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‘Stop discriminating against humanities’

Retired university lecturer Prof Austin Bukenya has blasted the government for its emphasis on supporting science programmes in tertiary institutions, and neglecting than humanities.

Speaking at a dialogue, Literature and the Crisis in the Humanities at Makerere University on April 4, Bukenya said that supporting the sciences against humanities amounted to discrimination. The retired Literature lecturer and author insisted that both humanities and sciences should be supported equally.

Over 70 per cent of government sponsorship to the five public universities goes to the sciences, while the humanities get just 30 per cent of the 4,000 students supported. These are sponsored at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Makerere, Kyambogo, Gulu, and Busitema universities.

Bukenya said this discriminatory sponsorship as well as the enforcing of science subjects (such as making them compulsory at O-level) was a violation of one’s right to choice of career.

Humanities and employment

He cited the example of new churches, arguing that they are responsible for creating jobs.

“… you can’t say that churches are not job creators [because]; wherever you have a church, you have a pastor, an assistant pastor, ushers and choir members, … if you deny a person who wants to do theology sponsorship, who will professionalise the churches?” he asked.

Prof Arthur Gakwandi, another recently-retired literature teacher and author insisted that students of humanities can easily get jobs compared to their counterparts in the sciences because Uganda is an unindustrialized economy.

Gakwandi castigated politicians and others in public service for urging youths to ‘go back to the land’ or to ‘be job creators rather than job seekers’ for refusing to leave their civil service class.

“Crisis [in Uganda] is not determined by statistics but by the rhetoric of politicians. The people who tell the youths to go back to the land, have been in civil service for 30 years and they do not want to leave their jobs but they are telling the youths to go and create jobs,” said the 70-year-old.

No crisis

Gakwandi said the humanities were not in a crisis but would continue to be important. In closing the debate, the deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs Ernest Okello Ogwang, also a literature lecturer, agreed with Gakwandi.

“The crisis should not be imposed on us. We must look into it and define it ourselves. Let us look at the crisis, its dimensions and manifestations and this could be a basis for great ideas.”

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