Thursday, 31 January 2008

Start of Term in Doubt - "We won’t teach next semester" say Lecturers

Trouble is once again brewing on campus due to a cocktail of unpaid lecturer wages, a chronic lack of teaching materials and, most alarmingly, a 800,000,000 shilling (~£240k) raid on the staff pension fund. The latter has apparently been used to clear a long standing income tax bill after the Uganda Revenue Authority threatened to begin imposing fines on the university. Pensioners have now been without their payments for several weeks.

This is not the start that new Chancellor Kagonyera would have been hoping for. The man who topped the performance rankings at the interview stage was eventually appointed by the President on Christmas Eve, ahead of Vice-President Bukenya. The tabloid rumours are that Bukenya was punished for not offering the President his unequivocal backing over a controversial Land Bill passing through Parliament. As has long been the case at Makerere, politics and education continue to be closely intertwined.

(Thanks to James for pointing out the original story here:

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Giving Away

On Saturday I got dressed up in my new kanzu (long white traditional robe - see right with my direct boss at Action Aid) to attend a function on the outskirts of Kampala.

The main tribe in the central area of Uganda are the Baganda and one of their most traditional ceremonies is in the run-up to marriage, when the prospective groom has to travel with all his clan members to the family house of his bride. There then ensues an elaborate court room like process (the two families are sat opposite each other in a British parliamentary type setting) in which the groom has to convince everybody that he will be a good husband. He appoints a MC to operate on his behalf in the style of a defence barrister - 'my client has an excellent educational history and does not drink locally produced hooch' etc etc.

To sweeten the deal the clan members then go back to their cars and bring out presents for the other family (see the carpeting of gifts between the two clans on the left). This is in lieu of 'bride price' which while the norm in other parts of Uganda does not operate to the same extent amongst the Baganda. However, given the range and quantity of the presents (3 piece suite, goat, crates of soda, chickens, baskets of fresh fruit and veg) I think 'bride price' may well have been cheaper...

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Article in Journal of Football History

My friend has launched a new online journal called the 'Journal of Football History'. In his first issue he published an interesting piece on the failure of Africa to become the third world footballing superpower. I have written a response in the latest issue out this month. I have posted the link below. To access it you need to sign-up to the site (very quick, free process). An extract from the article is below as well.

"It is approaching kick-off time between Arsenal and Manchester United in the English Premier League on a Saturday afternoon in Kampala, Uganda. Minibuses emblazoned with the names of superstars TourĂ©, Ronaldo and Ferdinand are ferrying their passengers to the nearest satellite television. Fans decked out in full counterfeit strips crowd round the smallest of screens. The ‘Old Trafford’ and ‘Highbury’ bars fill up with their respective fans, the names indicating who is welcome on the terraces of bar stools and plastic chairs. Those unable to pay entrance fees crane their necks to catch glimpses from the street. On the airwaves local radio presenters warm up their vernacular vocal cords ready to deliver their frenzied commentary to people stuck at work.

For two hours the town centre feels eerily quiet for a busy shopping day, yet the final whistle brings an explosion of activity. Young men pour onto the suburban dirt football pitches to re-enact their heroes’ exploits from that day. Playing bare foot, often with the most rudimentary of balls, the skill levels are impressively high and the games conducted at a furious pace. In short, the visiting eye would quickly credit Uganda with being as football-loving a country as you would hope to find, with levels of fanaticism and participation above and beyond that of their European counterparts...."

Friday, 18 January 2008

It's what everyone's been waiting for...'Joe in Uganda' is back

After a 24 hour door-to-door journey that left my luggage in Dubai and my sanity somewhere over Ethiopia I am finally back in Kampala. Not much seems to have changed here, although fuel prices are up by around 20% due to the problems in Kenya. There is a busy weekend ahead meeting the new volunteers from my old school in London, UCS. They are coming to teach at the school with which they are linked called Equatorial College School in Western Uganda. I will be escorting them up there on Sunday (after introducing them to what Kampala has to offer tomorrow night...) and then returning to the Action Aid offices from the middle of next week.

I thought I would write a list of some of my aims for this semester (a sort of Uganda based set of New Year resolutions), partly to force me into action by putting them into the public domain, but also so I can see how lazy/productive I have been when I come back to the UK in June. Here we go...

- Take some driving lessons in Kampala and pass my UK test in the summer
- Visit at least one of Kigali (Rwanda) or Juba (South Sudan)
- Help with getting the 'Teachers' Centre' project at the above mentioned school off the ground
- Successfully help launch the 'Hunger FREE 2008' campaign with Action Aid
- Visit the last main parts of Uganda I have not been to in the North and the islands on Lake Victoria
- Extend my local language vocabulary beyond greetings and basics
- Finish courseworks well in advance of the deadlines (!) and start on my thesis
- Publish another article for someone

Wish me luck.