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Museveni Misguided on Arts Courses- Makerere Dons :: Uganda Radionetwork
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Museveni Misguided on Arts Courses- Makerere Dons

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The lecturers say research, not political pronouncements, should inform the choice of courses and content taught at universities. Last month, while installing Professor Barnabas Nawangwe as Makereres vice chancellor, President Museveni advised universities to scrap courses that do not contribute to national development in favour of sciences, information technology and business courses.
Associate Professor Andrew Elias State , the dean of School of Social Sciences

Audio 7

Lecturers from the School of Social Sciences at Makerere University have described President Yoweri Museveni's negative comments about arts courses as premature.

The lecturers say research, not political pronouncements, should inform the choice of courses and content taught at universities.

Last month, while installing Professor Barnabas Nawangwe as Makerere's vice chancellor, President Museveni advised universities to scrap courses that do not contribute to national development in favour of sciences, information technology and business courses. Museveni merely repeated what has become one of his favourite lines when talking about education, youth unemployment and job creation.

He described some arts social science courses as useless, citing qualifications in Conflict Resolution, Women and Gender Studies, Development Studies and Psychology, which he said could just be units in Political Science. The president has previously recounted his school time in 1964 when he studied Geography of the Swiss Alps- and wonders how much of that information is relevant today.

He asked Professor Nawangwe to consider phasing out all the non-market oriented arts courses if the institution is to remain relevant to the public it serves. Museveni said a lot of resources and effort are often wasted on what he called irrelevant disciplines. He emphasised the need for public universities to always put marketability and needs of the society into consideration.

But the lecturers say that it is possible President Museveni is getting wrong briefings on the relevance of the courses offered at Makerere, arguing that he needs to conduct research before he makes the criticism.

Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire, the Deputy Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences – CHUSS, says a university has a different genesis that is not derived from mere political pronouncements. 

She warns that academicians should be left to carry out studies on these courses and offer them based on public demand without involving politics. Prof. Ahikire says there is need for political actors to avoid infringing on academic freedoms of institutions of learning. 

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Prof. Sabiti Makara, a senior lecturer in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, says some of the courses in the social sciences such as sociology are taught both in the arts and sciences section. He argues that even the president himself knows the value of these courses because they are the courses he studied.

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President Museveni studied history, political science and economics at the University of Dar es Salaam between 1967 and 1970.

Prof Makara contends that the president should commission research about the ends of students when they graduate in order for him to get an informed view that would inform policy.

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Prof. Makara says social science graduates have more opportunities than natural science students. He cites examples of the Chief Administrative Officers and Community Development Officers in all districts across the country.

Lumumba Bwire, another political scientist at Makerere University says he does not know any country that has survived without political science and or economics. Lumumba referred to Communist China which banned political science and resumed teaching it in less than ten years. He also argues that France has more political science graduates than engineers. He wonders whether France is a poor country because of the high number of political science graduates.

Instead of President Museveni concentrating on Makerere University, Lumumba advises him to go to the lower education levels since they are the ones that produce these students who end up in the arts courses.

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Lumumba says that President Museveni has been in love with sciences for long but cautions that he should not use the sciences to fight Arts disciplines. He envisages that his love for the sciences will be short-lived.

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Associate Professor Andrew Elias State, the dean of School of Social Sciences, challenges the president on the amount of resources spent on Arts courses. Prof State argues that over the past ten years, government has been pumping money into the science units neglecting the arts.

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Prof. State wonders why after 30 years in power, President Museveni has just started questioning what the social scientists teach.

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During his visit, President Museveni promised to go back to Makerere and have a discussion with the lecturers in the said units.

Prof. State says the school is waiting for that opportunity to see him although he cautions that rarely do they get an opportunity to engage the president whenever he visits because he is always shielded from reality.

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