In 2018, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York and Gerda Henkel Stiftung introduced the CHUSS Symposia series with the aim of fostering a vibrant academic environment to promote intellectual debate and knowledge production at the University. The annual symposium brings together scholars from across the region to deliberate on issues of national and international importance.
On 16th-17th September 2020, the College held the third annual symposium under the theme; “The Ivory Tower meets Jua Kali: Reflections on theorizing the Profound from the Ordinary”. The 2020 Humanities and Social Sciences Symposium presided over by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, sought to investigate how and with what successes the academy can centre the untapped node of knowledge that exists on the periphery of the Ivory Tower.
During the two-day blended academic engagement held at Makerere University, over 80 scholars from across the region presented papers on a number of topical issues including Institutions and Instability; Popular and creative Arts; Politics, Policy and Governance; Language, Translation and Transition; Identity and Belonging; Psychology and Wellbeing; Archives and Media; Subaltern Narratives; Pedagogy, Curriculum and Classroom practice; National Narratives and Construction; Archaeology Beyond the Ivory Tower; Languages, Gender and Ideology; Media Presentations; Gender Identity and Spaces; Violence, Peace Building and Democracy; and Performing Protest and Contest.
Delivering her keynote address, Dr Grace Musila who engaged in a virtual conversation on the theme with Mr. Isaac Tibasiima, emphasized the importance of ordinary knowledge in transforming society. She underscored the need for academics to move from the colonial style of conducting research and focus on the realities in their communities. “We need to always understand why we are conducting research and the impact it has on our communities. Much as our funders may have specific interests, we need to assert ourselves and focus on research that benefits our communities. Our research should be in position to address the challenges within our societies,” she noted. Dr Grace Musila is an Associate Professor in the Department of African Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Mr. Isaac Tibasiima is a Lecturer in the Department of Literature at Makerere University.
The MISR Review No. 3
This issue appears more than a year after its scheduled publication. We have no alibis to offer, just an admission and a request that this be taken as an illustration of the continuing steep learning curve at MISR.
Key to research, we argued in Our Mission in 2016, is formulating the problem of research. Acknowledging that this would require a long journey, we dedicated The MISR Review to a double endeavour: one, to broadcast the intellectual work undertaken at MISR, particularly by advanced doctoral students, to the wider scholarly community; and two, to energize and promote debate in that community.
This issue introduces a mode of debate that we hope will take us a step further in the journey we began in 2012. The core of this issue are three articles by Sabelo J. Ndlovu-Gatsheni: “Revisiting Nguni Formations: The Mfecane and Migrations in South-Eastern Africa”; “The Ndebele Kingdom of Mzilikazi Khumalo”; and “Decolonization/Decoloniality: Converging African/Latin American Thinking”. Given as a set of lectures at Makerere Institute of Social Research, they have been revised for publication. We have invited three different scholars to contribute a critical discussion, one on each lecture.
The issue also contains two stand-alone articles. Netsanet Ge- bremichael, at the time a doctoral student at MISR, explores travel writing as an empirical mode of knowing. Saleem Badat joins a critical discussion on decolonizing the curriculum in universities, a subject to which we hope to devote more space in future.
We invite readers so inclined to send short responses (maximum 1,000 words) to the above contributions.
Mahmood Mamdani | Lyn Ossome | Suren Pillay | Samson Bezabeh March, 2020
Supporting Govt. Efforts to Address COVID-19, Youth Unemployment and Drug Abuse
With support from the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), academics from the School of Psychology in 2020 set out to investigate and provide solutions to various national development challenges. Through different projects, the researchers sought to, among other issues, establish and address the psychological impact of the public health measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19, the factors undermining adherence to the measures, and the COVID-19 related mental health challenges in refugee settlements. The researchers also investigated factors fueling drug abuse in schools and the causes of unemployment among the youth and refugees in the country. On 1st-2nd February 2021, the researcher disseminated their findings to the Makerere University community and general public, making strong recommendations to avert the challenges. The joint dissemination seminars were graced by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe.
Research projects and recommendations for addressing the challenges
Under a project titled; Children’s Tales: the Reality of COVID-19 related trauma on school children in rural Busoga, a team of researchers led by Dr. Richard Balikoowa investigated the linkage between the COVID-19 preventive measures and the increasing trauma amongst school children in three representative districts of Busoga sub-region. Using child-friendly qualitative methods like drawing, story circles and focus group conversations, the researchers assessed over 418 children’s perception of the public health measures and their understanding of public information about COVID-19.
Disseminating the research findings at Makerere University on 1st February 2021, Dr. Balikoowa informed participants that all sampled children decried the COVID-19 preventive measures. He explained that the uncertainty (lack of clear information) on when the schools and worship centres would open, the feeding challenges, and the different forms of violence exacerbated by the preventive measures increased trauma amongst the children. In their report, the researchers indicated that whereas 3.11% and 22.73% children reported little or no signs of trauma, 46.17% and 27.99% reported moderate and severe signs of trauma. The study however revealed that there were other underlying factors that traumatized the children, noting that COVID-19 only contributed 2.7%.
In a bid to address trauma amongst the children, the researchers called for better packaging and dissemination of information on the pandemic to ensure it reaches all children including those in rural areas. “Children have been largely neglected in all communications regarding COVID-19. There is urgent need for child-tailored messages to avoid uncertainties that may increase trauma amongst the children,” the researchers explained. They called for continued sensitization and counseling of children in a bid to avert serious psychological effects like peritraumatic and pre-traumatic stress disorders, as well as pathological aggression that may result into intergenerational and multigenerational trauma challenges.
In a study titled; “Wandering the COVID-19 Corridors: Examining the Social Distancing Prevention Measure among the Restless Youth in Uganda”, the researchers namely; Dr Florence Nansubuga (Principal Investigator), Dr Khamisi Musanje and Dr Martin Baluku sought to establish the factors undermining adherence to the social distancing measure amongst the youth. The study conducted in Kampala and Wakiso districts revealed that the attitude of the youth towards the pandemic was one of the major causes of complacency. Presenting the findings of their study, Dr Nasubuga noted that whereas 94% of the youth had sufficient knowledge about the pandemic, the majority were adamant to practice the preventive measures. “Many of the youth believed they were not susceptible to the virus –that it was a disease of old people and the whites. Others thought the disease had been turned political to fulfill the interests of those in power,” she explained. Besides attitude, the researchers observed that there were several cultural factors (habitual routines) affecting the implementation of social distancing. “In many of our cultures embracing is viewed as a sign of affection. Social distancing has therefore been perceived as a barrier not a benefit,” she noted.
The researchers observed that the health belief model on which the social distancing measure is premised disregards social norms that govern human choices and habitual routines. In the event of COVID-19, the researchers recommend the use of the social practice model, particularly the component of community of practice in the efforts to transform health seeking behaviors amongst the youth. The researchers call for community engagement in addressing the challenges.
Call for Applications: CHUSS Inter-disciplinary PhD Programme by Research
With funding from the Gerda-Henkel Foundation of Dusseldorf Germany, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), Makerere University seeks to admit 10 students for the 2021 intake of the Interdisciplinary PhD in Historical Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences. Historical Humanities and Humanistic Social Sciences include, but are not limited to a cluster of subjects (disciplines) that study human society with a particular sensitivity to change over time in shifting historical contexts with various kinds of evidence to support analyses of what informs and shapes the changes and the implications of such changes in human society. Preference will be accorded to projects that approach the study of the Humanities and Social Sciences with a clearly strong historical focus in the following fields:
- The Classics, namely literature, philosophy, epic, and drama,
- Prehistory/Early History of Africa,
- Language and Linguistics,
- Creative Arts in Africa,
- Religion in Africa,
- Political theory,
- Security, Society and the State,
- Islam, the Modern Nation State and Transnational Movements
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