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2021 Was a Year of Successes Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic

2021 Was a Year of Successes Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic

Ending a year and starting another often comes with excitement both for individuals and organisations. For the last two years, however, the COVID-19

pandemic has had a limiting effect on the way we celebrate this transition. 

The pandemic has disrupted our way of life in more ways than we could have ever imagined. Lives have been lost, families have been broken, institutions have been closed, businesses have closed shop, and we have been forced to change the way we live and work in what is popularly described as “the new normal.”

Academic institutions are among those that have been closed the longest and being part of Gulu University, BSU’s work, too, has been affected. But, despite that situation, there has been a silver lining and we have learnt new lessons and made a lot of progress with our work.

As we start 2022, it is important for us to look back at 2021 and reflect on some of the milestones we were able to reach during that year.

BSU visibility and knowledge sharing

In 2021 we developed and launched our website, bsu.gu.ac.ug, as well as social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. This has come with two major benefits. One, it is increasing the visibility of BSU and two, we are now able to share information and knowledge more widely through these electronic media platforms. We aim to develop these platforms further, and even add others, to help us communicate more effectively.

More PhDs

We were able to add to Gulu University’s growing list of BSU supported PhDs. Those who joined the list in 2021 include Dr. Jerry Bagaya (Academic Registrar), Dr. John Bismarck Okumu (Ag. Head of Department-Curriculum Studies, Media & Technology ) Dr. Geoffrey Olok Tabo (Department of Computer Science), Dr. David Ross Olanya (Dean, Faculty of Business and Development Studies) and myself, Dr. Agatha Alidri (Ag. Head of Department, History).

Those still pursuing PhD studies with support from BSU include Sr. Rosalba Aciro, Mr. Guma Patterson Isdore, Mr. Owot Moses Godfrey, Mr. Wakawabubi Michael Jackson, Mr. George Opio, Mr. Rombe Jimmy Alule, Ms. Nalubowa Grace Yumah, Ms. Dorine Akumu, Ms. Mshilla Hellen Mghoi and Mr. Patrick Okot. Most of these received their PhD start-up or completion grants in 2021.

More academic programmes at GU

BSU has been supporting the development of more academic programmes at Gulu University and in 2021 more than a dozen of those programmes were accredited by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE).

Accredited programmes in the Faculty of Education and Humanities include PhD in Education (Curriculum Studies and Foundations of Education, and Education Planning, Management and Administration), PhD in Humanities (History, Geography, English/Literature, Religious Studies and Sports Science), Master of Arts in History, Master of Arts in Geography, Master of Education in Curriculum Studies and Foundations of Education, Master of Education in Education Planning, Management and Administration (EPMA), and Bachelor of Education in Early Childhood Development.

Programmes accredited in the faculty of Business and Development Studies include PhD in Business and Management, Master of Economics and Finance, Master of Development Studies, Masters in Monitoring and Evaluation, Postgraduate Diploma in Public Administration, Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management, and Postgraduate Diploma in Community Development

We were also able to support the development of five graduate cross-cutting courses and they are already being taught at Gulu University. These include Philosophy of knowledge (Epistemology), Research Methodology (Qualitative and Quantitative Research), Introduction to Institutional Pedagogy, Scholarly Writing and Publication Skills, and Computer Applications and Research.

Another set of courses whose development we supported in 2021 is the Elective Cross-cutting courses and these are Anthropology of Education, Education for Sustainable Development as well as Advanced Gender Research.

Research Infrastructure and Capacity Building

Front row L-R: Ass. Prof. Charles Nelson Okumu (BSU Chairperson), Dr. Agatha Alidri (BSU Coordinator), Ass. Prof. David Okello Owiny (Gulu University Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academic affairs) Mr. Lars Arne Jensen (Programme Manager Danida Fellowship Centre [DFC] in charge of East Africa) and Mr. David Obol Otori (University Secretary) after a meeting in October 2021 between BSU project managers and the university administration. Standing behind is Mr. Ben Waiswa, the BSU Project Accountant

The BSU supported development of the Electronic Graduate Tracking System for Gulu University was completed in 2021. Pilot training of deans and directors in how to use the system is ongoing. We hope that this system will help in shortening the time spent on a PhD study at Gulu University.

We also supported E-Resources procurement (free and subscribed) at the University Main Library through the Consortium of Uganda University Libraries (CUUL), the increase in bandwidth contributing to internet stability at the University, and the university’s subscription to Eduroam.

Anti-Plagiarism software (Turnitin Anti-Plagiarism software) has been acquired and members of staff of the different faculties and institutes are being trained to use it.

The e-Learning strategy is in progress with organisational plans and specific roles identified by the ICT committee and the IT unit with the Department of Computer Science and other user departments being involved in this development.

Institutional Policies and Internal procedures

We have been supporting the development of different institutional policies and in 2021 the Gulu University Council approved the Research Policy, the Research Supervision Policy and the Staff Development Policy. Still undergoing development and approval processes are the Grants Policy, Institutional Repository Policy, the Anti-plagiarism Policy, and the Innovation and Intellectual Property Policy.

Grants and Research

BSU has supported the establishment of a Grants Desk at Gulu University to coordinate research grants application writing. Ms. Scholastica Deborah Amito is the Grants Desk Officer, having signed her contract at the end of 2021.This is the path to the establishment of a fully-fledged Grants Department and BSU will be happy to continue supporting this process.

Pilot Collaborative Research Projects

All our collaborative research projects were able to progress in 2021, although not at the same pace. These projects include:

  • Digital Learning at Gulu University
  • Problem Based Learning (PBL) to enhance teaching and learning at Gulu University
  • Communities and Reparations in Northern Uganda: An Analysis of Local and International Perceptions.
  • Educational Leadership Styles and Transformation of Primary Education in Gulu District, Northern Uganda
  • Documenting the Ugandan Refugee Model in Adjumani District
  • Urban Refugees and Urban Governance: Making it in the City, Making the City.
  • Exploring the Potential of Green Charcoal and Household Livelihoods in Northern Uganda
  • Access2Innovation Project: Fabricating a Briquette Making Machine

External Grants Won

Lastly, I am proud to inform you that we are the proud winners of three very important research grants by the end of 2021 as listed below:

  1. Unlocking the Potential of Green Charcoal Innovation in Northern Uganda (UPCHAIN) Project under Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark FFU Window 1 Research Collaboration Projects in Danida priority countries.
  2. A Danida Grant under the BSU3-COVID19 Funds project on “Transforming Education PBL Hybrid Learning - Beyond Covid-19” (Project No. “BSU-COVID-GU01). Project value: DKK 1,629,120
  3. A Danida Grant under the BSU3-COVID19 Funds project on “Consequences of the COVID Epidemic for Youth Reproductive Health in Northern Uganda”. Project No. “BSUCOVID-GU02. Project value: DKK 2,297,152.

Conclusion

While the Covid-19 pandemic affected the way we work, it did not prevent us from making key achievements in 2021. The uncertainty of the pandemic still looms but we are determined to register more achievements in 2022 and continue to do our work at Gulu University “for Community Transformation.”

Appreciation

We appreciate the enormous support of our partners from the Global North including Aalborg University (Lead University), University of Copenhagen, Roskilde University and the University of Southern Denmark, as well as our major funders, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, through DANIDA, and the Team at DANIDA Fellowship Centre (DFC).

I Wish You a Happy and Prosperous 2022!

The writer, Dr. Agatha Alidri, is the Project Coordinator, BSUIII


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Building Stronger Universities (BSU)-Gulu is multifaceted programme aimed at strengthening research capacity at Gulu University in northern Uganda

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