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Makerere professors to give inaugural lectures

All Makerere University professors will now be required to give an inaugural lecture as a proof for their philosophy and part of their curriculum vitae.

The move is aimed at encouraging researchers to share their knowledge before they retire. This was disclosed by Prof Elly Sabiiti, during the inaugural lecture by Professor Ben Kiromba Twinomugisha of Makerere University school of Law recently.

In an exclusive interview with The Observer, Prof Sabiiti, also chairperson, Makerere University professorial inaugural lecture committee, said the new development has already been sanctioned by the University Council and is now law.

“A full professor must give an inaugural lecture within a year or two. You must prove to the world that you have a philosophy,” Prof Sabiiti said.

“We want to make sure that those who are still serving and about to retire do share their knowledge. We have several programmes for research.”

In his inaugural lecture, “Maternal health rights, politics and the law,” Prof Twinomugisha explained why the realization of maternal health rights remains elusive in Uganda. He cited what he called "neo-liberal policies," which stop women from realizing their maternal health rights.

“I argue that the realization of maternal health rights remains elusive because the Ugandan state, which has the primary responsibility to protect the rights, relies on neo-liberal policies and criminal law, which exalt private and class interests to the detriment of maternal health issues, Prof Twinomugisha said.

“I also argue that it is not a mere lack of resources that explains the non-realization of maternal health rights in Uganda, but [the] absence of political will to tackle the structural causes of maternal mortality and morbidity.”

Twinomugisha also contends that while the ministry of Health plays a critical role in any health system, Uganda's health worker to population ratio is 1:1,289 compared to the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended ratio of 1:439.

“Due to poor working conditions, especially low salaries, doctors are moving to other countries for better pay. And to government, it is business as usual, instead of developing strategies to motivate and retain health workers,” he argued.

“[This shortage], has encouraged the export of this scarce resource to countries such as Trinidad and Tobago. Yet, one of the key factors in reducing maternal mortality and morbidity is the availability of and access to skilled health personnel.”

He added that for actual and meaningful realization of maternal health rights, there has to be a peaceful democratic struggle aimed at changing the current regime.

“Millions of the population, including poor women who lack access to maternal health rights, are peasants who live in rural areas, but seem not to realize the need for change. There is an urgent need to make them aware of their rights, including demanding accountability from the state and non-state actors,” Prof Twinomugisha said.

“There is need to build consciousness among the masses so that they are able to engage in a struggle for emancipation. This struggle should be led by the working-class, including rural and urban poor women and men. The struggle should lead to a democratically reconstituted liberal pro-people socialist state that will promote an equitable distribution of resources.”

A former dean of the School of Law at Makerere, Prof Twinomugisha is the first doctor of Laws (LLD) graduate at the institution. With more than 30 years in academia and legal practice, he has taught, examined and published on environmental law, gender, health and human rights, and has recently published a multidisciplinary book, Fundamentals of Health Law in Uganda.

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