Gulu University, through the Building Stronger Universities (BSU) programme, is proud to celebrate ten years of progress in capacity building for research and community engagement.
The main highlight of the celebrations was a conference held between November 24 and 25, 2022, at the university's new library, under the theme: "A Decade of Building Stronger Universities in Uganda."
During that conference, Dr. Agatha Alidri, the BSU Coordinator, highlighted the many contributions that the program has made to the university and the community of northern Uganda since its inception in 2011. These included financing the development of infrastructure to support research, teaching, learning, and innovation at Gulu University, supporting the development of new Masters and PhD programmes as well as supporting human resource development, especially in terms of PHD training and collaborative research.
Dr. Agatha Alidri highlights the milestones of BSU during the conference
"The program has helped to put in place research infrastructure for the university including supporting the establishment of an electronic monitoring system for students and other ICT support systems for the university," said Dr. Alidri. “We are also proud of the fact that we helped to establish four PhD programmes at Gulu as well as helped up to 27 lecturers to get funded for their PhD studies."
On the broader scene, Dr. Alidri said BSU made several community outreach engagements during the COVID lockdown which helped to create awareness about the challenges of teenage pregnancies, but also sensitized people through the mass media on how to handle adolescents generally, and to reduce domestic violence.
Over 40 research papers were presented during the conference covering these broad themes: Transitional Justice and Reparations, Land Governance, Transforming Education, and Green Energy/Sustainable Natural Resources Management. Others are: Business, Management and Entrepreneurship, and Refuges, Rights, Resources and Gender.
Mr. Henrik Jespersen, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Denmark, said BSU is a major success as shown by its interventions in the academic field as well as in the social arena, but also with the fact that it has been approved for funding four times now. Denmark has funded the programme since its inception in 2011 through the Danida Fellowship Centre (DFC).
Mr. Henrik Jespersen, the Deputy Head of Mission of the Embassy of Denmark in Uganda
"The BSU program is one of the successes we have in DANIDA. We are also proud of the partnerships and collaborations that have been built not only between the academia but also with different other players including the community," said Mr. Jespersen.
Mr. Jespersen revealed that in order to support the University tackle new and continuing challenges such as climate change and the refugee crisis, his government has agreed to give DKK10m (UGX5.2bn) to BSU at Gulu to run for four or more years. Another DKK10m will be shared between Danish and East African universities which will be approved to partner with Gulu under BSU IV.
The Minister of State for Northern Uganda Hon. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny, who officiated the opening ceremony, acknowledged the achievements of BSU but urged the planners to tackle other key challenges facing the region including high levels of poverty, and high teenage pregnancies.
Minister of State for Northern Uganda Hon. Grace Freedom Kwiyucwiny listens to presentations during the conference
"We want the improved research capacity developed to help us in the government properly study the impact of the many programmes that have been supported by the government," said Minister Kwiyucwiny.
Minister Kwiyucwiny said the government is wholeheartedly focused on improving household incomes through promotion of commercial agriculture. She urged Gulu university researchers to partner with the community leaders and the government to find the best strategies to transform the economy of northern Uganda.
The BSU program was started in 2011, as an initiative of DANIDA to enhance collaboration and capacity development for research between Gulu University and five Universities in Denmark. The five universities are Roskilde University, University of South Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Aalborg University, and Aarhus University.
According to Prof. Charles Okumu, the Chairman of the Steering Committee of BSU, the program has supported mentorship for Gulu University researchers, besides funding numerous exchange programms between Gulu and the five Danish Universities.
Prof. Charles Nelson Okumu
Prof. John Peter Opio, who delivered the Keynote address, emphasized the need for the university to embrace an interdisciplinary approach to teaching which helps graduates to develop problem-solving skills that go beyond the boundaries of their fields of study.
Prof. John Peter Opio gives the keynote address
"In the knowledge economy, our impact as institutions of higher learning depends gingerly on how adoptive we can be to new opportunities for creativity; how eagerly we can play a new and useful role,” said Prof. Opio.
He added: "Unless Universities open up to the dynamic forces of change, the risk to be confined to the annals of history is a real one."
Deputy Vice Chancellor in Charge of Academic Affairs Prof. David Okello Owiny (l) and the University Secretary David Obol Otori (with glasses) share a light moment with one of the participants