On Saturday 3rd August 2013, distinguished guests, alumni, partners, staff, students, friends and well-wishers filled the Makerere University campus to participate in the ‘Mak@90’ Grand Finale; a climax of the year-long celebrations to mark 90 years of Makerere University’s existence. Thanks to the heavens for the fine and cool weather!
As early as 9:00am, one would feel the celebratory mood in the atmosphere, as flags flew high and the proud alumni kept streaming in. A green and clean campus, people of all ages walking majestically to the Freedom Square; the Uganda Police band playing wonderful hymns; students wearing red gowns; and all invited guests elegantly and confidently walking in, with happy faces – clearly communicating that they have an inner untold joy to be at Makerere University!
By 10:30am, the Freedom Square was filled to capacity as they waited to receive the Chief Guest, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The jubilant congregation welcomed the composer of the Makerere University Anthem, Mr. Grace Wilson Mutekanga Igaga with a standing ovation as he was ushered in the VIP tent in the Freedom Square. The Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi, an alumnus of Makerere University represented His Excellency, the President of the Republic of Uganda. The congregation also rose to their feet to welcome H.E Dr. Mwai Kibaki, former President of the Republic of Kenya, and a distinguished alumnus of Makerere University, to the historic celebrations.
Under the theme, “Leadership towards Africa’s transformation in the 21st century,” the staff and students exhibited the latest advances in research and innovations at this great institution. The Chancellor of Makerere University, Chairperson of Council, Vice Chancellor, the Prime Minister of Uganda, the Minister of Education and Sports; and other dignitaries toured the exhibition.
On behalf of the President, Rt. Hon. Amama Mbabazi laid a foundation stone for the Makerere University Students’ Centre. This project is expected to cost USD 30million with Phase 1 costing USD 15million, and total built-up area of 58,000sq.metres. The congregation was wowed by the magnificent artistic impression of the proposed storied Students’ centre. An excited member of the congregation blossoming with happiness was overheard exclaiming, “Oh dear Lord, I wish I live to see the completion of this wonderful Students’ Centre!” May the Almighty grant this wish.
“The need for Universities to devote more time to research, innovations and career guidance so as to help our children study courses that are relevant to the needs of society has never been greater than it is currently. We would therefore like to congratulate Makerere University for extending her innovations to economic self sustainability by seeking to construct the multi-facility Students Centre,” he said. He also re-emphasized Government’s commitment to supporting Makerere University.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Ddumba- Ssentamu, explained that the Students’ Centre will be a one-stop information centre for students with a multi-purpose auditorium. He called unto all stakeholders, including the alumni to support this cause.
“The role of Alumni in any Institution cannot be underestimated. You are core to the existence of any University. As you may be aware, most Universities, especially in the North, have mostly succeeded because of the support of their alumni. In times when Government funding for higher education is increasingly not enough, the Alumni have a great opportunity to make a substantial contribution. Makerere University has produced over 300,000 graduates. I would like to thank you, Alumni of Makerere University for your various contributions wherever you are in Uganda and all over the globe. I am now appealing to you – the Alumni – to come forward and make your contribution towards this great Institution,” he appealed. The VC also paid tribute to the development partners for supporting the institutional programmes of Makerere University. Professor Ddumba-Ssentamu , also the Chairperson of Mak@90 Main Organising Committee applauded the Members of Mak@90 Organising Committee, University of East Africa celebrations Committee and the Ceremonies Committee for the hard work and selfless service during the year-long Mak@90 celebrations.
H.E Mwai Kibaki, former President of Kenya who spoke as a distinguished alumni of Makerere University, challenged young Makerereans to make their contribution by breaking new ground in research.
“As old Makerereans, we have done our part. It is now the turn of young Makerereans to break new ground through research and innovations,” he emphasized.
Drawing examples of some of the prominent alumni that have gone through Makerere University like the late Julius Nyerere, President Kabila of DRC; President Kibaki congratulated Makerere University for giving the region and the entire world high quality human resource.
“I am grateful to be a witness to the ninety year celebrations. It is not the number of years that count but rather the institution’s illustrious story of transformation,” he added. President Kibaki, a proud alumnus of Makerere University was grateful to the Institution for contributing to making him what he is today.
The celebrations were heightened with the fresh news of Makerere University’s improved ranking from 9th to 4th position on the continent, as per the July 2013 webometric rankings.
“In the next few years, Makerere should become a World Class University. The Task Force on Job Evaluation and Re-organisation of Staff Structure of Makerere University has already made path finder recommendations that are being scrutinized and we shall soon be able to set Makerere on the path to World Class categorization and this is a sure possibility,” re-assured Hon. Jessica Alupo, the Education Minister.
On behalf of the Student community, the Guild President, H.E Anna Adeke-Ebaju, appealed to the Government of Uganda to increase funding to public universities. She requested Government to re-consider the beneficiaries of the Students’ Loan Scheme, which currently caters for only science students, and excludes humanities and social sciences. In response to her request, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister explained that the Students loan is still in its infancy, Government is aware of its challenges, but that it will improve as time goes by.
A key highlight of the celebrations was the recognition of Mr. Grace Wilson Mutekanga Igaga, the composer of the Makerere University Anthem. The police band played and the congregation joined in giving this illustrious alumnus a highly deserved standing ovation as he walked to receive an award from the Chancellor, Professor George Mondo Kagonyera, in recognition of his genius contribution to Makerere University.
“As we celebrate the 90 years of Makerere University, I take this singular honour of recognizing the composer of one of the most beautiful anthems, I have ever listened to,” remarked the joyful Chancellor. He then presented the well-worded and beautiful plaque to Mr. Grace Wilson Mutekanga Igaga and a dummy cheque of Five Million shillings, as a token of appreciation from the Makerere University.
Mr. Grace Wilson Mutekanga Igaga, in recognition of your ingenious efforts in composing the Makerere University Anthem - a timeless and eternally inspiring masterpiece – read part of the plaque.
The 70 year old Grace Wilson Mutekanga Igaga thrilled the congregation when he melodiously and articulately opened his voice cords to sing a stanza of the coveted Anthem; in a manner that only the original composer could have done. He was extremely natural, original and fully in control, as the audience looked on in awe, fighting back tears of joy! Mutekanga was in the company of his dear wife, Mrs. Frances Mutekanga. The applause that followed was thunderous!
In his address to the congregation, the jovial alumnus, Mutekanga said, “With big humility, I stand before you, to thank you Mr. Vice Chancellor and your administration for every effort. I thank the Makerere University community for accepting my commodity. I say to the entire world, I feel honoured. I have never imagined that I would receive this honour when I am still alive. I am very grateful for the Award.”
In the same spirit, Gen. Elly Tumwine, the Patron of the Great Lakes Students’ Union presented a medal to H.E Dr. Mwai Kibaki in recognition of his outstanding political, economic and life achievements and also for promoting good governance in the region.
The guests were treated to a photographic memory lane of Makerere University and a video tour of the great Institution. They were served mouth-watering snacks and bull-roasting. The celebration attracted artists who are also alumni of Makerere University. Key among them was Herbert Segujja, a popular comedian, excellent at mimicking President Museveni. The audience broke into uncontrollable laughter when the comedy version of President Museveni in the person of Segujja, drove into the Freedom Square with full V.I.P escorts and glamour. He went ahead to give remarks that sent the audience into further laughter. By press time, (10:00pm) the guests were still dancing to the tunes of these artists, in a highly interactive dance floor. The event was updated online (facebook and twitter) as it happened, and was also covered live on UBC. As estimated 900 guests attended the grand finale, close to the expected 1,000.
The event was majorly sponsored by Makerere University. Other sponsors included Bank of Uganda, Centenary Bank; Stanbic Bank; dfcu Bank, Crane Bank; Coca-Cola Sabco, Crown Beverages Limited, UBC Television, NTV, sms one and the Daily Monitor.
Congratulations to Makerere University for successfully celebrating the 90 years of existence.
Looking forward to the Centennial celebrations!
Story By Ritah Namisango and Marion Alina
Photos by Elias Tuhereze and Joseph Buwule