Often, when academic staff at Makerere University retire, they move on without a fuss.
But the college of Natural Sciences (CONAS) has broken the trend, treating their retiring staff, many of whom had logged in more than 20 years of service, to a sumptuous dinner at Serena hotel.
The long-serving academics also received plaques and gifts. According to the CONAS principal, Prof JYT Mugisha, the move has raised excitement among staff and will be a regular event.
Moses Talemwa spoke to the eminent professors after the event and asked them what they made of the recognition.
Prof Livingstone Serwadda Luboobi (43 years at Makerere)
I started as a tutorial fellow in 1969 in my third year as a student and chose to stay because, for me, Makerere is home. There were opportunities to serve elsewhere – but my parents taught me that difficulties are not the end of life – one can always persevere.
My children were all born here and they’ve studied here – and some are already members of staff. I have two and a half years to the end of my contract. After that I’ll be 70. I don’t know if the university will still want me.
But wherever I’ll be I’ll still be teaching. Once a teacher, you’ll always be a teacher. I’m very thankful to the college for the recognition. It really makes a difference. Those are the incentives given to people that encourage them to continue serving.
Prof Eldad Banda (38 years at Makerere)
I joined in 1974 and I stayed because I love my country and also because I enjoy what I do. I had lived outside Uganda when I was training (at postgraduate level) and I realized it was not a place I would be happy to live in. I’m here until December 2013 and after that I’ll be 70, so I don’t know if they’ll allow us to stay.
But given a chance I’d like to give it another try because I enjoy what I do. It is good to be recognized by my peers and the college. I would have wanted more staff to be involved so we can inspire the younger researchers – but it’s a start so I understand.
Prof Frederick Bugenyi (17 years at Makerere)
I have been here since 1995 and stayed at Makerere because I realized that if I had gone out, I’d not be with my family. I have 10 children plus an extended family. However, despite missing out on the good money and life abroad, I’m grateful for the time I have had here at Makerere.
My contract runs until 2015 and after that I want to rest. Recognition by the college – that was most unexpected and we are truly happy. We wish Makerere did this all the time. It encourages the young.
Prof John Enyaru (12 years at Makerere)
I joined Makerere after working at Uganda Trypanosmiasis Research Organisation in Tororo for several years. I stayed here this long because I enjoyed research and it offered us an opportunity for academic growth.
I have three years on my current contract with Makerere and, God willing, after that I’d like to retire and rear my cows in Tororo. I’m very grateful to the principal for recognizing staff who have served Makerere. You know this is the first time it is happening. It should be done more often.
Assoc Prof Moses Isabirye-Basutta (36 years at Makerere)
I have been here since 1976 because Makerere is a special place for me. We can disagree with my bosses and still get on with the job. I have received jobs offers that pay four or five times more but I stayed because of the freedom [I have] to carry on with my work.
I’m getting a new two-year contract, then after that I’ll be off. Otherwise I’m happy that we are being recognized.
Prof Hannington Oryem Origa (38 years at Makerere)
I joined in 1974 and I chose to stay here because I realized early that one is needed here more than in the developed countries. These people simply cheat us. They send us scholarships for capacity building and when we finish, they want us to stay there. What capacity building is that?
My contract will run until 2014 but I intend to extend it since I still have ongoing projects and students that I’m supervising. The whole idea of recognition by one’s peers is commendable and I think the university should adopt it, maybe at graduation ceremonies so all of us can attend and have a chance to see who is being recognized.
Prof John Baptist Kaddu (20 years at Makerere)
I chose to come back to this country 20 years ago after serving for years at the UN and many other bodies because there was hope the country was coming back from the dead. But things are actually going very badly right now. The reason that has kept me going is that when I was at the UN there was a lot of work, good pay but no academic growth.
Here I can contribute to national development by imparting knowledge to students. Also when I was growing up, the government paid for my university tuition and everything so I’m now paying back. The act of recognizing our service was a good thing. It brought a change to my heart – I was beginning to think they just don’t care. So, I say let’s work together and see what happens.