Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Makerere Update: Politics and Seduction

After two weeks on the road I am now back on campus and catching up with lectures missed and impending coursework deadlines. I have missed two stories of interest involving students here, the first of which was the surprising victory of Robert Rutaro in the Guild (Students' Union) Presidency elections. A victory for Rutaro was unexpected as he was running under the banner of the governing National Resistance Movement (NRM). It is the first time in ten years that the NRM has captured the presidency, which in the tradition of student associations across the world has been dominated by opposition activists.

The election campaign itself was not dissimilar to those run at UK universities, albeit a lot noisier due to the seemingly obligatory campaign trucks which, for two weeks, made early evening tours of campus blaring out popular hits while drunken supporters danced and shouted slogans at passers-by. The photos here were taken at the hustings in my hall of residence, which frustratingly was far more beauty parade than discussion of the many pressing issues affecting students at Makerere. Indeed, despite numerous enquires it was virtually impossible to separate the candidates on policy, aside from man standing on a socialist and anti-privatisation platform. Unfortunately the candidate reminded me of a young George Galloway, although to be fair this was more due to his flash brown suit than any evidence of extreme pomposity and dubious relationships with dictators.

The second story to hit the headlines was the front page splash in the New Vision that female students are sexually harassing Makerere lecturers. This included the following shocking findings amongst the staff:

- 78% see inappropriately dressed women on campus (read anyone daring to flash provocative body parts such as shoulders and ankles...)

- 40% have had a suspiciously irrelevant visit to their office from a female student

and my personal favourite...

- 34% of lecturers have been subjected to winking

Although there is probably some truth in the story it is certainly a two-way issue at campus. For every student behaving seductively in order to improve her grades there are lecturers offering marks in exchange for inappropriate liaisons. President Museveni describes these as 'sexually transmitted grades', an unfortunate phenomenon in Uganda which I suspect is more widespread in universities worldwide than academics care to admit.

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