BY Julius Odeke
LIRA- In the Bible, God once told Abraham and his descendants, “lift up now thine eyes, and look northward.” God simply wanted to give Abraham a land rich with pasture since he was rich in cattle, silver and in gold.
Today, for the benefit of Ugandans, I say, let’s look northward, behold there is Lira University, a beacon of hope to the training of health workers.
Lira University was established as a Public University by Statutory Instrument No. three years ago to expand equitable higher education in the country. It was not set up just as another Public University in Uganda but Lira University to respond to the critical development needs.
This is underscored by the type of programmes that are drawn to run in the University. The University has identified Public Health of the community and the safety of lives at birth as areas where an intervention is critically needed. It is therefore not by guesswork that our first programmes are addressing Public, Maternal and Neonatal health.
The University’s VC, Prof. Jasper Ogwal-Okeng said, Lira University will be the first public University in Uganda to mount bachelors’ programmes in Midwifery and Public health with its the first intake to the midwifery programmes starting in the third year, while those of Public Health are now in the second year of their study.
The University has sourced experienced administrators like Dr. Evelyn Karindiriza as its Academic Registrar and Prof. Okaka Opio Dokotum the DVC Academic Affairs. Prof Okaka, before served with a distinction for 23 years in Kyambogo University. So the university is moving in the right academic direction.
Government under the able leadership of President Yoweri Museveni gave express permission for the establishment of Lira University which is located in the in the North of the country. The university is destined to become an academic centre for science training.
When I set foot on the university’s large compound last week, I saw the nicely constructed buildings of the university from which medical personnel shall be trained from in order to treat our people. This will hopefully increase the lifespan of Ugandans.
Uganda has a young population with the biggest percentage being the unemployed youth, possibly due to the courses that they took at university. But now Lira University is, “The Beacon Centre of Applied Sciences and Technology” is going to bridge that gap by training professional health (science) workers which president Museveni has been championing for long.
The University is located five kilometres away from the town with a beautiful green and lush environment, not more than five minutes drive. It’s approximately 325 kilometres north of Uganda and is easily accessed by road in about four hours. It has an excellent road network provided by various highways that transcends the north linking major towns in the country.
I deliberately chose to visit Lira University because I want to see it for myself and tell the story about what I saw in this upcoming magnificent institution of learning that is bringing hope to Ugandans. Northern Uganda for a long time lagged behind in many spheres of life and education was totally crippled.
Chatting with the University Secretary Mr. Augustine Oyang Atubo, he said: “We are recruiting highly trained lecturers to come and work in Lira University with a mindset of serving all Ugandans.” And in deed, the skeleton and technical staff on that day of my visit was busy conducting interviews with an aim of selecting the cream of the best people.
Oyang Atubo exclaimed that Lira University has five main objectives that it aims to fulfill. He then enumerated them as:
a) To ensure equitable access to relevant and quality higher education and training, b) To ensure effective higher education governance, c) To promote the conduction and publication of basic and applied research, d) To promote creativity, innovations and technological advancement, and e) To promote socio-economic transformation for economic growth.
With the aforementioned objectives, once implemented fully, Lira University will help to deliver a 21st-century education to both local and international students who will come and pursue their education in Lira University.
The university’s motto is “The Beacon” and Macmillan dictionary explains the word beacon as a bright light that shines in the dark, showing them the way somewhere. This means Lira University will encourage and give Ugandans a good example to follow.
The university’s mission is quite an impressive one: “To provide access to quality higher education, research and conduct professional training for the delivery of appropriate health services directed towards sustainable health and environment.” This mission is essential to ending poverty and ensuring a productive life for people world over. In that, Lira University has come at the right time to offer Ugandans a fresh start.
Building on this vision, Lira University is undergoing a major transformation of its campus to provide new state-of-the-art research, teaching and offering better student facilities. Barely three years old Lira University has so far engaged many unemployed youths into bodaboda business and women who operate small medium enterprises such as hotel and restaurant businesses around the university. Don’t be surprised to hear stories on how old women and motorists educated their children in Lira University.
So, let’s embrace the University and government should come to support this institution for its going to transform the lives of Ugandans. Government can do this through improving and expanding the student loan scheme with a goal of helping students to pursue science courses. This will keep educational institutions sustainable.
Science courses were neglected in the past but now since there is a crash programme to increase the pay of science workers, this will help to fill the gap that was created through the exportation of labour to other countries that offered them good pay.
The university’s administration should create a network of international partnerships through forming a tight-knit collaboration with other elite global universities to promote research and share best practices. So far, the University has inked a MoU with Bournemouth University.
Julius Odeke is a journalist and Assistant Lecturer at Kampala International University