Being Guild President Of Victoria University Has Been Sweet But Challenging - Peter Isiko

The history of Victoria University Kampala will barely be written without the name Peter Isiko, the University’s third guild president. The computer science student on started handed over the guild presidency to another person who name will forever re-echo in the history of the University – Maria Peggey Nabunya, the first female guild president.

In this exclusive interview Peter Isiko dwells deeper into his one year rule as the top ranking student leader of the Ruparelia Group owned University located on Jinja road in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, East Africa. Read on.

How has been your reign as guild president of Victoria University? How can you describe it?

It has been bittersweet because there have been challenges as well as accomplishments. I have had several things that I wanted and managed to do and then others that I didn’t do. But overall I will give my reign as guild president of Victoria University a 60-40 score. The 60 percent is for the achievements and the 40 percent for the challenges I faced.

Talking of challenges, what are some of these challenges?

The biggest challenge has been the response from students. When you are at Victoria University it is not the same as any other local university. The main component of the student body is not native, they are not all Ugandan.

They come from so many different cultures so their interests vary. It is hard to get them on a common ground. Obviously things like sports and clubs they try to contribute but other activities it was not so easy to get a common ground.

The other challenge was the communication gap between administration and students because of the culture issue. If you have a student from South Africa, Zimbabwe or Nigeria, the way they communicate is different from a Ugandan student, typically.

Obviously the administration can communicate something that you as a Ugandan can understand but the Nigerian may perceive it in a different way so you have to bridge the gap. Those are some of the challenges I can point out for now.

And what are some the things you have done for the University as guild president? What are your achievements?

We managed to set up a vibrate sports club where games like football, basketball and swimming are now very strong and vibrate at the university. Before there were no games the University was participating in.

We also managed to build student clubs at the university; the Rotaract Club of Victoria University was chartered. It is now a growing club with a strong a membership of 30 students.

The business club is also up and running, they are having their launch next semester, we couldn’t do it this semester but they recently had a business dinner.

I also managed to build faculty activities. For example the health science faculty, they just had their own health week. The faculty of technology had their technology boot camp under the guild council were the security mobile app was built.

Under my reign I wanted to do two things; one, to show the intellectual prowess of our student and also engage them to the outside world. These I achieved.

How has being a guild president at Victoria University impacted you at a personal level?

I have met so my people in my field, I am a computer science students, who wouldn’t otherwise listen to you twice before but now they pay close attention they say since he is a guild president let us hear what he has to say.

So at a personal level I have made connections with people who are going to help me out professionally the moment I finish university, this being my last semester.

And how has it impacted you academically?

I maintained my good grades throughout like it were but being guild president imparts more pressure on you. Instead of reading for two hours, you might find that you need to find a third extra hour to read maybe because half the time you were not in class or something like that. It gets hectic.

Would you recommend someone to join Victoria University?

Yes definitely, Victoria University is growing. It is a University that looks at high standards, a university that looks out for the best for their students so when someone joins the university they can’t leave the same way they came. They will meet very many high profile people which help their careers.

At the same time, the learning system at Victoria University is not a typical school system, its quite different. It looks out for things that will train you for the future. It is an interesting and different place to study from.

Now that you have tasted leadership as guild president, would you consider joining mainstream politics and political leaders at a national level?

After being guild president, I understand what is required of a leader but usually my principle has been that always go for leadership when there is a change you can bring to the people.

It is not about people loving you or people supporting you but sometimes it is about what change you can bring about in society or community. Right now I don’t see what I can do because my vision right now is to move in the realm of technology development and innovations.

Maybe we can wait and see what the future holds but at the moment no, I don’t see myself going into that kind of leadership.

INTERVIEW: We Want To Be Solutions Center – Victoria University Dean

Victoria University Kampala recently hired Nigerian associate professor Dr. Omotayo Adegbuyi as the new dean faculty of business and management. He took charge of his new office last month.

Earthfinds caught up with him for an exclusive interview to tell us what he brings to the fastest growing private university, his plans and importance of the faculty to the University. Below are the excerpts.

Dr. Omotayo, welcome to Victoria University Kampala,please briefly tell us about yourself as a person and your professional experience as an academician.

I’m an associate professor of marketing and entrepreneurship. I started my educational career at a University called Enugu State University of Technology in Nigeria where I had my first degree in Marketing.

In our country, we have what is called National Youth Service which requires that every graduate must serve his or her fatherland for one year before moving on to do other things preferred. It is a policy that is compulsory.

So I did that in 1998 at Nigerian Breweries PLC where I got practical and important marketing experience.

After the one year of youth service, I decided to further my education and went for my masters’ degree in marketing, this time at University of Lagos. When I finished my masters I went into employment. I

After years in formal employment, I got appointment to Covenant University as an assistant lecturer; it’s a private university just like you see Victoria University Kampala. That university was two years old when I joined in 2013.

Later, I applied for my PhD at Covenant University, also in marketing – all along, my life has been all about marketing. I had my PhD in 2011; eight years after I had joined as a lecturer.

 As a new University, it was not allowed to enroll students for master and PhD programs, it was after we graduated about four five sets of graduate that they allowed us to have PhD programs.

What attracted you to come to Victoria University and Uganda in particular?

 I was home and I received a phone call from a lady I didn’t know telling me about the opening at Victoria University in Kampala. Apparently they had looked at my profile and liked it.

I checked out Victoria University online and I saw that it had a good prospect; its future is bright. They sent me a questionnaire which I responded to and a few days later I was invited for an interview which we did on Skype.

Like I said before, this is a prospecting University just like when I started at Covenant University which was two years old when I joined. They are now the second biggest university in Nigeria.

So that is how I came to be here at Victoria University. Since I started with a young university, Covenant University, I said let me go and contribute to the development of Victoria University.

What should we expect from you as dean faculty of business and management studies here at Victoria University?

As a dean, I have been given responsibilities in my contract letter, very massive and a lot. I will divide them into three categories.

Number one, as a dean I am expected to coordinate academic activities of the University. To make sure lecturers are there on time and that they have quality notes they are giving to our students.

I have to also make sure that lecturers deliver their lectures using modern technology and equipment. The University has to be ranked among the best in Uganda and the world; you cannot achieve that unless you start with quality assurance with your teaching.

Apart from that, I also have to make sure students are there on time and lecturers must not miss class. Students must be proud about the lectures, how they feel about the lecturers and methods of teaching. I have to make sure the exams are of the right standards.

The second area is research. As a faculty, we are established to find solutions to problems – solution provider and center. So you need to research into the problems people, companies and community so that you come back and find solutions.

I am planning to introduce a program called Town and Gown Seminar Series. We will identify companies, invite their executives, managers to come and talk to our students. To tell them how it is done outside there. If we are talking about branding, we invite someone who is successful in branding.

Under research, we are teaching our students to write journal articles which we can publish under the name of the student and University address. The University gets to be known all over the world as a research university.

The third area is community service. No organization exists in community in isolation. We want to look at a situations where the University gives back to the community in form of corporate social responsibility.

How important is your faculty to this University and education system in the country at large?

The faculty is very key and important not only to the University but the entire economic system. We have business related courses that we offer like courses.

In this world, everybody is in business; no matter the job and business you are doing, you will need advice from our faculty.

We are planning to go into consultancy, like I said, the University is a solution tower so we are planning to go in the market and tell them that the University is organizing business clinics.

We will give them our proposal to train their staff. When we train them, they go back and see the impact. Apart from school fees, we are looking at consultancy to generate revenue for the university.

Why would a parent bring their child to the faculty of business and management here at Victoria University?

I would encourage a parent to bring a child here because the child has the prospects of establishing own business after the course. We are going to teach them how to start businesses from year one.

Another reason is all our courses are approved by the regulatory body. They have given us approval to run all those programs. So when a student finishes a program here, if they want to go and upgrade elsewhere, they can because our programs are approved and certified.

There is assurance that after the degree, our certificate is recognized worldwide. You apply for master in any university in any university in any part of the world. Also when we establish our post graduate programs, you can stay here.

INTERVIEW: Solarplaza, GOGLA On Unlocking Solar Capital In Sub-Saharan Africa

Solarplaza and GOGLA recently announced the second edition of Unlocking Solar Capital (USC) Africa. After hosting last year's inaugural edition in Nairobi, Kenya, the pair will be organizing its follow-up in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.

The high-level 2-day conference centered around unlocking capital for new solar project development in Africa provides an original and exclusive international platform and will take place on the 25-26th of October, 2017.

In preparation for the event, Solarplaza analyst Marco Dorothal speaks with 3 of the event's main driving forces - Lydia van Os and Adriaan van Loon of Solarplaza and Eveline Jansen of GOGLA discussing the challenges and opportunities for African solar development in the region. 

The story of 'Unlocking Solar Capital' did not start in Abidjan. Why did you choose to hold the first edition in Nairobi and what were the main lessons learnt? 

Eveline: "The unique design of the USC Africa conference characterizes how partnerships and collaboration can strengthen the solar sector: The Nairobi edition was the first investor conference to bring the off-grid industry together with on-grid and mini-grid segments of the solar sector.

While the needs and demands of the three sectors are diverse, it is vital to maintain open channels of communication in order to effectively advocate for beneficial policy environments and work together towards the shared goal of increased electricity access.

The success of this first edition was a testimony of catering to a new demand for a more holistic approach - and clear indication that there is a need to keep that momentum going."

Adriaan: "Nairobi was chosen to host the first edition of Unlocking Solar Capital because it is the business capital of East Africa. As Eveline mentioned, a truly unique factor was the unique involved mix of on and off-grid players. The fact that a lot of industry players are already established in Nairobi enabled us to grow the conference bigger than we ever imagined.

However, as a conference that aims to cover the whole continent, we learned that the best way to have both a strong international and continental presence is to move to other regions as well to be able to reach a larger and more diverse audience and address different markets." 

Lydia: "Currently, we see an extremely promising growth of the solar industry on the African continent. To increase our impact we want to be close to the developments and aim to take our international network to the local sources where opportunities arise.

We have a holistic vision regarding the joint potential of on and off-grid energy, as we think both are crucial to work towards fully electrifying African countries. To accomplish this vision we have chosen to organize the conference in Africa, for Africa." 

Now, moving on to Abidjan, what are the differences between the locations and how are you buildingon the success of the previous edition? 

Eveline: "Moving the second edition to West Africa is not only essential for a truly holistic approach to the Sub-Saharan Africa market, but also a recognition of the rapidly developing solar market in the region." 

Lydia: "This year the event is going to take place in Abidjan as we want to expand upon the success of last year, while at the same time involving more of the francophone community and investors.

Hosting the event in different markets allows us to not only bring the conference platform and our relations to exciting new regions, but also allows us to leverage the knowledge and experience of our previous editions by sharing them with regional partners and attendees." 

How did you reflect new regional developments in your program? 

Lydia: "Our program focuses on opportunities for both established as well as upcoming market players. With the Solar Incubator, which is co-organized with Phanes Group PV, smaller players in the African solar market are challenged to pitch their projects with the chance of winning mentorship and co-development facilities.

At the same time, we will host sessions that focus on utility-scale projects. For instance, we have a panel in which we'll discuss the bankability of solar projects, which is a recurring challenge, featuring leading regional experts from Standard Bank, Scatec Solar, the EU commission and Africa50."

Adriaan: "Compared to our previous event, we did see a need for more collaborations between development financial institutions (DFIs) and the private sector in order to spearhead the growth of the solar sector in the more challenging countries. Furthermore, the advancements in mini-grid technology will be represented in our 'Generations' track, focusing on bigger mini-grid projects, as well as in our 'Connections' track, which focuses purely on micro-grid developments."

How do you see the future unfolding for the African region; what are the most important things that need to be achieved in order to succeed and how will you hope that USC Africa can contribute to this? 

Eveline: "There is a clear need for greater communication and understanding between the different stakeholders in the solar sector, as well as recognizing the patterns and shared challenges in the hugely diverse individual markets. Unlocking Solar Capital Africa accelerates this process by providing opportunities for focused interaction between these stakeholders."

Adriaan: "We aim to contribute by providing people with a platform to share best practices and meet the stakeholders that you need to further your business. With the conference platform, we seek to solve Africa's solar energy funding gap by connecting financiers and developers, and having key market players share their practical experiences. Furthermore, the floor will be given to innovative startups to pitch their business models and secure financing." 

Lydia: "There is a lot of dedication among solar industry players to bring electricity to the 600 million Africans that currently do not have access to modern energy solutions. This dedication is easy to understand from both a market perspective, which is obviously very large, as from the conviction that everyone should have access to electricity and that we shouldn't burden the environment through the use of fossil fuels, while great alternatives are readily available at a competitive price point. We want Unlocking Solar Capital Africa to be the driving platform for Africa's solar revolution moving forward."

 

My Focus Remains Research, Innovation, Publication And Outreach, Varsity VC Speaks Out

Victoria University Kampala is the fastest growing young private university in Uganda. It was established in 2011.  It is located at iconic Victoria Towers on Jinja Road at the famous Esso Corner.

Below is an interview we conducted with the new Victoria University Vice Chancellor, a renowned international academician, young innovator and prolific author- Dr. Krishna N. Sharma

Briefly tell us about you as an individual, your record in the academic world and what you bring to Victoria University, now in the capacity of Vice Chancellor?

I am basically an academician and author with medical background. I have more than hundred publications and have supervised more than 60 researches. I have many dreams for the university as a Vice Chancellor, and I am sure I am going to take the University with the help of my colleagues. My focus still remains on research, innovation, publication and outreach.

What reasons attracted you to come and work at Victoria University and how has your background benefitted the University for the time you have been working as dean faculty of health sciences?

It is a young university and here you get an opportunity to “create” history and leave legacy. VU provides good environment, autonomy, research opportunities and nice human resource policy. I don’t see a reason why shouldn’t it attract an academician.

As far as my contribution as a dean is concerned, I brought collaborations, organized free international workshop, and worked on Quality Assurance. There are few other projects coming soon from the faculty of health sciences.

I am happy to share with you that this faculty is now being led by Prof. Stephen Lawoko- an eminent researcher with more than 50 publications and more than 28 years experience in Sweden.

You said when you had just joined Victoria University that it has potential, how does it compare to other international universities in developing countries like Cameroon where you have taught?

It is a new age university with fresh ideas and young energy. Unlike many international universities, it has a very experienced and active university council that gives academic freedom to the academicians.

Our faculty is well qualified and internationally exposed. I think the strongest aspect is that, in VU, we all work as a strong team with same vision and mission.

You have published hundreds of books and research papers; do you see yourself transforming this desire and ability to write to Victoria University students? Are they up to the task, those you have interacted with so far?

Writing is not as difficult as we think. If you have something to valuable to tell, you can be an author. Fortunately, we provide our students international exposure and so they have a lot to share. They are well grounded in research and very active in outreach.

Our deans also have published very good number of researches. I believe that we have already spread the vibe of research and publication. I assure you that you are going to read lot of researches and books from our students in near future.

What unique courses do you have that give you leverage over other private universities? What do you intend to achieve by teaching these courses?

Let me be honest with you. It’s not only the programs but also the delivery of programs and our state of the art facilities that make us different. The curricula of our programs in all the faculties – faculty of health science, faculty of science and technology, faculty of business and management, faculty of humanities and social sciences, and department of oil and gas is totally market driven.

As an academic institution, our responsibility is to train the students so that they may secure their places and succeed. We motivate our students to focus more on gaining knowledge and skills rather than marks and papers.

Victoria University talks of state of the art facilities, what exactly are these facilities, elaborate more?

Though we are located at the heart of Kampala, our building is soundproof to provide a peaceful learning environment. All of our classrooms are fully air conditioned and equipped with smart-board, overhead projector, speakers, computer system etc.

Our student-computer ratio, book-student ratio etc are excellent. We provide free internet and laptop to our students. Our labs are very modern, advanced and fully functional. We have the most advanced and most expensive medical manikin in Uganda.

We also make the environment comfortable for students. We believe more in participant-facilitator relation than student-lecturer relation. Apart from having a nice restaurant, our students have students’ lounge where they can grab their cup of coffee, warm their food in microwave and have discussions.

The August/September intake is just around the corner, why should someone come to study at Victoria University and not any other university in Uganda and the world? And how many intakes do you have in a year and how can someone join the University?

Our lecturers come from both the academic and professional background. They teach our students from their experience in field. We also find mandatory internships for all our students as we have made it mandatory. So when our student completes a program, he or she already has lot of experience and links that may assure his or her success.

We have two intakes in a year, one in January-February and another one in August-September. Our admission process is very simple. I would suggest students to visit our campus and meet our admission officer and career counselor. You can also apply online by visiting www.vu.ac.ug.

We noticed that there are many students coming from outside Uganda – non-nationals – where do you get them and what attracts them to Victoria University?

We have students from various countries of different continents e.g. Rwanda, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Nigeria, Burundi, Eritrea, Somalia, DRC, Ghana, India, Pakistan, Canada, Lebanon etc. I think, apart from our flexible fees payment system and open door policy; it is our curricula, teaching methodology, facilities, teaching and learning environment, international exposure and international internships that attract them to us.

Do you make as much effort to stay in touch with your international alumni as you do with your home students?

Of course we do! The student-university relation is very unique. If I may use personification, a university should be a students’ mentor. She should not discriminate based on being home students and international alumni.

You have signed some partnerships with international educational institutions, how are students benefiting?

Our partnerships and collaborations are benefiting our students from many aspects. Can you imagine that our clinical sciences students recently saved more than 1,500 USD each as one of our partners provided them a very expensive and modern skill training for free? Our students have many more benefits by our partnerships for research collaboration, student exchange program, staff exchange program, internships etc.

Where do you see Victoria University in five to ten years?

I see Victoria University as the first choice research driven University nurturing a holistic person and contributing to regional and global development.

Governments Must Increase Transparency As A Tool To Fight Corruption

Ross Campbell, director public sector – Institute Of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW’s) was in Uganda for the 4th Africa congress of accountants that took place at Speke Resort Munyonyo from 2nd – 5th May 2017 under the theme ‘accountancy & accountability: transforming Africa’s economies’.

In this interview, he speaks about public finance management, corruption, donor funding and good corporate governance practice. Below are the excerpts: 

What does public finance management generally entail?

At its highest level public finance management entails ensuring that public funds are spent in accordance with the public good, that this spending represents value for money and that the continued expenditure is sustainable within realistic projections of government revenue.

This also requires good record keeping to ensure accountability to tax payers, effective risk management, and, critically, that future spending plans can be financed wisely which then promotes the creation of a stable economy.

What are the strong pillars that make up an effective public finance management system?

There are many pillars which support the creation and functioning of a stable and effective public finance management system. Among them are:

  • A strong accounting profession with qualified individuals who hold internationally recognised professional qualifications.
  • Robust international standards for accounting and audit to which professionals must adhere.
  • A strong independent audit profession which promotes transparency and accountability.
  • Ensuring that those holding senior management finance roles are appropriately qualified.
  • Creating and implementing appropriate systems and processes to guide the profession and ensure that professionals operate with integrity and accountability.
  • Publishing comprehensive information about public finances to promote trust in the profession.

Despite the enactment of a number of public finance management reforms since the 1990’s, Uganda continues to face many scandalous cases of misappropriation of public funds. What steps would you advise the government of Uganda to take to curb the vice of corruption altogether?

The single most important thing that any government can do to address corruption, whether in the present or the future, is to increase transparency by publishing up-to-date information which clearly and concisely presents how public funds have been used and what benefits these have resulted in for the society. This must be backed up by a strong independent audit function. In so doing, the government makes it much more difficult, if not impossible, for individuals who seek to engage in corrupt activities.

The public service has been riddled with corruption scandals mainly because of the weaknesses within financial management in government entities. What recommendations would you give to solve weak accountability that comes with soft controls and widespread corruption within the political and bureaucratic frameworks?

In order to bring in strong controls you need people who understand what such a system looks like and how it operates. Generally speaking, these are professionally qualified accountants or auditors who have successfully achieved very rigorous qualification, usually of an international standard.

Moreover, these professionals will be held to standards of behaviour by the professional body with which they qualified, with disciplinary consequences if any unethical behaviour on their part has been proven. In fact, this is a key requirement to address accountability: there must be consistent and enforced controls which safeguard the integrity of the profession.

Continuous corruption in Uganda has prompted several donor agencies to suspend budget support to Uganda over the years since 2012. What advice would you give regarding attracting these donors back?

Fundamentally, these donors have to trust the system. In order to either build or regain their trust, governments who require this funding, whether in Uganda or elsewhere in the world, must bring in reforms to ensure there is strong oversight and that that system of oversight and audit is itself subject to quality checks.

And the more independent that system is of government and the more it uses international standards for quality assurance and good practice, the more confidence these donors will have in it. This is the most critical way of restoring confidence and proving to these donor agencies that their support is appreciated and that their concerns are being seriously addressed.

The effectiveness of Uganda’s public finance management has also been affected partly by limited internet, infrastructure coverage, and a shortage of technical capacity expertise to operate the systems. What is your advice on improving Uganda’s public finance management?

Any system, in order to be effective, must be supported by a strong infrastructure which includes having professionals with the necessary skills and qualifications, systems that are resilient and capable of supporting the management and clear, transparent and auditable business processes. All three must be implemented together as they support each other. Having one without the others is not enough to ensure a robust public finance management system.

Citizens in Uganda continuously feel hard-pressed with taxes. How better can government of Uganda articulate the importance of paying tax to its citizens?

Again, this is a question of trust. In any society, the people must see how their taxes are being used and what benefits they are receiving. In other words, governments must justify the implementation of various forms of taxation. This is done, as mentioned earlier, through the publication of clear, concise, comprehensive, and independently audited information about public finances to promote trust in the profession and that their money will not be misappropriated. Only then will people believe in the importance of paying taxes. 

Should the government of Uganda be accountable to its citizens for each expenditure? If so, how?

Yes, of course. Any government must if it wishes to build trust in the system of public financial management. The way to do it, again, is through the publication of clear, concise, comprehensive, and independently audited information regarding how funds have been used and the benefits to society.

Victoria University Focused On Pertinent Knowledge And Skills Transfer, Says Dean Science And Technology

Not many people know Dr. Terry Kahuma as a teacher and academician having rose to national fame as the executive director of Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), a government agency mandated with ensuring that products and services offered to Ugandans are of the right usable quality.

He has however worked with defunct Uganda Electricity Board (UEB) and Uganda Electricity Transmission Company Limited (UETCL) as an engineer in different capacities including taking on managerial roles.

Dr. Kahuma who holds a PHD in engineering started as an assistant lecturer before moving to Nigerian Universities as a lecturer. He now takes on his new role at Dean Faculty Science and Technology at Jinja Road based Victoria University. In the the below he explains his plans for the university and Uganda as a nation. Read on. 

Dr Kahuma, It’s indeed an honour to meet you today. It’s also interesting to know that you are now working with Victoria University. Please share with our readers what you do at Victoria University.

 I am Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology at Victoria University. My responsibility is to ensure that there is efficient and timely transfer of pertinent knowledge and skills to the students to enable them contribute to national growth, while earning themselves a decent livelihood through gainful employment or entrepreneurship and economic self-sufficiency.

I must also ensure that the university obtains value to enable the investment grow steadily, as well as looking after the provision of adequate facilities and remuneration for genuine work performed by the teaching and support staff in accordance to approved policies. My position seeks to build professionalism in the students and an early linkage to industry through internship, as well as supporting research and innovation in the development of viable social, commercial and industrial applications.

What excites you about being at Victoria University?

The university has an excellent location in the Central Business District, making access by students and stakeholders easy using the cheapest means of transport. The building currently hosting the university is beautiful, spacious, meticulously finished with state-of –the –art materials and features, and the overall working environment is lovely and enabling while being secure and modern with appealing décor and upholstery.

It has an enormous underground parking together with clean and functional lifts. In addition, the university has friendly and co-operative staff,  well - equipped laboratories, well-stocked library with ICT operating systems, lecture rooms and offices all of which are essential for serious work and research. All this is exciting as a workplace.

What uniqueness do you bring to the leadership at Victoria University?

A record of work at four universities outside Uganda, field experience in electrical engineering of 10 years in a major parastatal, managerial experience of 10 years as Executive Director of a government agency, and private consulting work of five years. This is a unique mix which give balance between theory, practice and managerial experience at a top level. It will definitely enrich my classroom interaction with my students and my contributions in administrative work towards the growth of the university.

There are a number of other colleges and institutions that offer Computer science and IT. Why should a parent send their child to do the programme at Victoria University

Victoria University has a competitive edge over other universities in three key areas in teaching IT.

Firstly the IT infrastructure is quite extensive, modern and used on a low student ratio, mostly one to one usage mapping, so there is intensive, personalized full-time availability of well-networked and administered computers, which enables quick learning and more complete grasp by the student.

Secondly, the callibre of lecturers is well trained and experienced to deliver the courses, which are IEEE compliant, based on the latest guidelines for degree programmes, developed and agreed by the joint task force on computing curricula within the IEEE computer society. The lectures are delivered in a hassle-free environment using smartboards. All students have a free laptop provided by the university.

Thirdly,  there is a programme of internship under which students are attached to the IT sections of serious enterprises to acquire field experience. This enables our students to appreciate industrial application of systems and software covered in class, and they move on to innovation of more advanced applications due to contact with such experts.

What is the future of ICT?

ICT as a field of study is very secure, and it will gain relevance in all fields of human endeavor in the future. All machinery, manufacturing processes, media systems, health programmes and procedures, entertainment, transport, engineering, warfare, mining, agro-processing, education, sports, communication, supermarkets, policing, research, social interaction, banking, advertising, film  etc are underpinned by systems using ICT to control, protect, calculate, compare, tabulate, synchronise, determine, regulate, report,  etc. Thus a student with qualifications and competence in ICT is assured of opportunities for employment or self-employment for a long time ahead.

Do you have any hopes of offering certified programmes in ICT?

Certainly. Victoria University is determined to equip its students with necessary specialized skills in the ICT and other areas to the highest level in keeping with the needs of industry and the job market.

Share some tips for success for prospective students and their parents

The key to success is realizing the existence of opportunity, and then moving in to grab that opportunity through the acquisition of the following: knowledge, capacity to analyse correctly,  skills, discipline, contacts, exposure, determination, doggedness, broad vision to expand means of attaining objective and avoiding tunnel vision, networking, capacity to bear setbacks and move on, capacity to raise performance targets, keeping with the leading pack.

What is in store for 2017?

2017 will see a broadening of our course coverage to embark on engineering programmes, particularly electrical engineering and telecommunications engineering. The aim of this initiative is to enable Victoria University to enlarge the skills base of our students to serve in wider sectors of the economy where opportunities exist for practical engineering professionals.

We would like our graduates to have skills that remain pertinent to the economic broadening of the economy and to participate in engineering design, operation, construction, repair, installation, maintenance, power system control, generation, transmission, distribution etc. This expansion will happen in other disciplines like health sciences, humanities and business studies as well.

Any closing remarks for our readers?

Victoria University is your university. It shares your vision of a growing and developing nation, and its duty is to train the required manpower for this development. The efforts taken in constructing, manning and equipping this university goes beyond the profit motive. It is an overriding desire to contribute in the development of our country. So I appeal to students and parents to join the VU family, participate in our programmes and together we move the nation forward. Thank you.

We Will Focus On Research - New Victoria University Dean, Faculty Of Health Sciences

Dr. Krishna N. Sharma- New Dean - Faculty of health sciences, Victoria University, Kampala is a renowned academician, celebrity physiotherapist and prolific author. He travels across the world to teach. He is the youngest author to write 120+ books (20+ bestsellers) and holds 3 world records. To know more about him, visit- www.drkrishna.co.in 

You are new to Uganda tell us about yourself?

Well! I am an academician from India. I am basically a physiotherapist who did his Masters and PhD in India. I have been working in Africa for more than three years.

I served as the Dean at St. Louis University, Cameroon and Vice Principal at Jeevan Jyoti Institute of Medical Sciences, India. I joined Victoria University, Kampala Uganda as the Dean- faculty of health sciences.

I have keen interest in teaching, research and writing. I teach in many countries and hold 3 world records for writing more than 120 books and more than 20 bestsellers. My books are available worldwide on various bookstores and online stores like Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble etc. 

What excites you about being at Victoria University?

Academic Freedom and a chance to be a part of history! See… Victoria University has a lot of potential. We have one of the best infrastructures and human resource. I hope you have already visited it… and if have not, you must. You will be surprised to experience an international structure right in the heart of the Kampala city. Infact I sent some pictures to my friends abroad and they could not believe that it’s Africa.

So if I am associated with such a university which doesn’t compromise with the quality and gives you an academic freedom to bring up new ideas and allows you to go as far as possible in terms of quality assurance… what else does an academician want? 

What uniqueness do you bring to the leadership at Victoria University?

We are going to work a lot on research and publications. We are upgrading the teaching methodology with the latest schools of thoughts in pedagogy. We will focus on the fruitful research… the research that will bring positive change in Uganda and abroad. This year we will have our own journal and publication so once the students graduate from here, they will already have their published research paper and book. These will give an added value and recognition to them. Apart from this, we are going to move towards online education through our e-academy. We are planning to offer many free courses too as a part of our corporate social responsibility. 

Why should someone study Nursing, Midwifery at Victoria University not elsewhere?  

Instead of telling you why someone shouldn’t study elsewhere, I would rather prefer to tell you why you should study at Victoria University.

When you send your kids to our university, we act like guardians. By the time you leave them on campus, they become our kids and we do everything to shape them from all the aspects. We don’t teach students just to pass the exams or score well, but we prepare them to compete in their field. Honestly speaking, we academicians are not the real evaluators of the student. The real evaluators are the employers. When a student goes in the field to work, at that moment what matters is the performance and not the scores or grade.

Here at Victoria University, we provide quality education in high-tech classes. We provide them free laptops and free internet to experience the international standard and work culture. As I said earlier, our focus is to build up student’s skills and profile to above standard. Imagine a student from elsewhere with just a degree; and a student from Victoria University with a degree, published research papers, published book on his or her name, and couple of international workshops/ seminars/ conferences. I hope, in this case even you yourself would choose Victoria University. 

Is a career in Environmental Health necessary?

This question is like “is a career in military necessary?” See… no matter who we are, the fact is that we all have to live in an environment. As far as we are alive, whatever we touch, breath, eat or drink may bring us trouble. So a healthy environment is our need… we don’t have a choice.  Here come the environmental health experts. They monitor the environment and make sure that it is healthy. Their job includes protecting the environment and community health, testing water and air pollution, inspecting the restaurants and public places, do researches and everything that may concern our environment one way or the other.

The demand for environmental health experts is increasing at the speed of development and urbanization due to the increase in health threats that come with urbanization. At this time, more than 54% of the world population lives in urban areas.  In fact even in Uganda, the level of urbanization last year was 18% and it might increase to 30% by 2030. It is estimated that about 50% of the total Ugandan population will be living in urban areas by 2050. So if you look at these statistics, you will get a broader picture and understand how the demand for environmental health experts is increasing rapidly and how brighter the career in this field is. 

Share some tips for success for prospective students and their parents?

My advice to Students!

Scope is not in the field but in the person. So choose a profession that attracts you and dedicate yourself. Manage your time, forget everything except education for the next few years and trust me, when you finally leave the university… a very bright future would be waiting for you with open arms. So start right now. In West African Pidgin English we say “Today na today”. If you don’t work on your dream today… your dream is not realistic.

For Parents! I would request you to keep your eyes open and spend some time with your kids. Dedicate yourself for their future and don’t compromise in their quality of education. Remember! There is lot of bad influence in society and a quality education is the solution. So if you don’t become your children’s partner in their good dreams… they will be partners in your bad dreams.

What is in store for 2017?

Hard work! This year will have many good and positive activities and achievements. So stay tuned and you will listen our hard work speaking. 

Any closing remarks for our Readers.

I would like to thank them for reading it till the end. At the same time, I would like to cease this opportunity to invite them to the Victoria University campus for a visit and free career counseling. We are currently recruiting for the Jan-Feb so please apply online www.vu.ac.ug.

 

 

 

INTERVIEW: We Need More Engagements With Government - Petroleum Students

Anita Badagawa is a final year student of Petroleum Geosciences and Production at Makerere University. She currently represents the petroleum students as the President of the Makerere University (MUK) Society of Petroleum Engineers Student Chapter. She shared with EarthfindsSam Jumbwike their dream for the Oil and Gas Sector in Uganda

Tell more about the Makerere University Society of Petroleum Engineers/Students Chapter. How did it come about?

Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) MUK Student Chapter was basically created under the SPE Uganda Section to extend the arms and influence of the Society of Petroleum Engineers International (SPEI) in Petroleum Institute. The SPEI consists of 168, 000 members in 144 countries and about 368 Student Chapters worldwide. SPE membership includes more than 68, 000 student members.

Our Mission is to collect, disseminate, exchange technical knowledge concerning the exploration, development and production of Oil and Gas resources and related technologies for public benefit to both Students and Professionals.

On top of the above, the SPE Makerere Student Chapter aims to develop professional awareness among members and other Students doing degrees that are relevant to the Oil and Gas sector. We promote social and academic interaction among Geosciences and Engineering and promote unity among all engineering disciplines in conjunction with Geosciences Students’ Societies.

As of now, what are some of the things that you have undertaken as an association to fulfill your objectives?

We have organized recruitment drives to enroll more student members. We have had collaborative projects with Makerere Engineering Society, held distinguished lectures from Petroleum Engineering Professionals, built models for study purposes, sensitized people, undertaken trips to attend conferences on Oil and Gas in leading Oil Companies across the globe, and we recently organized the Oil and Gas forum that took place at Protea Hotel.

Petroleum Geosciences and Production is relatively new in Uganda. Where did your lecturers come from?

Yes it is true it is a new course, however we have had the Geology Department for a longer time and since half of our curriculum as petroleum students consists of geology related course units, lecturers to handle that were available.  

Now for the rest of the curriculum, we have had visiting lecturers of Petroleum Engineering from Oil Companies like Total, CNOOC, Tullow Oil Uganda and also government technocrats from the Directorate of Petroleum at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.

Can you sum up what Petroleum Students at MUK are taught for the entire course?

Throughout the course we study Petroleum Engineering, Drilling Engineering, Health and Safety, Reservoir Engineering, Geology, Drilling Fluids and Geo-Physics among others.

What are some of the challenges that you face as Petroleum Students?

There is inadequate exposure while undertaking the course mostly due to lack of instrumentation and equipment in laboratories. For instance we study quite a number of things that require hands on exposure and experience; however it is nearer to impossible to have an opportunity to learn with practice.

The software to work with is inadequate. Most of the data we deal with has to be worked on using licensed software that is only available in big Oil Companies abroad and rare to find here. There is also less communication from government concerning the Oil Sector.

Is this having an effect on your competitiveness?

Yes it is. There are few Petroleum Engineers that have studied in Uganda that can actually compete with the ones that have studied for example at Heriot Watt University. This is affecting us in that most of the operating companies are hiring expatriates to do the engineering work available.

We are not having enough practice to be in position to compete with the expatriates that are being brought into the country to do the engineering works in the Oil and Gas operations.

What advice do you have for government if we are to do better?

Government must beef up local capacity in the Oil and Gas Sector. All Oil and Gas Faculties at Universities and Institutes in Uganda should be furnished with efficient laboratories and enough equipment like Microscopes for Christolographical studies, Thin Sectioning Equipment, and Geo-Physical Equipment.

Also Oil and Gas Students should have enough study trips and be availed with the best Lecturers in the Petroleum Industry. The 6.5 billion barrels of Oil in place with about 1.5 billion barrels recoverable is good news to the economy of Uganda.

The revenues from the Oil industry will boost development in almost all the other sectors and this will place Uganda at a better chance of becoming a middle income country. The current Oil and Gas Regulations are good; they just need a lot more professional people to implement them in order to enable sustainable Management of Uganda’s Oil Resource.

From what we have studied, we have a lot to offer to our country in terms of building the Oil and Gas industry through proper regulations, good policy, good management to ensure that the Oil Resource is not misused in order to avoid the Oil Curse and above all ensuring that the Oil will benefit every Ugandan.

What You Need To Know About Shell Fuelsave Fuel And Win Reloaded Promo

For the third year, Shell FuelSave recently launched a country wide promotion that will give consumers a chance to win free Shell FuelSave Unleaded petrol and Shell FuelSave Diesel for up to one year.

The promotion is intended to appreciate and reward customers for their loyalty and support in purchasing Shell branded fuels and lubricants.

How to enter the Fuel and Win Reloaded promotion:

Fuel with a minimum of 50,000/= shillings or more of Shell FuelSave at any Shell service station to receive your unique code coupon. Then simply dial short code *295#, select option 2 and enter the unique code on the coupon. You will receive a message notifying you of your successful entry into the promotion.

What is the cost of the SMS?

Each Short code entry will cost you UGX 220/-. NOTE: You can send a maximum of 2 codes in one SMS separated by a space and meeting the 140 character condition.

What if you’re not given a coupon?

You are entitled to one coupon for every 50,000/= shillings worth of Shell FuelSave. If you spend 100,000/= shillings for example, you will be entitled to two unique code coupons. You are required to enter all these codes into the short code.

How to redeem prize?

Once you receive a call from Vivo Energy 0312210010, prepare to collect/redeem your prize by verifying your identity.  You should have the phone number that entered the promotion, a valid ID and the coupon to redeem your prize.

Fuel prize winners up to 300,000 will be awarded using unique fuel vouchers while fuel prize winners up to UGX 3,000,000 will be awarded using a Shell Card (prepaid) to redeem their prize / access free fuel.

What if my coupon is misplaced or damaged yet I have been notified as a winner, what happens?

In the event that your coupon is misplaced or damaged and you have been notified about being a winner, we shall use the mobile umber used to enter the promotion and other identification to confirm winners. Please call the toll free number 0800200400 or Vivo Energy’s telephone number +256312210010; available from 8:00am to 5:00 pm for further assistance.

Should I expect specific communication from a specified source if am a winner?

All winners will be notified by +256312210010. Do not respond to any other numbers that call you or send SMS to you. If you require confirmation on legitimacy of the calls, please call the toll free number 0800200400 or Vivo Energy’s telephone number +256312210010; available from 8:00am to 5:00 pm for further assistance.

Do I have to visit a specific Shell station to redeem my prize?

All monthly winners will specify their preferred Shell Station that they will redeem free fuel from. The grand draw winners can use their Shell Card to redeem fuel at any Shell Station countrywide.

Is there a deadline for claiming my prize?

Yes. All weekly prizes must be claimed 7 days after customer is contacted. Monthly & grand draw prizes after 30 days of contacting the customer.

Should I get a message that my coupon has already been used, what should I do?

In the event that a consumer sends a unique code that has already been used, the consumer will receive a message notification about the same. You should call the toll free number 0800200400 or Vivo Energy’s telephone number +256312210010; available from 8:00am to 5:00 pm for further assistance.

Supposing I just come up with a code and send, can you tell?

In the event that you compose a blank text message, guess code or you mistype the unique code on the coupon, you will receive a regret message saying “Unique code invalid. Please call +256 312210010 for clarification.”

We Are Making Ugandan Hotels Visible To The World – Jumia Travel

The hotel business is central in the development of a tourism industry in any given country. It is even more important in developing countries like Uganda where foreign tourists think twice before deciding to board the plane. For hotels in a country like Uganda must be in a good shape, with good services and well marketed.

In Uganda, Jumia Travel, formerly Jovago, is doing the job of showcasing Ugandan hotels on the wide wild web as Louis Badea, Jumia Travel country manager explains in this exclusive Question and Answer interview recently conducted by Earthfinds Editor Baz Waiswa. Read on.

What do you really do as a business?

Basically I manage the operations of Jumia Travel in Uganda. We are the first online hotel booking website in Africa. Jumia Travel is a portal on which travelers, guests and customers can find and book hotels for accommodation and meetings.

You recently rebranded from Jovago to Jumia Travel, how is this going to accelerate your business deepening in Africa?

We used to be part of a group called Africa Internet Group (AIG), now called Jumia Group, which owns a number of websites includes Jovago now Jumia Travel, Hellofood now Jumia Food, Everjobs now Jumia Jobs, Kaymu now Jimia Market among others.

Jumia was the most famous brand especially in Kenya and Nigeria. So our management considered that since this Jumia venture was popular and appreciated by our customers, they saw that if we ran all the ventures under the Jumia name, we would get more visibility and traffic.

Therefore we joined our strength to grow. Of course we were worried a bit, it’s a big change, but the impact is really good, people are curious, our traffic has increased and now people know that they can get whatever they want in one place.

One month after you rebranded, how has the Uganda market reacting to the change of name?

In Uganda we are seeing an increase in traffic but at the same time we did it at the beginning of a high season, the business is good. We have seen increase in traffic and hotel bookings.

You have been in Uganda for a year now, how have you performed as compared to your business plan and projections?

We have performed quite well. When we came here we used to cover only a few parts of the country, now we have hotels everywhere in Uganda. We are in western Uganda - Kisoro, Kabale, all the national parks, Mbarara; central region – Kampala, Entebbe; eastern region - Malaba, Mbale and in the north.

We have done well in terms of improved hotel content on our website. When you visit the website, you will see good pictures and accurate information. We make sure that our prices are competitive. We have good diversity of hotels on our web portal.

All a customer has to do is to go on the website, select the destination you are going to, for example is its Gulu, you select Gulu, filter through the list of the hotels in Gulu according to amenities you are want then select the number of rooms and nights you will spend there. On this page, you make a choice of how you want to make the payment.

You can pay by credit card, Mobile Money or cash at the hotel. The hotel gives us the rates. We can advise them according to the season or start promotions to attract customers. On the Mobile App, hotels can update the prices and details of what they are offering.

What have been some of the challenges operating in Uganda so far?

The challenge, I would say in Uganda, especially in national parks, is that the lodges are expensive if you compare with other countries say South Africa. Here we still lack middle range affordable lodges. Sometimes we have cheap tents but it is hard to find lodges of $100 -&200. It is the same with hotels in Kampala, there are many good quality hotels but very expensive.

We sometime we have issues with internet to communicate. We wanted to book for a client in Juba but we couldn’t, six months ago we wanted to book in Bujumbura but the network had been cut off so we were not able to confirm the bookings.  Political instability is a problem, if there is a war we cannot do business, this is a challenge but we keep our customers informed.

Sometime the hotels don’t have trained staff or they don’t communicate to their employees. We have signed contracts with hotels but when clients reach the hotels, the receptionists don’t receive them well because management has not informed them of our arrangement.

The other challenge is locating hotels. Many hotels are located in places with no plot numbers so finding them is a problem. Some cannot be tracked on GPS.

And the achievements?

Every month hotel booking are growing and we have grown the number of hotels on our website. We have also seen the number of reviews increase on the website which means people are appreciating our services.

We have been able to give visibility to hotels in Uganda. 60 percent (about 400 hotels) of hotels on our web portal are marketing online for the first time. We give them that chance to get business and visibility on our website. This is good achievement for us.

Uganda is taking a giant step marketing itself as a top tourism destination, as a stakeholder, what are you willing to contribute to this cause?

Uganda is less popular than Kenya and Tanzania when it comes to tourism mostly due to lack of visibility. Most people outside Africa think Amin Dada is still here, this is because Uganda doesn’t market herself enough. We try to market Uganda – tell the world that Uganda is safe and cheap.

We try to tell the world that travelling to Uganda is possible. We connect travelers from all over the world to hotels in Uganda. For example a traveler from Tokyo can find a hotel in Uganda before coming down here at competitive rates. We make sure hotels in Uganda get visibility from all over the world.

How many Ugandan hotels have you listed on your web portal?

It should be about 800 hotels – 200 hotels in Kampala. We register new hotels all the time. For hotels to be on our platform they need to have two ways of payment – pre-payment and post payment – meaning people can pay using credit cards or Mobile Money or book and pay at the hotel. Most of the guests book online and pay at the hotel.

Other amenities that customers consider when booking are WIFI (37%), swimming pool (26%), bed and breakfast (17%, AC (15%) and transport (5%). If the hotel doesn’t provide these services then there is quite a problem. Booking by star hotel rating stands at 1 star hotels (3%), 2 star hotels (31%), 3 star hotels (46%), 4 star hotels (17%) and 5 Star hotels (7%).

As an institution that deals with hotels, what is your earnest comment on the quality and seriousness of Ugandan hotels?

I think they are good; the lodges are good but expensive, then if we look at Kampala, very many good hotels are coming up. We also have hotels that lack renovation. Sometimes there is lack of customer services training but I know Uganda Hotel Owners Association is working on it. Sometime the hotel staff is not well trained.

Where do these hotels need to improve?

They should make sure the operations manager is good. They should train people. Sometimes when you go to TripAdvisor you find hotels with bad reviews but their managers have not bothered to respond. It also happens even on our website, it is important to check reviews and respond.

If I am the manager, I make sure I check all the reviews and train my staff to ensure that whatever made the customer to complain doesn’t happen again. When you have good services, you get good reviews and ranking improves.

What do travelers look out for in a hotel? What are their expectations?

It is mainly WIFI, swimming pool, good food, good staff and good value for what they are going to pay. So the prices you put must match with what you are offering. Hotels sometimes think that all expatriates earn $10, 000, so they think all Mzungu can pay $600 for a room.

Hotels should have affordable prices. Not all tourists can afford to pay for a $500 a night. Hotels should pay attention to customer demands, what is happening in the market to stay competitive.

What type of travelers’ book for hotels in Uganda on your website?

50% of bookings are made from inside Uganda then from Kenya. So it is Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Nigeria, UK and US. We get lots of people from Kenya. We don’t ask for nationalities but we can only trace IP addresses. They are usually business travelers.

What are you planes for the coming years, what should Uganda expect from Jumia Travel?

We are going to start offline marketing, go out and meet people in the streets, sponsor events and sign up hotels. We will continue offering better services and improve our Mobile App to enable hotel owners manage their content better. We have a partnership with Uganda Hotel Owners to do training. We will handle topics like marketing and customer care.

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