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Mak don makes 100 Educators’ world list

A Makerere University lecturer has made the 2010 Top 100 Educators world list. Idris A. Rai, an Associate Professor in Communication Networks and Deputy Dean (Academic Affairs) Faculty of Computing and Informatics Technology has been recognized by the International Biographical Centre (IBC), based at Cambridge, UK.

“You are congratulated as a noted and eminent professional in the field of education. As a holder of this distinction, you can be assured of your place in our history and be gratified that your work has not only been noticed but recognized as outstanding,” said Nicholas S. Law, the Director General IBC in a congratulatory letter sent to Prof. Rai in April.
He added: “In any one year, only one hundred of the world’s best educators, both famous and uncelebrated, from all disciplines will be able to populate this exclusive list.

These are people whose daily work makes a difference, not just those who populate the headlines. It is henceforth decreed that you should be on this list for 2010. As a bearer of this honour, you will be recorded in perpetuity in the halls of [IBC]. You are eligible for the commemorative items available - the distinguished and limited Top 100 Educators medal designed by regalia makers to the world’s monarchies and the distinguished illuminated certificate.”

Every year, IBC receives thousands of biographies from individuals from different disciplines and annually publishes a list of the top 100 significant people in different fields.
Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, Makerere University’s Vice Chancellor was one of the educators who featured on this list last year.

This makes Prof. Rai the second lecturer at Makerere to make this list. The 38-year-old Tanzanian joined Makerere University three years ago and has risen through the ranks. On top of his responsibilities at the faculty, he is a member of the University Senate and a member of the Makerere University Council Committee on ICT.

He has served on a number of Senate committees such as the Academic Programme and Library Committee and other Senate ad-hoc committees. Yet all this has not come easily. Prof. Rai says he has “invested 28 years in pursuing education - from primary to post-doctoral level.”

“Half of that time, I studied in my mother country Zanzibar from primary to A-level,” he says. Prof. Rai who in 1992 was the overall best student in A-level in Zanzibar, obtained a scholarship to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Bogazici University, one of the best public universities in Turkey.

He secured another scholarship to pursue a Master of Science in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Bilkent University, the most prestigious and oldest private university in Turkey. After his master’s, the French government offered to sponsor his PhD. In 2004, he got his PhD in Communications Networks, awarded with the highest honour at Télécom ParisTech in France.

Télécom ParisTech, also known as ENST or Télécom or École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications, is one of the most prestigious and selective grandes écoles [great schools] in France and one of the finest institutions in the field of telecommunications. Rai then worked as a senior researcher in Lancaster University, UK for three years before joining Makerere University in 2007.

“This was despite temptations of lucrative job offers around the world upon completion of my post-doctorate. I wanted to return to Africa after such a long knowledge seeking adventure because I wanted to build African ICT capacity that can liberate the continent from high dependency on ICT solutions from the Western world,” he says.

He adds: “I chose Makerere because I wanted an institution where there is potential to make an impact where I can pursue further research and reach out to the community. I could see that this faculty was very vibrant with very strong leadership under Prof. Baryamureeba.”

Prof. Rai’s teaching and research interests are broadly based on communication networks. He has published his research results in a number of world journals and presented at several conferences. In 2009, he gave talks on his research activities at Caltech in USA, Microsoft Research Laboratory at Cambridge UK, and Computer Laboratory of Cambridge University, UK.

Since his arrival at Makerere University, Rai has been involved in various capacity building projects, effectively contributing to teaching, revising and developing new programmes, supervising graduate students and participating in managerial activities. He has mobilised grants amounting to Shs 1 billion from donors such as CISCO, HP-UNESCO, HP, Google, and British Council.

“Academics and researchers are obliged to compete for grants in order to secure funding that helps in undertaking various academic activities such as research, capacity building, establishing new programmes and labs. In developed countries, the amount of grants an academic has won is the main determining factor of appointment and promotion. Perhaps in contrast to natural expectations, the ability to attract funding hasn‘t been the main promotion and appointment criteria in many of our resource constrained institutions in developing countries,” he says.

Prof. Rai has been the regional project coordinator of EuroAfrica-ICT and EuroAfrica-ICT.org projects which are European Union funded projects that promote research partnerships between academicians in Europe and Africa. He is also the principal investigator of the ITU Centre of Excellence in Africa (CoE-AFR); the project that was initiated by ITU Academy.

Recognizing his contribution in his field, he was awarded the prestigious 2009 IBM Faculty award. He is also a recipient of ISCO fellowship and he has also been listed in the 2010 Marquis Who is Who in the world. Prof. Rai is married to a medical doctor, currently volunteering at Mulago Hospital, with whom he has two children.

smusasizi@observer.ug

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