Makerere University, Kampala, was established by the then British Colonial government, in 1922 as a vocational training school; carpentry, building and motor mechanics. Since then it has grown to become the oldest and one of the most prestigious Universities in Africa.
Forty three years ago, I graduated from the faculty of medicine of the only public university of the time!
Currently there are 11 public universities and 38 registered private universities in Uganda with 12 medical schools between them!
On the 14th January 1945, Makerere College admitted the first batch of Ugandan women students, they were six of them. From 14th to 17 th January 2020, a total of 13,509 students will be graduating from Makerere Univesrsity, Kampala, in the 70th graduation ceremony. Of these, 50.5 percent are females. We have come a long way considering that in my Graduate Class of 1977, of the 120 graduands only 8 were women, including one from Malawi. By then, the total population of Uganda was 11.3 millions: 5.6 males and 5.7 females.
Indeed, Makerere University has lived up to its motto: We Build for The future.
Nelson Mandela( 1918-2013) , the most iconic leader of the 20th Century highly valued education and expressed it in these two quotes:
“ Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“ A good heart and a good mind are always a formidable combination.”
Undoubtedly, we believe that Education is a gift for a lifetime.
To the parents of the graduands, I thank you for the nurturance, guidance and the sacrifices.
To the teachers, mentors and sponsors, I thank you for your willingness to share your skills, knowledge and expertise to empower the young generation.
To the graduands, I congratulate you on this great achievement. I admire and respect you for your determination, your perseverance and tenacity. This is the first key you needed to unlock your success in life. You have climbed to the top of the mountain only to discover like the icon Nelson Mandela did: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.’’
This graduation marks the beginning of the rest of your life.
You will wake up tomorrow to the sobering and haunting reality on theground:
- Uganda has a population of 42 million people and the youths under the age of 30 make up 78% of this population. Uganda has the highest youth population in the world.
- Youth unemployment in Uganda ranges from 60-80%, the highest rate in youths in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, the rate is highest among degree holders in the urban area.
- Each year, 400,000 students graduate from all these universities to compete for only the 90,000-100,000 jobs in the formal sector.
- The agricultural sector still remains the backbone of Uganda’s economy, 70% of the population depend on it for their livelihood and employment.
- The 21st century is the Information Revolution and most innovative age of our time. It is Science and technologically – driven. It is constantly changing and fast too. It demands that each graduate keeps learning, improving, growing to become better at what he/she chooses to do. It is mandatory that you keep improving your personal best. Digital technology has shrunk the world to a global Village and made it highly competitive. There are no permanent skills in this 21st century; skills have to be continually upgraded and enhanced to enable the worker to have the right skills at the right time for the right purpose.
Alvin Toffler ( 1928- 2016) an American writer and business man, spelt this out years back in this quote: “ The illiterates of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write , but those who cannot learn , unlearn and relearn.”
The education you received should have helped to shine your unique gifts, talents and skills and led you into the vision of your life. Your vision – the big picture of your life should inspire and inform your plan for each subsequent year for the rest of your life.
There are no permanent jobs anymore in this digital technology- driven era!
Working on desks in the office is being replaced by working online from your home.
Human beings are being replaced by automated machines and systems.
In countries like Japan many jobs in the industries are being taken over by industrial robots.
To survive in such a changing environment, one has to become flexible and adaptable to remain useful and relevant to yourself and others.
You have to learn to think for yourself, look for skills you need to create your own job. Job seekers may have to walk the streets for a long time.
The world is now Solution –orientated so the best way to create a job for yourself and others is to critically look at the most burning problems of your community and find a locally appropriate solution to any one of them. The solution should become your business –making you money while at the same time serving others.
Uganda’s biggest challenges are: Climate Change and its effects on food security, deforestation, a high population growth rate of 3.2% , Land ownership and Youth Unemployment.
At this moment in time you may not know the following:
- You are among the privileged few to reach this education level- it gives you the burden to lift up others in your community.
- You can only turn your qualification into real power if you apply it to improve your life and the lives of others.
- You have some hobbies which you can exploit to your benefit. Choose one of them and use it to find a solution to anyone of the biggest challenges of our country. When you do, it could turn you into a successful business man/woman. As long as you believe in yourself, you can be anything and do everything.
- The network of friends you have built so far will over time become part of your family. Together you have formed a community that protects each other and makes each other resilient to the rapid changes around you. Stay connected.
- You have been handed a blank writing book to write your own story for a lifetime. Keep striving to know who you are deep down so that when you write the story of your life every day, it is expressing your authenticity. Remember to embrace honesty and compassion. You also have to develop the discipline to balance competitiveness with co-operation in the current highly competitive world.
At my age, I have learned that life is not a sprint race but a marathon. As an endurance race, it demands that you start off with the end in mind then plan meticulously how to get there at your own pace and rhythm. You have always to be aware that you are surrounded by other runners, you can use them to your advantage to achieve your personal best.
To become the best, you must have the best role models to stretch your mind, imaginations and abilities.
To stay or not to stay– No one has the answer to this question because it is an individual decision based on many factors. I had chosen to stay on and work in my country until it came to the point where I could not be paid a decent salary as a medical doctor and the tools that I needed to perform my work proved to be inadequate. I could not achieve what I wanted in life in such a limiting environment. I had to look for opportunities elsewhere to realize my full potential. I willed myself to start afresh and I left for greener pastures. I am now back in Uganda and carving a new path in a radically changed environment. I learn something new every day, unlearn what is no longer true or relevant and relearn what is still true and relevant. Little by little, I am finding a new comfort zone.
You will be in the game for a long time. My advice would be for you to believe in yourself, stay in the game and show up every day. At times you will be stuck in a rut but summon all your courage and energy , ask for help and keep moving forward. Gradually you will learn to take risks, be aggressive and smart. You are allowed to break a few rules as long as you cling to your integrity and compassion. This is good for you since you can never get the extraordinary if you do not do something extraordinary. Keep skilling yourself for the jobs of the future.
It is your life, make the most of it.
Congratulations on your graduation and best wishes for the future.