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Humanities & Social Sciences

Mak Luminaries Call for the Promotion of Humanities & Literature in Uganda’s Education System for a Balanced Citizenry with Human & Moral Values

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Prof. Arthur Gakwandi (Centre) Prof. Umar Kakumba (5th Right) and Prof. Austin Bukenya (4th Right) in a group photo with the CHUSS College leadership and other luminaries after the opening session of the Celebration. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Makerere University Literary legends Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Austin Bukenya have commended government effort in promoting Natural sciences and building the middle class economy with reservations.

Whereas promotion of natural sciences is backed by good intentions, the professors contend that downgrading humanities and social sciences will result into a population without human and moral values.

They proposed that ,for holistic human development, both natural, humanistic and social sciences must be promoted.

The two professors were speaking during their 80th Birthday on 5th April 2024 at Makerere University‘s Yusuf Lule Auditorium. The Department of Literature in collaboration with the School of Languages Literature and Communication and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences organised a half day literary event codenamed: Celebrating Literary Legends: Gakwandi and Bukenya@80 aimed  at recognizing, celebrating and debating these two literary legends as part of Makerere’s literary luminaries that have contributed to her indisputable literary iconicity. Arthur Gakwandi and Austin Bukenya are seminal writers and literary scholars in Makerere University and Uganda’s history,  widely celebrated beyond Uganda’s borders.

Prof. Austin Bukenya (Right) and Prof. Arthur Gakwandi (2nd Right) pose with some of the gifts they received at the event. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Austin Bukenya (Right) and Prof. Arthur Gakwandi (2nd Right) pose with some of the gifts they received at the event.

Reflecting on the Ugandan Society for the years he has lived and where the country is heading, Prof. Arthur Gakwandi noted that Government has focused and made progress in expanding  the  middle income class. He however noted that no one is concerned about the kind of  middle class being created.

“I see people driving huge land cruisers on the highway and they lower window screens and throw  bottles and banana peelings in the middle of the road. This is the middle class.  I see people having a lot of money but peddling conspiracy theories, exchanging insults. Is that the kind of middle class we want? Gakwandi wondered adding that:

“So we are racing to improve the economy, introduce science by giving further incentives but Ubuntu which is the oil that creates the society, the personal relationship between people is lacking. I see people building walls around themselves and people do not know each other and only interact with money.” Gakwandi stated

Gakwandi expressed fear that the country is creating a middle class that does not serve people.

The middle class, he said  is supposed to balance between the rich indulgences and lack of concern by those who are privileged on one hand, and those at the bottom who have no voice and are trapped in poverty. But if we have a middle class that does not play that role, then it’s not serving its society.

Prof. Arthur Gakwandi making his remarks. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Arthur Gakwandi making his remarks.

Prof. Gakwandi justified the unique power of the humanities and social sciences – Literature inclusive.

The unique power of literature according to Prof. Gakwandi  is to enable readers to enter the lives of other people to experience their pain, their pleasures , their ambitions and their fantasies which, no other discipline comes close to.

“History can tell you how many people died in the 2nd world war, who were the principal actors and their roles in determining the outcomes. Even science can tell you the role of technology, the role it played in tilting the balance and economics can assess the impact of the war on economies of the countries.

But none of these can convey the personal anguish of the people who were caught up in various localities during the phases of the war, but, a novelist can capture the impact of the social and emotional life of those who were caught in the war. And when you get emotionally connected to people, you stop regarding them as statistics. So it is important to make Literature an important  element of our education system and promote literature as a life-long source of leisure that has the ability to connect”, Gakwandi stressed.

Prof. Arthur Gakwandi (Left) receiving the department gift from Prof. Sr. Dominic Dipio (Right). The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Arthur Gakwandi (Left) receiving the department gift from Prof. Sr. Dominic Dipio (Right).

Prof Gakwandi commended the department of Literature for the recognition and courteous relationship nurtured over the years.

“What is most touching is that I keep reading the Ugandan newspapers about people fighting for office, jobs, undermining each other and trying to exclude others so as to take their positions. What has been good at the Literature department where I have spent so many years is that we had such a good courteous relationship with each other and myself, I left the department three times and every time I came back, they were happy to welcome me back. There was no rivalry, no competition…” He added

He saluted the leadership of literature department for thinking about this kind of occasion to recognise the contribution made to the growth of the department adding that he feels gratified that people that he taught have ascended  to levels of professors.

Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and family cutting the cake. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and family cutting the cake.

Humanities are being systematically degraded, ignored and underfunded – Prof. Austin Bukenya

Prof Austin Bukenya observed that the humanities are being systematically degraded, ignored and underfunded.

“We have to mount a certain fight to keep the humanities on the front path. We write not simply to pleasure ourselves but we write in order to sustain and develop society.

Bukenya called for respect of humanities and social sciences if the country is to produce a civilised middle class population.

Prof. Austin Bukenya speaking. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Austin Bukenya speaking.

“The sciences are going to help us advance technically and economically but they are not going to help advance humanity –the Ubuntu. Please, make humanities including literature visible, desirable and acceptable.

Philosophy teaches you to think. Language teaches you how to communicate and literature teaches you how to feel and those are the processes of humanisation. We need a human society not just a country of mechanical robots”, Prof Bukenya appealed and dismissed as false the reasoning that humanities and social sciences are unemployable.

Offering guidance on how to make lives worthwhile, Prof Austin Bukenya advised participants to have passion, love and faith.

“Be driven  and have passion for things that  you care and feel strongly about and they will keep you going.  Secondly love yourself and other people. But if you don’t love yourself, you can’t love other people and you will have low esteem. Everybody has something to contribute to your being and thirdly, have faith and believe in yourself and others especially the potential in other people to do good”, These, Bukenya said  kept him going and  loving his students

Prof. Austin Bukenya (Centre) receiving department gifts from Prof. Okello Ogwang (Left) and Prof. Sr. Dominic Dipio (Right). The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Austin Bukenya (Centre) receiving department gifts from Prof. Okello Ogwang (Left) and Prof. Sr. Dominic Dipio (Right).

Vice Chancellor honors Gakwandi and Bukenya as unrivalled class of academics

Presiding over the function as Chief guest, the Vice Chancellor represented by his Deputy in charge of Academic Affairs Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba hailed the  Department of Literature for making  it part of their vision and aim to celebrate the people that have built for the future, describing the initiative as a great part of the ubuntu philosophy, to share the joy and achievements of those who have gone before them, and working toward inspiring the future generation.

“Their achievements outshine most of us, but also remind us that the academic journey ahead many of us is something we ought to take in order to be like they are or even greater than they are. After all, the latter generation must build on what they have found ”,  Kakumba stated

He said the nature of scholarship these two gentlemen nurtured serve as  a reminder  of the centrality of both the literary and creative arts to human development and humanity.

“While we read stories about the characters they have created, we are reminded of our situation in the world, and how important it is to see the human being as the focus of our relationships. I am sure the students’ performances will not only entertain us, but will awaken us to the truth about our being in a world that needs healing, laughter and celebration. This is what we do in Africa when we celebrate people. This is what makes CHUSS and the Department of Literature unique”, Kakumba emphasized adding that:

“Bukenya and Gakwandi belong to a class of academics that are unrivalled. Having shared them with the world, both in academia and diplomatic service shows that Makerere truly takes its place on the world map. I have heard what they have studied and dedicated their lives to, showing that we have played in a role in building both theory and practice of the literary arts.

Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba representing the Vice Chancellor. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Assoc. Prof. Umar Kakumba representing the Vice Chancellor.

This is a journey that many of us ought to take. What they have built, we must build further and never let die. Orature is a central field of study in the Department of Literature. Seeing the man who gave it its breath seated here with us is not only awe-striking, but humbling. That is what makes the academy an amazing place”.

“Today, as we celebrate these two legends, we are reminded of our place in the twenty first century. We give due honor to the people that played a part in making the academy a place where debates and conversations about life start and keep happening. It must not end here. It is a tradition we must continue. This is what keeps our disciplines alive”, The Vice Chancellor lauded

Gakwandi and Bukenya make life real – Prof. Josephine Ahikire

The Ag. Principal College of Humanities and Social Sciences Prof. Josephine Ahikire described the day as an occasion to celebrate the practitioners of life, for this is what Literature is about.

 “Literary legends like Gakwandi and Bukenya make life real or like our students say “ They make life tick”, because they  talk about, reminisce, reflect, debate, analyse, comment and simultaneously live life.  In short they bring life to life”. She said

Prof. Josephine Ahikire delivering her remarks. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Josephine Ahikire delivering her remarks.

In 2022, Ahikire reported that the Department of Literature celebrated the lives of literary giants: Rubadiri, Ngugi  and Wangusa but that time each icon had a separate platform. This time round in 2024, she explained, the department decided to reinvent its style and try out a double portion approach celebrating Prof Gakwandi and Prof Bukenya on the same afternoon.

“This afternoon the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is sitting at the feet of two literary legends to show strongly the great heritage we are so very proud of. Prof Gakwandi and Prof Bukenya have nurtured the Department of Literature and its sister departments  through challenging times.

They carried out the work of sustaining the name of this university through the Amin years and at some point the situation was so tense that they had to leave or they would have been lost in the mist of violence. We are grateful for their resilience, prudence and for their courage as well as for always living for Makerere and Uganda even for the times when they were far away from here”, the principals appreciated.

Students performing on stage. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Students performing on stage.

Prof. Ahikire also stated that this event  put the student community at the centre of the celebration so that they  understand the importance of pillars. The literary scholar Ngugi wa Thiong’o keeps insiting that all scholars that use the term orature to talk about Africa’s wealth of verbal arts should acknowledge that Pio Zirimu and his student Austin Bukenya while here at Makerere University coined the term which is being used world wide.

“We celebrate Prof Gakwandi in equal measure and acknowledge the foundational work he carried out in demonstrating how the African novel was relevant to contemporary experience and building a base for African literary criticism from the perspective of an African critic. We also take particular note of the work he has done in the field of creative writing as a mentor and a creative writer himself,” Ahikire stressed.

She was hopeful that students will look with pride and admiration to Gakwandi and Bukenya’s unique and time-tested efforts and choose to continue Makerere’s vibrant legacy of ‘building for the future’.

Prof Gakwandi and Mwalimu Bukenya are crucial pillars – Assoc. Prof. Saudah Namyalo

The  Dean, School of Languages, Literature and Communication Assoc. Prof. Saudah Namyalo  said, the school was  proud to present two courageous voices whose academic and creative work embarks on journeys that crisscross from the real world to the imaginative and from the imaginative to the real world to teach the values of being fully human.

“As a school, we are proud to celebrate two eminent literary critics and creative writers in Makerere University and Uganda’s history.  Prof Gakwandi is widely known for his novel Kosiya Kifefe and its ideas on colonial and post independence experiences and for grappling with thoughts on the transitions between the city and the village, poverty and privilege. Prof. Gakwandi both as a literary critic and creative writer has demonstrated that stories and their analysis keep us connected to our communities but also make us aware of human folly” the Dean stated.

Assoc. Prof. Saudah Namyalo speaking during the celebrations. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Assoc. Prof. Saudah Namyalo speaking during the celebrations.

In Mwalimu Bukenya, the Dean explained that school  was celebrating  a man who has been hailed as a true East African, who is at home in all East Africa,  and is claimed as belonging to the whole region.

“In fact sometimes our Kenyan siblings do point out that the man’s name has the word  Kenya in it so he truly belongs to Kenya even by name. When he speaks Kiswahili the Tanzanians turn and tell us to send their brother back home. When Makerere Counts the years he has served here, they feel justified to say that his roots are indeed here. So the school is proud to name you, Mwalimu, among its own and to celebrate you on Makerere grounds, your first academic home”. Said Namyalo.

She thanked the Department of Literature for giving a chance to  students to recognize the achievements of those before them, so that they too can be inspired to craft brave new worlds to insist that the study of humanity is valuable and priceless.

Gakwandi and Bukenya opened my academic career – Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi

The Head Department of Literature Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi thanked Prof Gakwandi and Mwalimu Bukenya  for giving the university this honor to celebrate them.

Nabutanyi expressed gratitude to the Vice Chancellor for making time to celebrate with the department and for continuously heeding to the department call.

The head also thanked the Dean and Principal for untiring support to the department given the numerous activities they engage in. Nabutanyi extended appreciation to Chair organizing committee for the successful organization of the event.

Dr. Nabutanyi introduced and thanked outstanding members of staff who have won national and international awards to show the genealogy of great work that the department of Literature has produced. He said the winners stand on the shoulders of the giants like Gakwandi and Bukenya being celebrated for their great work.

Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi making his remarks. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Dr. Edgar Nabutanyi making his remarks.

The two celebrated gentlemen according to Edgar Nabutanyi  are important in his life.

“In mid 2000s I was assigned Prof. Bukenya as my  supervisor for MA and during those days, I was young and thought I was clever and I had an exaggerated sense of what I could do as a dissertation. I told him I wanted to read the African Novel using the architype theory.  He spent ten minutes explaining what architype were and recommended Prof. Gakwandi’s  book and the novel – Contemporary experiences in Africa.

This, in a way opened my academic career and a few years later, Prof. Abasi Kiyimba during my defense of my thesis commended me for having done good work and mastered not only the theory but also the area”. He narrated

Dr. Nabutanyi continued to attribute his success to the two celebrated  professors citing that during his teaching career at O-level, his student nicknamed him  Kifefe in shortened form as Kife and the name is  still popular with students he taught that time.

He said the two, Gakwandi and Bukenya have been influential expressing hope and pledged that the new crop of students will live to the good works that these elders have done.

He thanked Prof. Gakwandi and Bukenya for gracing the corridors of the literature department and doing the wonderful work. He also extended gratitude to their families for sharing with them.

The Chair Organising committee thanked all participants and the Gakwandi and Bukenya family for gracing the occasion.

Prof. Susan Kiguli speaking. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Susan Kiguli speaking.

Kiguli recognized the efforts by the committee in providing the forum to promote critical debate and advance awareness of homegrown talent and outstanding service to humanity beyond Makerere’s century of existence.

Kiguli described Prof. Austin Bukenya as an orator who speaks many many languages fluently while Prof Arthur Gawandi as widely travelled and one who has met and dined with great writers.

In the spirit of continually drawing attention to our own work and accomplishments at Makerere University, the Department of Literature  showcased oral performances from the students, readings, a keynote address by Prof. Abasi kiyimba and a panel discussion of  Gakwandi and Bukenya Scholars.

Left to Right Panelists: Dr. Chris Kirunda, Mr. Ismail Magezi, Dr. Innocent Masengo, Prof. Sr. Dominic Dipio and Chair Assoc. Prof. Susan Kiguli. The Department of Literature, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) Celebrates Prof. Arthur Gakwandi and Prof. Austin Bukenya at 80, 5th April 2024, The Auditorium, Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Left to Right Panelists: Dr. Chris Kirunda, Mr. Ismail Magezi, Dr. Innocent Masengo, Prof. Sr. Dominic Dipio and Chair Assoc. Prof. Susan Kiguli.

Most of the activities of the day were carried out by students from the Department of Literature in a bid to inspire them to think of the importance of following the work of our own scholars and practitioners. This effort aims at focusing on Gakwandi and Bukenya’s monumental achievements and promoting  creative writing, critical debate and cultural production within Makerere University, Uganda and beyond.

The Keynote lecture by Prof. Abasi Kiyimba is downloadable below.

More readings below:

 Makerere Celebrates Literary Titans: Gakwandi and Bukenya  in Newvision: https://www.newvision.co.ug/category/education/makerere-celebrates-literary-titans-gakwandi-NV_185062

Mak set to honor Gakwandi and Bukenya @80:
https://chuss.mak.ac.ug/news/mak-set-celebrate-literary-legends-gakwandi-and-bukenya80-0

Gakwandi and a few rebels of Ugandan literature Wednesday, April 03, 2024: https://www.monitor.co.ug/uganda/oped/columnists/charles-onyango-obbo/gakwandi-and-a-few-rebels-of-ugandan-literature-4576498

Makerere Honors Professors Arthur And Austin For Their Contribution To Literature. Church of Uganda Family TV: https://youtu.be/oe5YW_an2vc?si=oQVnbg3v-fC4Pcdt

Makerere Professor Bukenya and Gakwandi honored. Beg TV: https://youtu.be/z-UhZ1ekgyg?si=Zgajf3dWqrnwjLM-

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Humanities & Social Sciences

Single Mothers Increasing: Mak Researchers Call for Friendly Policies on Parenting to Improve Children Welfare

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Participants pose for a group photo after the closing ceremony at Fairway hotel in Kampala. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Researchers from Makerere University’s African Research Universities Alliance  Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) have found that single motherhood is a phenomenon that has been documented since the colonial era but, it is  increasing in Uganda. Research indicates that neoliberal and capitalist ideals, indigenous and western cultures have exacerbated the problem. Researchers are now calling on government to enact friendly policies on parenting to improve children welfare in Uganda. Makerere dons also want government to address issues of unpaid care economy. On the other hand, stakeholders have asked the university to introduce a graduate program on parenting to address capacity gaps in dealing with issues relating to parenting and children’s’ welfare.

The call was made during the policy dialogue organized by the ARUA CoE aimed at providing a platform for Early and Senior Careers researchers to share their research findings with policy makers and stakeholders and be able to obtain feedback. The workshop was also to create synergies between the different implementing institutions driving advocacy and policy change at national and local levels as well as identifying key policy and regulatory frameworks for improved parenting.

The Centre Director, Assoc. Prof. Sarah Ssali said, the centre  was established to deepen scholarship on identities in Africa, how they change and how the changes are impacting on life and development in Africa. As first phase Prof. Ssali said, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Rwanda got a capacity building grant financed by the United Kingdom Research and Innovations (UKRI) and focused on how parenting identity is changing.

“And in particular, we wanted to find out how is fatherhood and motherhood changing, why  is it changing and how these changes impact on children’s welfare. So the whole aspect of capacity building grant was to strengthen the capacity to research and engage policy makers in studying parenting, fatherhood and motherhood and  children’s wellbeing  on the African continent”, The Director said

“We have studied for three years, involved 21 early career researchers, given out 18 small grants, engaged 9 senior scholars and today, we are having a segment of disseminating the Uganda research findings to the policy makers.” Prof. Ssali added.

Centre Director Associate Prof. Sarah Ssali giving an overview of the project. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Centre Director Associate Prof. Sarah Ssali giving an overview of the project.

The Senior and Early Career  researchers  presented  their research findings to obtain feedback from the policy makers and stakeholders in dialogue that was held at Fairway Hotel on 25th March 2024. The policy dialogue brought together participants from academia, government ministries, agencies, private sector and civil society organizations. These included, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Gender, the media, Uganda Police, Uganda Prisons, Uganda Women Parliamentary Association, Makerere and Kyambogo University, Young Child Uganda, Uganda National Association of the deaf and Mothers Heart Uganda and Kampala City Capital Authority among others.

The function was officially opened by the Principal College of Humanities and Social Sciences represented by the Deputy Assoc.  Prof. Eric Awich Ochen and closed by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs represented by the Academic Registrar Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi. The Director, Directorate of Graduate Research and Training Prof. Edward Bbaale also graced the occasion.

Deputy Principal CHUSS, Assoc. Prof. Eric Awich Ochen officially opened the workshop.
Deputy Principal CHUSS, Assoc. Prof. Eric Awich Ochen officially opened the workshop.

The workshop was characterized by speeches, presentation of research findings and panel discussions. Prof. Sarah Ssali presented on the systematic review on the changing notion of motherhood and fatherhood in Uganda; Dr. Zaid Sekito focused on the historicisation of   the concept of motherhood in Buganda from 1840 – 2021;  Mr. Howard Tugume  analysed ways in which pigeon pea production shapes  parenthood among climate smart agricultural farmers  of Lira and Alebtong while Ms. Proscovia Nalwadda assessed the changing notion of motherhood and fatherhood amidst COVID 19 family-based  challenges in Mukono district.

“From all the four research plus what we did in foregrounding of the systematic literature review by senior researchers shows that the family structure has been constantly changing initially impacted by colonialism but later impacted on by other things today such as CoVID 19, neoliberalism, job losses, HIV and wars and all these are changing how traditionally we conceptualized  fathers and mothers”.

For example the role of providing is under threat, fathers move on, and abandon, and single mothers are increasing in numbers and they have to continue providing for these children and sometimes we see pressure manifesting as street children but also consequently creates a scenario where children who never saw fathers in homes choosing singlehood, children who never saw fathers in their homes not knowing what to do when they impregnate girls, and just keep on the run”, Centre Director and Senior Researcher who is also Dean School of Women and Gender Studies Sarah Ssali explained.

Ssali said, the meeting was to share with policy makers, activists, civil society organizations and the press what researchers have discovered and implore them to consider these changes and findings in the work they do so as to have more responsive policies that put family and children in the center and support parents to do their work .

 “The key point here is that family structures are changing. What sense do we make of it and how do we work and support what remains? The way forward is to have policies that support families because families will always continue to be with us but we need family friendly policies”. She stressed.

Center Director Assoc. Prof. Sarah Ssali, Academic Registrar Prof. Mukadasi Buyinza and Director DGRT Prof. Edward Bbaale interacting during a break session. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Center Director Assoc. Prof. Sarah Ssali, Academic Registrar Prof. Mukadasi Buyinza and Director DGRT Prof. Edward Bbaale interacting during a break session.

Single mothers on the rise

In his presentation, Dr. Zaid Sekito said, the increase in single mothers is a phenomenon that has been documented for long since the colonial era. In traditional family settings in Africa, Sekito said, single parents were rare or unheard of  because families lived in a community and  extended families. A semblance of single parenting was seen with colonization and movements and that time, they were talking about de facto single parents because although the fathers were there, they were never present. They would move to plantation farms and mines and would be away for even three years and the mothers who looked at the families became de facto.

With time, especially in Uganda, Dr. Sekito narrated,  many wars of the 1970s took away most men and many women started looking after children as single mothers because fathers had died. Then, the phenomenon of single mothers  reproduced itself, not just created by war but also created by economic conditions when fathers have to travel far to work but also some when they realize that they have fathered a child and  they are not ready, they get on to the run.

“So single motherhood is increasing because, while fathers can walk away, mothers are stuck with the children. So economic changes, wars have been some of the primary drivers.

But also now, we are beginning to see a phenomenon where also mothers walk away. Children are being abandoned at the garbage sites and streets and sometimes mothers go to work and live children with house helps or grandparents. Sometimes both parents go away or die and children have to look after themselves”. Sekito observed.

Dr. Zaid Sekito presenting his study findings. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Dr. Zaid Sekito presenting his study findings.

Sekito also reported that many of the Ugandan families that are not earning much are under stress and as they try to cope with long distance work, the children are left behind.

“It is important that concerned authorities, probation and welfare office, ministry of Gender, Uganda Government come in to support families so that they are held together. They can also explore other forms of families such as adoptive parenting, foster parenting but whether people foster or adopt, or whether children are in extended families, families need support. Most families are not rich and are coping with a lot of pressure as we transition from the rural peasant agrarian families into the modern capitalistic families”. Dr. Sekito recommended.

Dr. Sekito’s research  examined the meaning and implication behind the concept of motherhood from 1840 – 2021, when Buganda became into contact with external forces and also covering the precolonial space. He said, the concept motherhood, in the 1840s conceived mothers as being caretakers and everything in the social aspect and that time, even fathers had great responsibility ranging from moral upbringing of children and bread winners.

 Men, according to Dr. Sekito have changed and ceased being men, when they got exposed to western capitalist forces, when the labour market became monetized and that is when fathers became more inclined to bread winning activities and the rest of the roles relegated to the mothers. Children henceforth, became inclined to their mothers so much that the attachment had to continue and as the neoliberal era set in, most fathers focused on  the bread winning role but even some lost and abandoned the roles altogether.

“As we speak now, the number of single mothers is on the increase. According to the UBOS 2024 report, the number has increased from 20 -30%. This is for women having children but are single mothers. This statistics have a lot of implications on the role that culture plays”. Sekito said.

Cultures according to Sekito have been responsible for the increasing number of single motherhood as they promote habits such as overdrinking.

“A parent who goes out to drink a lot has nothing to do with valuing what parenting is, so that moral fabric is always lost. We are seeing cultures permitting polygamy without due consideration of the man’s ability to take care of the wives and children” Sekito stated.

A Commissioner from Uganda Police Force speaking during the dialogue. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
A Commissioner from Uganda Police Force speaking during the dialogue.

The other issue according to Dr. Sekito is the lack of moral guidance and cognitive  behavioral direction where men abandon their families because their women have produced girls or boys only or a child with  disability. In this case, as a man moves out, a woman is stuck to single-handedly take care of children.

Consequently Sekito  said, women have lost trust in men and decided to concentrate on bringing up  their children and  are labelled all sorts of names. Dr. Sekito reported that Since 1980s there has been that aspect of marginalization and social exclusion of women by men and sometimes taking advantage of those with disabilities.

Because many men are lacking guidance which is embed within culture, a Muganda man will describe a woman who give birth to  a lame child as woman with bad omen which is rooted in culture and socially constructed. This is carried on by boys who marry and this culture does not defend the women using prevailing circumstances or biological science.

There are instances where men take advantage of the physically impaired girls and women, use them and abandon them. There are disabled women having four children but you can hardly point out their fathers, but, high class citizens are prime suspected fathers” said Sekito

Sekito also associated the rising number of single mothers to the western ideals. The don cited a common practice and space of having sex for pleasure, the old and rich men having women but not wives and single motherhood by choice.

A journalist contributes during the dialogue. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
A journalist contributes during the dialogue.

The study also associated the rising number of single mothers to  the rising education, political, social and economic statuses.  A significant number of single mothers with low educational levels reported that their husbands had abandoned then in favor of highly educated partners to march their social, political and economic status. These women according to Dr. Sekito begun humbly with their men when they had nothing, but when they advanced, they dropped them on grounds that they are a shame in public.

Dr. Sekito proposed a form of cultural re-orientation to challenge both indigenous and western cultures to improve parenting; formulating policies that support cognitive behavioral therapies where people can be spoken to, and, revising some of the colonial legislation like one on alcohol consumption.

Stakeholders ask Makerere to introduce a Graduate program on parenting

During the panel discussion, stakeholders decried the capacity gaps in dealing with issues of parenting in the different public, private and civil society organization asking Makerere University to leverage on the partnership and research to  build human capacity to address the gaps.

Early Career Researchers responding to questions after their presentations. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Early Career Researchers responding to questions after their presentations.

The Director, Directorate of Graduate Research and Training at Makerere University Prof. Edward Bbaale welcomed the move and the possibility to develop an interdisciplinary graduate program  in the School of Women and Gender Studies  to address the capacity gaps.

Prof. Bbaale expressed gratitude to ARUA center for the work well done saying, its rightly within the strategic direction and priorities of the university. As a Directorate, Bbaale said, it gives him  a lot of hope that the university has units  building the research led aspect .

Bbaale said, one way of building a research mantra is through building partnerships and collaborations as well as internationalization, and, ARUA Center comes in handy to advance the agenda adding that collaborations that have been built in this endeavor were heartwarming.

“I enjoyed the panel discussion seeing the academia, the researchers and the policy makers come in with different perspectives; and there has been a point of convergence on a number of issues and one of it, is to deepen research on un-answered questions with evidence” said Bbaale

Prof. Edward Bbaale making his remarks. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Edward Bbaale making his remarks.

Addressing issues of unpaid care economy can have positive implications

On a personal note, Prof. Bbaale expressed the need to reignite the debate on unpaid care economy. Unpaid economy, he said, refers to the work done within the household, community that is not recognized or renumerated such as child care, elder care and domestic chores. This work is often performed by family members particularly women without financial compensation.

From  the  gender perspective  Bbaale  said, there is much more that academia  and policy makers and stakeholders can do to recognize and compensate  caring hands that make  what people  are.

“In terms of parenting, unpaid economy can significantly impact parents particularly mothers as they bear the primary care responsibility and domestic duties. This can lead to dire consequences such as limited career opportunities and increased stress affecting the overall wellbeing and ability to participate fully in the work force”, said Bbaale

From the economic stand point , the unpaid care economy according to the professor has both direct and indirect costs on the Gross National Product. Directly, he said, it contributes to the economy by enabling other members to participate in the paid work or other productive work.

 But indirectly, Bbaale said, the lack of recognition and support for unpaid care work leads to economic loss by perpetrating economic inequalities, limiting women participation in the labor force and constraining their overall productivity.

Basing on what had taken place in the discourse, Bbaale expressed optimism  of a bright future in coming up with an interdisciplinary  program and research that can address many of the issues raised.

A representative from NUDIPU contributing to the discussion through sign language interpreters. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
A representative from NUDIPU contributing to the discussion through sign language interpreters.

ARUA taking the university to the community- Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi

While closing the workshop, the Academic Registrar Makerere University Prof. Makadasi Buyinza commended the centre leadership and team for building strategic partnerships and taking the university to the communities.

“I feel too good to see that Makerere has come of age, we had the police officers, listened to submissions in a low tone to influence policy. I listened to the Principal Agricultural Officer, and it means that this has been a historic event at least in our lifetime as a university”, Said Buyinza.

He appreciated Prof Sarah Ssali for the initiative to write the grant winning proposal that brought resources helping to engage and meet partners in the business and community service.

He commended the Centre for strengthening capacity on active research and policy engagement in notions of identity saying, the stakeholders have been able to see how the notion and narrative of fatherhood and motherhood is changing and the need to strategize how to improve children’s’ wellbeing through research.

Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi making his closing remarks.
Prof. Buyinza Mukadasi making his closing remarks.

Buyinza implored the center to deepen the partnership and build the forum of exchange so that periodically, they come together for updates on emerging issues on parenting. He said, a forum like this, helps coordinate and get feedback on a number of policies.

“There was a discussion about curricular. Time is now. Makerere is looking for innovative ways of transforming society. If we can do that through curricular please present to us, we shall support you in Senate”, Buyinza pledged to support implementation of a new program in parenting.

On behalf of the university, Prof. Byinza expressed commitment to conduct research and have the evidence-based policy.

Participants speak out

A representative from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries Eunice Alloo  expressed the need to ensure that interventions go beyond gender issues to address issues of parenting, integrate issues of motherhood and fatherhood to improve the welfare of children.

“In my department and division of home economics that deals with family life, we need to go further and introduce issues of motherhood and fatherhood in our home economics training and welfare” Alloo said.

Ms. Zaina Nakubulwa from KCCA making her submission during the policy dialogue.
Ms. Zaina Nakubulwa from KCCA making her submission during the policy dialogue.

Besides handling people with disabilities, Ester Adeke from the Child and Family Protection Unit in the Uganda Police Force appreciated researchers for unearthing issues on parenting saying, it creates a basis and work for Uganda police.

“The insight given  brings forth the need for us to do more of the proactive positive parenting especially for mothers and fathers to provide safer solutions to manage the hate or love situations; to build self esteem in the mothers and fathers; and transfer to the child, then responsible parenting and accountability for each as a child and parent. Let us appreciate co-parenting not existing in marriage but core parenting is your mandate and role even when the marriage has failed to work”, Adeke said      

The Principal Social Development Officer Ministry of Gender and Social Development Lucy Otto said, besides  advocating  for evidence policy making, there is need to work in partnership to agree on the research agenda.

“Let three core institutions namely Africhild, Makerere University Child development center and ARUA sit together and agree on the research agenda to fill identified gaps, equip parents with necessary information and support to step up parenting and reduce gender based violence”. Said Otto.

UMSC representative (Left) and Lucy Otto (Right) from the Ministry of Gender took part in the panel discussions. Makerere University African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Notions of Identity in Africa (ARUA CoE) Single Motherhood Policy Dialogue, Presentations of Research Findings by Senior and Early Career Researchers, 25th March 2024, Fairway Hotel, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
UMSC representative (Left) and Lucy Otto (Right) from the Ministry of Gender took part in the panel discussions.

Appreciating the role of religious leaders in building families through marriage ceremonies and counselling, the representative from the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council asked Makerere to continue inviting religious leader in such dialogues.

She expressed the need for researchers and policy makers to streamline data from of all religious sects. She said, Islam teaching preaches care of children but there is need for mindset change program on polygamy, regulate and  set the minimum standards for men to marry many wives.

“… the Muslim community may you please demand the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council to regulate polygamy because in my office these are common cases. Cases of child neglect and child abuse come due to polygamy. You can suggest that the minimum standard of a man  getting another wife,  is the status of the existing wife. Is she having the basics such as shelter, education and food so that people do not do it un-quranic way because it is an attack on the institution. It is alarming having irresponsible fathers just marrying and producing children for the community to suffer…” she implored the Moslem community.

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Mak Celebrates the International Mother Language Day: Families, Language Experts & Policy Makers Called to Harness & Promote African Languages

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Officials from Buganda Kingdom and Makerere University top management at the occassion of inaugurating the Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum at Makerere. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.

Makerere University through the Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication on 21st February 2024 joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Mother Language Day. This day is observed every year to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The celebrations  started with the official opening of the Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum at Makerere University in the morning. Sir Edward Muteesa II was the 35th Kabaka of Buganda and the first President of the Republic of Uganda, and an alumnus of Makerere University. Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum is located at Makerere University, Quarry Road, Plot 95. This site was the on- campus private residence of Sir Edward Muteesa II when he was a student of Literature at Makerere from 1943 to 1945.

The  International Mothers Language Day ceremony was held  in the afternoon on the major theme, “Different Languages, One People: Celebrating and Harnessing Uganda’s Linguistic and Cultural Diversity,” while the days’ Sub-theme was,  “Harnessing Cultural Diversity for Social and Economic Development”

 The inauguration of the Museum and the celebrations to mark the International Mother Language  Day were   presided over by the Kabaka of Buganda represented  by the Nnaalinnya – Agnes Nabaloga at the Yusuf Lule Auditorium.  Nnaalinnya was accompanied by the Katikkiro Owek. Charles Peter Mayiga. The  Vice Chancellor, Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Ministers  and the royal family members from Buganda Kingdom, Members of University Council and top Management, Principals, Deans and Heads of department, Students’ leaders  and the Nkoba Zamboggo  Students’ Association and the  academic fraternity graced the occasion.

Multilingual Education is a pillar for Inter- Generational Learning, says  the Kabaka

While delivering  Kabaka’s message, Nnaalinnya hailed  the School of Languages, Literature and Communication for  collaboratively organising the 2024 celebration  with the Nkoba Zamboggo Students Association.

As custodians of culture that cherishes and endeavors to protect and develop its own mother language (Luganda), Nnaalinnya thanked the nation of Bangladesh which initiated the idea of celebrating mother languages at the international level. This idea she reported, was embraced and promoted by UNESCO in 1999 and, has been celebrated since then.

In line with the theme of the conference, Nnaalinya said,  multilingual education is a pillar for inter- generational learning which rhymes appropriately with  country’s pillars, contexts and environment which is multicultural and multilingual.

The Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga and the Nnaalinnya  and university officials tour the book exhibition. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga and the Nnaalinnya  and university officials tour the book exhibition.

Nnaalinnya also applauded the chosen theme, “Different Languages, One people: Celebrating and Harnessing Uganda’s Linguistic and Cultural Diversity” which brought the celebration of the day closer to home.

“The two themes are worth celebrating with the pomp and seriousness they deserve. Even more importantly, am very encouraged to know that youth represented by Makerere University Nkoba Zamboggo Students Association have played an active part in the organisation of the event.” She said.

She noted that such participation of the youth guarantees the promotion, protection and promotion mother languages for the preservation and transmission of traditional knowledge and cultures in a sustainable manner.

She also noted with joy that, this year’s celebration coincides with the commemoration of the Nkoba Zamboggo 34 years of existence and activity which was active in the difficult years of the 1960s.

Prioritise your mother languages and learn other languages –The  Katikkiro  of Buganda

The Katikkiro of Buganda Charles Peter Mayiga advised on the need to prioritise mother tongues  and to learn other languages.

Mayiga said, learning a language is resourceful and that while prioritising own mother tongue, it is important to learn other languages.

“To promote mother languages is to acknowledged diversity. Our diverse heritage should be seen as the foundation of the modern African states. Every time we neglect or relegate our mother tongues, we inadvertently ignore the similarities of our different nationalities.” He said.

The Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga speaking during the celebrations. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
The Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga speaking during the celebrations.

The Katikkiro expressed the need to acknowledge similarities to help build consensus noting that ,consensus is the true and genuine source of national unity.

He  commended the university administration for restoring the former residence of Ssekabaka Edward Mutesa II and for turning it into a museum.

“A people that ignore their history can learn nothing from their experiences and that is one of the sources of constant turbulence in the world”, He said.

Makerere can only be stronger if Traditions, Culture and Heritage are Embraced – Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe

The Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe stressed that Makerere can only be stronger if all embrace traditions, culture and heritage.

Nawangwe said the university was honored to host two important celebrations namely, the opening of the Muteesa II Museum at Makerere and  hosting the international mother languages day.

“This is a historic event in our university. Kabaka Muteesa was a student at Makerere University when he was already king and that alone, is a such a big honor for us and, we must indeed be proud of that. That is why we have honoured his legacy by making the house where he stayed a museum.

“That museum is invaluable for all of us in Uganda and, I invite all Ugandans and visitors to come and witness the history of our first president of this country and one of the leaders in the struggle for independence”. The Vice Chancellor emphasised.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) hands over Makerere gifts to the Nnaalinnya  flanked by  Prince Wasajja and Katikkiro Peter Mayiga. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (Left) hands over Makerere gifts to the Nnaalinnya  flanked by  Prince Wasajja and Katikkiro Peter Mayiga.

The Vice Chancellor appreciated the Buganda Kingdom for gracing  the  occasion when the university is celebrating the World’s Mother Language  Day.

“There could not have been a better choice than inviting one of the cultural leaders in this country to officiate at this event and, I want to congratulate you Principal, Dean and Head of department for that vision of putting events properly in context”. Prof. Nawangwe appreciated.

The Vice Chancellor said he had picked a number of lessons from the various speakers and challenged to  write his memoirs when he retires in Lugwe, then have it translated in English  by others.

“But we are privileged this morning to have these important visitors to honour these two events at Makerere University, please send our highest regards to His Royal Highness the Kabaka”, Nawangwe said.

The Principal College of Humanities and Social Sciences Prof. Josephine Ahikire expressed the need for Ugandans to value their mother tongues on grounds that the African culture had the power to correct men and women adding that,  there is so much to learn and put in practice.

Prof. Josephine Ahikire addressing participants. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Josephine Ahikire addressing participants.

Prof. Ahikire also noted that language is needed as a powerful instrument of connection, and teaching one another with respect that expresses our political and social state of humanness.

The Principal applauded the Buganda kingdom for the initiatives that  have  deepen  knowledge in culture among students and staff.

Language experts called to translate, write and publish in mother tongues

In his Keynote address on the Linguistic and Cultural Landscape of Uganda Prof. Manuel Muranga said, all human beings are potentially at their most effective, their most creative, their most comfortable when using their mother tongue or first language.

“The language one spoke as an infant and grew up in, matters. It is possible to learn to write in a dominant language in one’s neighbourhood, rather than writing in one’s own, but to learn to speak that language in lieu of one’s own involves a painful death to self, a sort of denial of one’s linguistic identity”. Muranga stated.

Because of the strength of inspiration and the energy of creativity that comes from this relationship to one’s mother tongue or first language, Prof. Muranga called on language experts to start writing and publishing in their mother languages.

To harness linguistic diversity, Muranga challenged language experts and educational institutions to  have as many books as possible produced in the mother tongues through direct authorship in those mother tongues and through translation into them.

“We need to say “Yes!” to a phase in our lives of adventure and experiment with our mother tongues. It will get us somewhere. The harnessing of our mother tongues, each one of his or her own, begins right here: at the point where we, especially university dons in language, literature and communication, get a pen and begin to write a letter, a story, a translation or whatever, in the mother tongue”, Prof. Muranga  advised.

Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe hands over a gift to Prince Wassajja. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe hands over a gift to Prince Wassajja.

At the same time, Prof. Muranga  also advocated  for writing in one’s mother tongue on the linguistically standardised foundations of orthography  that should be encouraged and even deliberately cultivated by cultural leaders and educationists. These he said,  would entail sms’s and WhatApp messages, email and other types of letters, poems, short stories, long stories, biographies and autobiographies); novels, plays, newspaper articles, sermons etc. in good, interesting language.

Muranga also advocated for the use and promotion of mother languages in families especially the young, upper class and in some cases middle class, urban families, and from educated ethnically mixed marriages, whose first and strongest language is our Ugandan English.

“But we should also have textbook writers in all the academic disciplines writing in the mother tongue: Chemistry, Biology, Physics, History, Geography, Economics, Law etc. in the mother tongue.  We need M.A.s and Ph.D.s  that consist in the main in the production of, for example, a modern Biology or Mathematics textbook in Luganda, Lugbarati or Lukonzo through translation”. The professor stressed adding that:

“When I was in S.2 we had a textbook of Chemistry by an author called Atkinson; it was, of course, in English. I never understood the concept of valence and even today I don’t understand it. Can someone explain it to me in simple English or, preferably, in Rukiga or Luganda? A person doing an M.A. in translation would explain to us what valence is and would propose a viable, or at least debate-provoking rendering for it in his or her mother tongue.

That kind of work, should be happening in our universities. An interdisciplinary M.A. and M.Sc. in Translation would produce for us disseminators of knowledge and tools for the implementation of a tri-lingual (Mother Tongue, English and Swahili in that order) education policy which I advocate for”. Muranga stated.

Prof.  Manuel Muranga delivering the keynote address. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Prof.  Manuel Muranga delivering the keynote address.

Benefits from linguistic and cultural diversity

Speaking on Advantages of linguistic and cultural diversity prof. Muranga noted that the entire world’s fabric is diversity. Diversity  according to the professor, is part and parcel of nature’s design, just as there are no two people who are 100% alike even when they are identical twins, so each human being has his or her own way of speaking, his or her idiolect.

He explained that  multilingualism in Uganda and worldwide can, if positively embraced, lead to a language and language-based cultural industry being built around, for example, each single one of the 65 languages of Uganda and the 2080 or so languages of Africa. If this has happened in Europe, Prof. Muranga argued,  then it can also happen in Africa- but it takes conviction and linguistic patriotism on the part of the speakers of these languages. If such patriotism is absent, those languages will die within a few generations of the descendants of the present-day speakers.

Prof. Muranga highlighted some of the advantages of linguistic and cultural diversity as follows:

  1. Sharing the culture around each of these languages can be great educational fun and can also create jobs. This sharing is, again, primarily the work of translators and interpreters. There were, as of August 2022, approximately 640,000 translators in the world. Interpreters’ statistics are harder to determine but there were in the USA alone in 2023,  52,000 interpreters and translators.
  2. The freedom to be creative in your mother tongue or first language is something very precious – indeed the entire freedom to access education in the mother tongue from elementary school to university is one of the principles of international justice as propounded by UN and UNESCO. Great poets and writers in general are those who write in their mother tongues (cf. Johann Gottfried Herder’s {1744-1803} essay entitled: “A true poet is one who writes in his own language”.) But it takes practice to be good even at writing in one’s mother tongue. It does not come automatically – and even I at my age I am still learning.
  3. Those who embrace linguistic and cultural diversity embrace world citizenship, or cosmopolitanism, at the same time; they overcome ethnocentrism. And cosmopolitanism harmonises well with a central Christian doctrine as stated in Galatians 3:28, which suggests that you cannot be a true Christian and at the same time a tribalist or a racist; the two are incompatible.
  4. Cultural diversity promotes tourism both domestic and interethnic/international, creating opportunities for a healthy enjoyment of positive human life and creative talent in all its variegation as music, dance, drama, poetry, architecture, engineering, indigenous knowledge, etc. Imagine we had an income-generating ethno-historical museum and a cultural centre at the headquarters of each of the 136+ districts of our current Uganda. I would like to urge the parliamentarians to vie for this kind of development.

Disadvantages:

  1. Linguistic and cultural diversity can be rather costly. Yet if the economy of a multilingual nation is well managed, the income from the diversity can cover the cost, yielding profits and benefits.
  2. Working through translators and interpreters is not direct conversation face to face and ear to ear. Something gets lost in the process of transfer.
  3. Some uncouth, ethnocentric minds in a multilingual and multicultural nation might be tempted to exploit linguistic and cultural diversity for secessionist ends, instead of for cosmopolitan ones. But such narrow-minded people are doomed to failure, for even in a family unit of two parents and three children, there can be division and even secession. A monolingual or even culturally homogeneous situation in a country does not guarantee harmony and peace. Look at Somalia; and remember Rwanda.

Language, as a symbol of identity, vehicle for communication, a pillar for social integration, education and development, Dean SLLC

The Dean School of Languages, Literature and Communication Assoc. Prof. Saudah Namyalo explained that the International Mother Language Day is a worldwide annual observance held on 21st February to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity which exists in many communities.

The day was first announced by UNESCO on 17 November 1999, and it was formally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly with the adoption of UN resolution in 2002. The International Mother Language Day is part of a broader initiative “to promote the preservation and protection of all languages used by peoples of the world”.

 Although languages,are a symbol of our identity, a vehicle for communication and  a pillar for social integration, education and development, Prof. Namyalo observed that  due to globalization processes, they are increasingly under threat, or disappearing altogether.

Assoc. Prof. Saudah Namyalo (C) making remarks flanked by students of Nkoba Zamboggo. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Assoc. Prof. Saudah Namyalo (C) making remarks flanked by students of Nkoba Zamboggo.

“Every two weeks a language disappears or dies. When a language dies, it takes with it an entire cultural and intellectual heritage. Not only that, we also lose perspectives, ideas, opinions and most importantly, we lose a unique way of being human.Opportunities, traditions, memory, unique modes of thinking and expression which are valuable resources for ensuring a better future also lost. Sadly, close to 45% of the estimated 7000 languages spoken in the world are endangered, threatened or near extinction. Only a few hundred languages have genuinely been given a place in education systems and the public domain, and less than a hundred are used in the digital world.” Prof. Namyalo observed.

Namyalo called on participants to  reflect, understand and appreciate that although Ugandans are diverse in terms of the languages and cultures they possess, they  are one.

She explained that  Africa’s divisive seed was planted with the advent of colonialism and the Berlin Conference that gave Africa its modern states. The artificial borders and the dirty politics that ensued according to the professor, made people  think that they  are different.

The present ethnic emblems according to  Dean Namyalo,  are more of geographical markers than distinct cultural entities. For instance,  she said, one is a Musongora because they come from Busongora.

“Today, we recognize over 50 ethnic groups, but we need to be political about this and invest in our history in order to cement our rootedness and recognise the bonds that hold us together. Unless we understand the importance, of unity in diversity and stop giving lip service to multiculturalism we shall continue to see new kingdoms and ethnic groups emerging”, Dean Namyalo warned.

Assoc. Prof. Susan Kiguli (Left) and her student on stage performing a poem. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Assoc. Prof. Susan Kiguli (Left) and her student on stage performing a poem.

Just from our myths, Prof. Namyalo highlighted that  the Baganda are related to the Bagisu, and the Bagisu are related to the Basamia, Banyole, and the entire Luhya community in Eastern Kenya. Their language intelligibility attests to this. The Bagisu are linguistically and culturally related to the Bakonzo, who are related to the mountainous Bakiga. The Bakonzo are 1 million people in Uganda, while their kin are over 6 million in Eastern DRC called the Bayira (this is just one example of the colonial border problems).

The kin of  the Bamasaba: The Baganda (Via the myth of Kintu/Kuntu) are linked to the Banyoro, the Banyoro are connected to the Batooro and Banyankole- Bakiga, and Banyarwanda because they all belong to the Kitara empire and their cattle keeping and agricultural practices demonstrate this. When Kitara disintegrated with the fall of the Bacwezi, the Biito Luos took over. There is a close linkage between the Luos and the Banyoro, especially, the ruling families in Bunyoro, Tooro, Buganda, Busoga, and Ankole are  all of Luo origin. The Luos are cousins to the West Nilers, who have a close affinity to the Lango. The Lango are Luo in terms of language but, genetically and culturally, are linked to Itesots, Karamojongs, Masai, and Turkana.

Makerere to start teaching Advanced  Lusoga, Ateso and other languages – Head Dept. of African Languages

The  Conference Convener and Head of Department of African Languages Dr Gilbert Gumoshabe explained that department was established in 2012, having been part of the then Institute of Languages, which had also been part of the Department of Languages. At present, five   degree subjects at undergraduate level namely; Luganda Advanced, Kiswahili Advanced, Kiswahili Beginners, Runyakitara Advanced and Luo Advanced are offered.

 “We have proposed to start teaching Lusoga Advanced and Ateso Advanced. We believe these will be part of the subjects in the next admission in August 2024, as BA Arts is in the final stages of re-accreditation. The syllabus for Lugbarati Advanced is also in the final stages of development. Our mission is to ensure that all local languages taught at the secondary level in Uganda are also taught at the department”, Dr. Gumoshabe said

Dr. Gilbert Gumoshabe making his welcome remarks. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
Dr. Gilbert Gumoshabe making his welcome remarks.

At the masters level, Dr. Gomushabe said , they have MA in African Languages. During the revision period,  it was agreed to re-introduce MA in Luganda, MA in Kiswahili and MA in Runyakitara and to  continue to develop  indigenous languages as  capacity is built. The department  also offers PhD in African Languages by Research.

Dr. Gomushabe appreciated  the persons who spearheaded the teaching of  local languages especially Prof. Livingstone Walusimbi (RIP), Prof. Kasalina Matovu (RIP), Prof. Ruth Mukama, Prof. Oswald Ndoleriire, Prof. Manuel Muranga, Mrs. Shirley Byakutaga, Prof. Edith Natukunda and Ms. Jane Alowo.   

At the level of staffing, the head reported that  the department has 9 PhDs, and 5 registered PhD members of staff with one at the Associate Professor level. The students offering the subjects in African Languages are doing BA Arts, BA with education, BA Social Sciences. The department also service programs in the Colleges of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Computing and Information Sciences and Education and External Studies.

The Aim of the conference

Gumoshabe  said the aim of the conference is to motivate discussion between national scholars and stakeholders of language and culture in Uganda and beyond.

“It is on this day that we celebrate cultural diversity and appreciate the sweetness in our mother tongue through cultural entertainment of different forms, presentations and discussions. It is through our mother tongue that we can preserve our cultural heritage. This is a God-given gift that we should never lose”,  he said

Mother language according the convener, is a natural heritage and a foundation of  identity. He  stressed that  what is important is to embrace unity in diversity by respecting and promoting diverse languages as  they are in the motherland Uganda and this will enable  document indigenous knowledge systems to  supplement what is got  from other countries.

Even in the face of development, civilization and modernization, Gumoshabe stated that  mother languages should never be forgotten on reason that , there is no country on record that has developed using a foreign language.

“All countries that have developed have started by indigenizing knowledge and a foreign language has supplemented their efforts. This applies to both populous and less populous countries”, Dr. Gumoshabe asserted,

A section of participants attending the celebration. Department of African Languages, School of Languages, Literature and Communication International Mother Language Day Conference, Launch of Sir Edward Muteesa II Museum, on 21st February 2024, No. 95 Quarry Road & Yusuf Lule Central Teaching Facility Auditorium, Makerere University, Kampala Uganda, East Africa.
A section of participants attending the celebration.

Gumoshabe cited Iceland with a population of 399,189 as of January 2024 that uses the Icelandic language as their official language. Since it has a small population, they would have used one of the European languages but they opt to use their indigenous language and their GDP per capita is $69,833.

He argued that, now that English is here to stay, all efforts should be put into developing mother languages and being multilingual. He added that, knowing four languages significantly increases chances of success in adulthood.

Dr. Gumoshabe  extended gratitude to the college leadership  for the tremendous support given  for the success of this conference.

Gumoshabe thanked  Keynote speakers, Prof. Manuel Muranga and Mr. Richard Nzogi and the panelists, for accepting  for honoring the invitation and sharing their expertise and experiences..He also appreciated the Organizing Committee for this Conference headed by Dr Fridah Katushemererwe together with the different student associations especially Nkobazamboggo spearheaded by Mr Adrian Lubyayi, for  tireless efforts in making this day colourful.

Finally, the convener  thanked  the Centre for Languages and Communication Services, the Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Vice Chancellor, for the financial support that has made this day successful.

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