Saturday, August 15, 2009




East African citizenry should applaud Makerere University for honouring Prof. Ali Mazrui with an endowment chair and creation of the Mazrui Centre for Global Studies. This action proves Makerere is capable of reinventing itself to meet the demands of a changing academic world and we hope it is the beginning of a journey to rediscover it’s illustrious glory. The Makerere-Mazruiana Project is a marked departure from the negative stories that have in recent years become synonymous with Makerere. The novelty of the idea is a breath of fresh air as it’s a major departure from a trend in which we Ugandans wait too late to recognise our heroes.

Most folks are unable to bask in the glory of their works and have to be content with graveside epitaphs. Though he is Kenyan, Mazrui deserves the plaudits for being a pioneer educationist who opened the door for thriving African intellectualism. His sharp wit and disposition to original thinking are what prompted Makerere to grant him full professorship in 1965 at the age of just 32. As we all know, Mazrui, who is Director of the Institute of Global Cultural Studies at the State University of New York, has proved himself as a ‘top 100 global intellectual’. He is thus an inspiration to the myriads of aspiring African academics.

The Makerere-Mazruiana Project, which will cost $15m (Shs33b), but will help generate much more resources, is an example of how all universities can raise funds through partnership with the private sector. Our universities are perennially dogged by lack of resources, so it is incumbent upon administrators to find similar innovative ways of creating funding. The project was launched in the same week all five public universities raised their fees by 40 per cent. However, Uganda is too poor a country for parents to keep meeting rising costs of university education.

It has been a good month for the region’s oldest institution, as we also witnessed a rise in Makerere’s (now 20th) ranking among African universities. The principal function of universities is to churn out as much new knowledge as possible and Makerere is blessed to have the example of Mazrui. Let all Ugandan universities emulate an academic who has distinguished himself with hundreds of publications to his name.