species’ loss and extinction.

Mr. Nampindo observed the need for the data collected to be used in reporting on the natural capital contribution to the development of this country, so as to attract increased investment by government.

He advised other public universities to be part of the process since they have continuous recruitment of students who do research in an effort to earn their degrees which will provide key sustainability for the data bank.

“The data bank can also innovate products that can be sold mostly to international students, to earn money to enhance its sustainability.”

Article Compiled by; Jane Anyango and Agnes Nankebe Nantambi, Communication Office CAES

 

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VC Statement on the Fire Outbreak at the Main Building and Resumption of Classes for Finalists

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The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.

1.0 REPORT ON THE FIRE OUTBREAK AT THE MAIN BUILDING

In the morning of Sunday 20th September 2020, at around half past midnight, a police patrol team at Makerere University noticed smoke coming out of the roof of the Makerere University Main Administration Building. The patrol team alerted the OC Makerere Police Station, who had been deployed at Nateete Police Station for the night. The OC Makerere Police Station at the time was in the CCTV control room and he zoomed the CCTV cameras to the Main Building and indeed the cameras could show that there was smoke coming out of the building. The OC Station alerted the Makerere University Chief Security Officer who rushed to the Mani Building immediately and arrived at the building about 12:47 am. He first saw smoke coming out of the roof above the offices of the Public Relations Department and soon after fire started coming out of the roof. He immediately alerted the control room to request the Fire Brigade to rush to the scene. The Chief Security Officer also alerted the Vice Chancellor and Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, who both rushed to the scene. The Fire Brigade arrived at the scene at 1:10 am initially with 2 fire engines which did not have the capacity to jet water to the roof of the building. After about 30 minutes more fire engines with better capacity arrived, but by this time the fire had spread through a big part of the roof. The Fire Brigade managed to subdue the fire at around 4:00 am., but after the entire roof of the building had collapsed and the entire top floor of the building and the entire Finance Department had been burnt. The fire engines experienced a challenge with lack of a fire hydrant within and in the vicinity of the University and had to fetch water from the hydrants at the Fire Brigade Headquarters.

When it appeared to the Fire Brigade that the fire had been completely extinguished, despite smoke still coming off from the Central Registry, they left the site. Unfortunately, fire again broke out in the Council Room at 8:00 pm but the Fire Brigade arrived within 15 minutes and put out the fire within one hour. The Fire Brigade has been on standby on site, fighting small fires throughout the night.

The Main Administration Building is 79 years old, having been completed in 1941. It is an iconic building and is the symbol of higher education in Uganda and the entire East and Central African Region.

The building housed the offices of the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration, the University Secretary, The University Bursar, the Directorate of Human Resources, the Directorate of Internal Audit, the Public Relations Office and the Council Room. The Printery, which is located in the basement of the building was not affected. The building had been fitted with fire extinguishers for fire fighting but these became unusable since the fire started from the roof. Being an old building, it had not been fitted with fire alarms and water sprinklers.

The Main Building is guarded by the University’s security services and the Uganda Police. At the time of the fire outbreak, the officers on duty were inside the building near the entrance and they apparently did not notice the problem until they were alerted by the Chief Security Officer. Those officers are now under Police custody. The cause of the fire is not yet known. The Criminal Investigations Directorate and the Directorate of Forensic Services of the Uganda Police have commenced investigations. Security on main campus has been strengthened.

Practically all the documents in the Directorates of Finance, Human Resource, including the Central Registry, and the Directorate of Internal Audit were destroyed. Fortunately, all hard copies of the financial documents for previous financial years had been moved to the archives, which was not affected by the fire. Similarly all old files in the Central Registry had been moved to the archives. Information of the staff in service has been digitalized and is safely kept on servers, which are not in the Main Building.

The financial documents for the Financial Year 2019/2020 are currently being audited by the Auditor General and were safely evacuated from the Main Building. With the move to the Integrated Finance Management System (IFMS) all financial transactions of the University are automatically backed up electronically at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. In addition, with the recent financial decentralization at the University, a considerable percentage of the financial documents are kept in the Colleges and administrative Units. All revenue collection including student fees, rent and other payments are received directly by URA, which then transfers the money to the consolidated fund. All payments are similarly made through the IFMS. Management therefore does not keep cash in offices as alleged by some social media reports and there was no loss of cash in the fire. Documents from the offices of the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (F&A) and some of the documents in the Office of the University Secretary which were not razed in the fire were also evacuated. Management is compiling the value of all property lost in the fire, based on the University Inventory and Board of Survey report, which was concluded at the end of August 2020.

All students related data including academic records is stored digitally on the Academic Information Management System (AIMS), which is also backed up at the Ministry of Science and Technology. Hard copy student information is kept in the Senate Building.

The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataaha Museveni, accompanied by the Minister of State for Higher Education and the Permanent Secretary visited Makerere University yesterday and addressed members of Council and Management and pledged Government support to restore the building. During the night of the fire, H.E. The President called the Vice-Chancellor several times requesting for an update on the efforts to extinguish the fire and on the causes of the fire. I thank H.E. The President and the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports for the concern they have shown during this difficult time. I similarly thank the Chancellor, Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of Council as well as other members of Council who responded immediately after this most unfortunate incident unfolded.

This incident has reminded us about two important issues, the need to insure our installations and the need to install fire hydrants on campus. At the height of fires at educational institutions, Council decided that the University should insure all key installations. Due to financial constraints, Council however decided to begin with health insurance for staff and budget for insurance of buildings in the subsequent year. Management requested the Chief Government Valuer made a valuation of the major installations, including the Main Building (UGX 15,434,782,500), the Main Library (UGX 21,569,690,854) and the Senate Building (UGX 20,508,533,625) and submitted a report on 29th November 2019, for purposes of insurance. At this time of receiving the report the budget for the next financial year had already been completed,. Management is in the process of negotiating with the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development for provision of funds for insurance of these installations. For several years, Management has budgeted for overhaul of the University’s obsolete underground water reticulation system, including installation of fire hydrants, but no money has been approved in the budgets for this purpose. Management will continue engaging Government on this issue.

The University is now faced with the task of restoring this iconic building in time for the centenary celebrations due in 2022. Management will engage Government and other stakeholders on this very important task. We are grateful to our alumni and well-wishers from around the globe for their show of sympathy and for the desire to contribute to the restoration of the building. We will inform all stakeholders about accounts to which to send their contributions when this is finalized.

Plans are under way to relocate the offices previously in the Main Building as soon as possible. It is proposed that CTF 2 will be used for this purpose.

2.0 PREPARATIONS FOR RECEIVING FINAL YEAR STUDENTS

Arrangements are under way to receive the final year students as directed by Government. Final year medical students will resume studies for the second semester on 3rd October 2020 and end on 28th November 2020. The rest of the final year undergraduate students and the graduate students will report on 17th October 2020 and end on12th December 2020. Arrangements are under way to receive the students. It is proposed that students who were ordinarily residing in halls of residence will be admitted in the halls of residence and the non-residents will continue residing off campus. This is because the capacity of the halls of residence cannot accommodate all of them. Announcements will be made to all the students in good time to allow foreign students undergo quarantine if necessary.

After receipt of clearance by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), teaching for the rest of the students will commence on 15th October 2020. Arrangements for this are under way.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe
VICE CHANCELLOR

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VC Statement on Devastating Fire Incident at Makerere University

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The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.

It is a very sad day for the Makerere University community, probably the saddest day in the history Makerere University. Our Iconic building which is the symbol of knowledge and education not only at Makerere University, but also in the East and Central region of Africa has been gutted by fire. The top floor that was housing a lot of our documents has been burnt. These include the; Finance, Internal Audit, Human Resources, Central Registry, University Secretary and Public Relations departments.

I would like to inform all our stakeholders that not all is lost. We are comforted that with the modern digital era, we had digitalized most of the documents.

The biggest task before us is to rebuild this icon of knowledge. With respect to its unique architectural masterpiece, we are planning to rebuild it, without changing its original beauty.

I thank the fire brigade for responding quickly and trying their best to contain the fire. The Uganda Police that has been on the ground since the unfortunate incident happened is still investigating the matter to establish the cause of the accident.

I convey my sympathies to the leadership, staff, students, alumni and all friends of Makerere University and I would like to reassure you that we are going to do everything necessary to restore the Main Building to its original state.

I thank H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the President of the Republic of Uganda and Visitor of Makerere University for his support throughout this devastating period. In the same spirit, I thank the First Lady who is also the Minister of Education and Sports Hon. Janet Museveni who came immediately this morning upon receipt of the sad news to assess the damage. I acknowledge her efforts to rebuild the Ivory Tower to its original form.

For more information on this matter, please follow the updates on Makerere University social media pages

Twitter: @MakerereU
Facebook: Makerere

We Build for the Future

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe
VICE CHANCELLOR

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Resumption of Teaching and Learning for Final Year CHS Students

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Members of the Makerere University College of Health Sciences Students Association (MAKCHSA) pose for a photo ahead of their 1st College Open Day and Alumni Convention held on 1st November 2019.

Featured image: Members of the Makerere University College of Health Sciences Students Association (MAKCHSA) pose for a photo ahead of their 1st College Open Day and Alumni Convention held on 1st November 2019.

This is to inform all Final Year Students of the College of Health Sciences (CHS) that teaching and learning activities which were halted following the closure of education institutions in a bid to prevent the spread of COVID-19, will resume on Saturday 3rd October 2020.

You are therefore required to report to the Dean of Students for accommodation on 3rd October 2020 and to your respective Deans in the College of Health Sciences on 5th October 2020 for detailed academic and health-related information.

Note that you must strictly adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures put in place by the Ministry of Health to combat the spread of COVID-19 which include among others:

  • Mandatory wearing of a clean mask covering the mouth and nose
  • Social distancing
  • Washing of hands regularly and/or sanitizing hands

Further note that the schedule of the remaining semester shall cover 8 weeks (5 weeks for teaching and learning and 3 weeks of examinations).

Alfred Masikye-Namoah
ACADEMIC REGISTRAR

18th September 2020

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