The College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS) on 4th December 2019 held a workshop to check the progress of the first cohort of the Early Career Scholars and the research fellows under the Building Capacity for Research and Graduate Training project. The Early Career Scholars Programme and Building Capacity for Research and Graduate Training are some of the numerous projects funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation under CHUSS. Other projects include the College-wide research project titled: Historicizing the Humanities at Makerere University Since 1922 that seeks to rethink the research and scholarship enterprise of the humanities and humanistic social sciences at Makerere University. The Foundation is also supporting the Decolonization project under the Makerere Institute of Social Research, and the training of 7 PhD fellows.
During the same workshop, the Principal, Dr Josephine Ahikire and the Deans of the five schools of CHUSS held a panel discussion to reflect on the future of the humanities and social sciences at Makerere University. The discussion was moderated by Dr Julius Kiiza, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at Makerere University, who argued that there was need to interrogate the relevance and future of the humanities and social sciences beyond Makerere and Uganda.
In her submission, Dr Ahikire underscored the importance of the humanities and social sciences in national development. She explained that the humanities and social sciences are more relevant to global issues and that they had registered numerous successes despite difficulties in funding. “The humanities and social sciences have weathered the turbulent waters and it is now time to regain momentum and redefine the disciplines. This can be achieved through scaling up research and publication and speaking to national issues. We should also ensure the learning and teaching processes are shame-proof,” she noted. She appealed to academics to promote African scholarship by utilizing literature generated on the African Continent.
Dr Ahikire appreciated the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other development partners investing heavily in the promotion of the humanities and social sciences.
The Dean, School of Women and Gender Studies, Dr Sarah Ssali said it was high time humanities and social sciences scholars came out strongly to assert their relevance instead of lamenting about the marginalization of the disciplines. She explained that understanding the future of the humanities and social sciences would require anticipating and assessing the challenges of the future. “The only jobs that will survive in future are those that cannot be automated and this poses an advantage for the Humanities and Social Sciences,” she said.
Dr Andrew Ellias State, Dean School of Social Sciences re-emphasized the centrality of the humanities and social Sciences in development. “To understand the complex systems of development, you need critical thinking and analysis and this is done better by humanities and social sciences scholars. It is therefore prudent that the human and natural sciences work in tandem to achieve the best results from the emerging complex systems,” she said.
The Dean, School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Dr Patrick Mangeni said CHUSS was making great strides in programme development. He also noted that the College was doing well in terms of collaborations and contribution to national development. He however called for the review of the humanities and social sciences curriculum in line with the national development plan. “There is also need for tracer studies to assess the performance of students churned out of CHUSS,” he advised.
In his remarks, the Dean, School of Languages, Literature and Communication, Dr Aaron Mushengyezi reiterated the significance of the humanities and social sciences and called for the embracement of new technologies to enrich the disciplines. “There is need to move with the changing times to empower the humanities and social Sciences,” he noted.
Brainstorming on ways of improving the humanities and social sciences scholarship, participants argued that there was need to stop compromising on the quality of students. They called for increased engagement of humanities and social sciences scholars in decision making processes, and dedication of more time to research and publication.
Presentation of progress reports by the research fellows
Building Capacity for Research and Graduate Training project
Research fellows including Dr Danson Khayana, Dr Peace Musiimenta, Dr Merit Kabugo, Dr Pamela Khanakwa, Dr Evelyn Lutwama – Rukundo, Dr Gilbert Gumoshabe and Dr Deo Kawalya presented the progress reports at the workshop.
Dr Danson Kahyana is assessing the impact of Dr Stella Nyanzi’s facebook posts against a repressive state. In his work, he observes that despite the continued suppression of freedom of expression through state organs like the Uganda Communications Commission, social media continues to provide platform through which the messages are extensively disseminated.
Dr Peace Musiimenta, Lecturer at the School of Women and Gender Studies is investigating the shifting masculinities. Presenting her research at the workshop, Dr Musiimenta noted that men were increasingly relinquishing their responsibilities, turning into ‘bread eaters’ instead of ‘bread winners’. She however argued that the construction of the positionality of men in society needs reassessment because it leads to distorted male entitlement and sometimes stress. “Men are expected to bear the impossible yet they are hardly trained to be Men,” she said.
Working with various experts in the medical field, Dr Merit Kabugo is conducting research on the procedures and difficulties in the translation of medical texts. As part of the key outputs from his research work, Dr Kabugo expects to produce a 10,000-word English-Luganda dictionary of medical terms. This is expected to improve healthcare service provision and uptake in the country.
Dr Pamela Khanakwa is researching the dilemma of the survivors of the Bududa landslides in Uganda. Dr Evelyn Lutwama – Rukundo presented progress of her research on the contribution of popular Music to young people’s participation in the national politics of Uganda. Her research is focusing on four districts namely; Gulu, Mbale, Mbarara and Kampala. Dr Gilbert Gumoshabe also presented progress of his research on the processes and challenges of compiling an English-Runyankore/Rukiga dictionary. His target is to produce a one million English-Runyankore/Rukiga dictionary. Dr Deo Kawalya also presented his research titled; “Towards corpus-based approach for describing Ugandan languages”.
Presentations by Early Career Scholars included; Social entrepreneurship in Uganda: emerging issues and implications for social work education by Dr Justus Twesigye; Narratives of Ugandan Women on Facebook by Dr Aisha Nakiwala; Healthcare and significant other needs for elderly persons living with disability and non-communcable diseases in selected districts of Uganda by Dr Anthony Mugeere; and Community capitals and University-community engagement for total school enrolment and retention in Uganda by Dr Firminus Mugumya.
The research fellows appreciated the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the support. They said the project had enabled them to learn how to interrogate issues in a more scholarly manner and to improve their career growth. Using the skills acquired under the project, some of the researchers were able to write and win other grants.
The projects are coordinated by Dr Edgar Nabutanyi and Dr Levis Mugumya.