Prof John Mugisha is the vice chancellor of Cavendish University Uganda. He was unveiled earlier this year and Quick Talk caught up with him at the university’s main campus in Kansanga.
Congratulations on your appointment!
Thanks, Quick Talk.
It is Saturday! What are you doing in office?
The weekend is supposed to be a time of relaxation, catching up with friends, enjoying the warmth of family and monitoring personal projects. I try to do some of these things. Unfortunately, some of the unfinished work overflows into my weekends and I end up in office.
I have also decided to take a class for teaching during the weekend but for only two hours. I co-teach the class; I try to secure time to relax even if I am a workaholic.
What is your day like?
My typical day is very hectic. I wake up very early in the morning and start my day with prayer.
I take breakfast which includes katogo and African tea [that is not a light breakfast…] because I know I might miss lunch. I then drive to office and begin with reviewing my in-tray and emails to check what to do, what to postpone, what to delegate and what needs consultations.
Sometimes, this ends very late at 9pm. So, do not ask me what my evening is like. I don’t have evenings!
You really mix up work with your personal life!
I have heard stories about work-life balance. For me, it’s a question of what supports the other. What is wrong with giving more time to work than personal life if you are using work to build a personal life?
And who’s that very patient sweetheart married to a workaholic?
It is unfair to speak about a person unless you have permission from them. But my wife, a graduate nurse with a master’s degree in Public Health, is an assistant district health officer in one of the districts in Central Uganda. [Ooh! No wonder professor spends many hours at work.]
Wow! When did you last take her out?
Good and timely question. About a week and a half ago, on May 23; we made 20 years in marriage. We visited Lake Mburo national park and Igongo Cultural Centre and Country hotel, among other places.
We are not an outgoing couple and rarely sit out in evenings. We are happier in our own house!
That Mburo-Igongo stuff sounds romantic; are you a romantic?
To the extent that being romantic means being passionate and loving, yes. However, I’m aware of other meanings of being romantic. I already said we are not an outgoing couple.
Let’s check; do you cook for her?
No, I don’t, but I can.
Eh, then you not romantic…
Can I tell you something? I never entered a kitchen until 2007 when I was doing my PhD in England. I grew up with several sisters. They were the ones cooking. Back in the day, boys were told that cooking was a ladies’ job.
A mummy’s boy, I can see.
[Excitedly…] That is how I grew up; when I took my first job as hospital administrator, my mother asked my younger sister to stay with me to assist me with cooking while going to a school nearby. It was because of cooking that I married quickly!
So, 2007 is to be thanked?
I was staying alone in England pursuing a PhD. I had planned to keep eating from canteens and restaurants, which didn’t work. The food was bad but also expensive.
So, I took my first cooking lessons on phone from my wife who was in Uganda. I started with rice and boiled it successfully!
Then I cooked potatoes and added tinned fish and baked beans and actually ended up creating a recipe I still enjoy up to now.
Goodness! Potatoes, fish and beans…! Do you still cook?
On occasion, I ask to prepare some meals with my daughters during holidays and they like my katogo.
Did you always want to be a public health specialist?
Initially, I wanted to become a doctor, but later, during my upper primary school years, we were told that the minister of Education then was Professor Isaac Newton Ojok.
I asked for the meaning of professor and they said someone who knows everything! I started wishing to become a professor. That I worked in hospitals and I am now in universities somehow satisfies those childhood wishes.
Do you drink?
I do not drink any forms of alcohol. This is both due to personal choices as well as family influence. I grew up in a family of born-again Anglican Christians [he has only ever tested wine at church when receiving the holy communion.]
Many Christians still believe drinking alcohol is a sin! I do not share that view… I really do not believe that someone will go to hell just because of drinking alcohol. However, I also know that those who drink alcohol stand many risks including doing wrong things under its influence.
Ugandan universities are becoming synonymous with the sex-for-marks scandal.
At Cavendish University Uganda, we are student-centered as part of our academic model. We have sexual harassment policies in place and anyone found to be engaged in such practices would be summarily dismissed.
What kind of child were you, professor?
I grew up as a stubborn but obedient child. Some people confuse stubbornness with indiscipline, but they are wrong. I liked questioning why we needed to do things a certain way and not the other; but always did my part with great motivation and perfection once someone explained to me.
Who is Prof John Mugisha?
At 48 years, Professor Mugisha is married with children.
He is the eighth child of Rev Abel Katekyeza (RIP) and Mrs Faith Katekyeza. His parents were ministers in the Anglican Church.
“I grew up around the Church and enjoyed moving from parish to parish with my parents in the current districts of Ntungamo, Bushenyi, Sheema and Mitooma,” he says.
He went to Ruyonza primary school in Rubaare sub-county, Ntungamo district, did O-level at Rugarama Secondary School in Ntungamo district and A-level at Kyamate Secondary School and Bwanga High School in Rukungiri district.
He joined Makerere University for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Sciences majoring in Political Science and Social Administration. He studied for a Master of Science degree in Health Services Management from Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi, where he also lectured.
He pursued a PhD in Health Planning and Management from Keele University in England, where he again taught for some years as a visiting speaker.