Makerere University has honoured Mrs. Winnie Madikizela Mandela with one of its most prestigious awards the Honorary Doctorate of Laws (Honoris Causa). The function to honour her was performed by the Chancellor, Prof. Ezra Suruma, at the fourth and last session of the 68th Graduation Ceremony held on 19th January 2018 in the Freedom Square. Mrs. Winnie Mandela was represented by her niece, Ms. Gandhi Baai, accompanied by a delegation led by the South African High Commissioner to Uganda, Prof. Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Lekoa Solly Mollo. Ms. Gandhi Baai is a strong advocate for women's rights and a vehement Pan-Africanist, determined to tell the positive African story and has published several titles on this theme. She has travelled and worked widely in Africa.
In the citation presented by the Principal of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira, Mrs. Winnie Mandela, better known in South Africa as the “Mother of the Nation”, is lauded for her crucial role in the liberation of South Africa from apartheid and colonialism in 1994. “She was among the more than one thousand women arrested in demonstrations against the injustices resulting from the pass laws which forced black people to carry identification documents to control their movements,” reads the citation. Mrs. Winnie Mandela remains an important figure in the history of the liberation struggle not only in South Africa but also in other parts of the world.
In addition to the Honorary Doctorate of Laws from Makerere University, Mrs. Winnie Mandela has won several other international awards and recognitions. In 1983, the New York City renamed the square in front of the South African Mission to the United Nations 'Nelson and Winnie Mandela Plaza'. In 1985,Mrs Mandela and her husband Nelson Mandela received The Third World Prize by the London-based Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies and in 2016, President Jacob Zuma awarded her ‘The Order of Luthuli in Silver’ for her excellent contribution to the liberation of South African. I987, the Ross University School of Medicine in the Caribbean awarded her and Nelson Mandela Honorary doctorates.
In her acceptance speech presented by Ms. Gandhi Baai, Mrs. Mandela appreciated Makerere University Administration for the award. Ms. Baai noted that the recognition of Winnie Mandela by Makerere University was an inspiration to the girl child struggling to find her place in the world. “The girl child can now see what she went through. Despite the challenges she experienced, she didn’t give up, she did everything possible to fight against the oppressor and today she’s being honoured. The girl child can now say I am not going to give up. I will continue until I achieve what I want,” Ms. Baai said. She commended Makerere University Administration for taking lead in gender mainstreaming.
The Chancellor congratulated Mrs. Winnie Mandela upon her numerous achievements and welcomed her to Makerere University Convocation.
In his message, the President of the Republic of Uganda, Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, represented by the Minister of Public Service, Hon. Wilson Muruli Mukasa, congratulated Mrs. Mandela upon her achievement, noting that the Mandela family had given their all to Africa and deserved recognition. “The Mandela family gave their all for Africa. They have no debt with Africa. They contributed to the achievement of emancipation, democracy and some steps toward economic integration in the form of SADC. I am sure Mzee Mandela would have done more if he had had more time. It is now you and me to do what Mwalimu Nyerere, Mandela, Nkrumah, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Thambo, Patrice Lumumba, IK Musaazi and other freedom fighters did not do to insure Africa from the threats of foreign domination,” he said.
During the 68th graduation ceremony held on 16th-19th January, 2018, a total of 14,085 students were awarded degrees and diplomas in various disciplines. Of these, 71 received PhDs, 996 Masters Degrees, 96 Postgraduate Diplomas, 144 undergraduate diplomas and 12,778 Bachelor’s Degrees. Among these were 7,118 females constituting 50.5% and 6,967 male at 49.5%.
Addressing graduands from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology, and the School of Law on the final day of the graduation ceremony, the Chancellor implored them to be innovative to find solutions to the many problems facing humanity.
“The world needs creative minds that can find solutions to the milliard problems humanity faces. The future belongs to creators and innovators. The products and movements that control the world today were not there yesterday when I graduated with my first degree. Google was not there. Apple was not there. Microsoft was not there. All that has changed! The innovations of the last several decades now dominate the global culture and economy. The innovations that will govern our future will not come as much from our government as they will from the people. If we continue to expect innovations to come from our government we shall fall further and further behind,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, congratulated the graduands and their parents as well as guardians upon the noble achievement. He urged the students to use the critical thinking skills acquired in the course of their training to create jobs.
“You are going out to the world, which expects a lot from you. We have trained you to be critical thinkers and not mere job seekers. Go out and create the jobs the country is yearning for. With a degree from one of the best universities in the world, there is no reason for not succeeding. As you struggle to find your place in society, you might stumble and fall, but always have the courage to stand up and try again with dignity,” he advised.
To expedite the issuance of transcripts, the Vice Chancellor said the University Central Management had decentralized the process to Colleges. “Students that have fulfilled all the requirements for graduation can pick their transcripts from their respective College Registrars as soon as after graduation.”
The Vice Chancellor appealed to the general public to support the various fundraising drives being undertaken to improve Makerere University. He specifically called on everyone to participate in the MAKRUN scheduled to take place on 25th March, 2018. The funds accruing from the Run will be used to construct the Student’s Centre, one of the inaugural projects of Makerere University Endowment Fund. He also appealed for financial support towards the construction of the Perimeter Wall and the Centre for Performing Arts.
The President emphasized the need for graduands to be job creators other than job seekers.
“The onus is upon you to use the skills acquired in the course of your education to create employment for yourselves and others who have not been lucky to acquire formal education. I have on several occasions heard graduates complaining about lack of jobs and I have been very disappointed. A University graduate is supposed to be enterprising and should indeed be in position to complement government efforts in creating employment for the citizenry. Short of that, there is no reason we should pay for you fees to go to school. Much as the government is doing everything possible to reduce unemployment, it is impossible to satisfactorily employ everyone in the public service sector. I caution you to be enterprising; that way we can achieve our goal of being a middle income country,” he said.
During the ceremony, the Association of Female Lawyers (FIDA Uganda) in collaboration with Makerere University Convocation recognized Ms Lornah Afoyomungu Olum with a plaque and UGX500,000 for emerging best female law student. Ms Olum scored a CGPA of 3.87.
The Chairperson of Makerere University Convocation, Dr Tanga Odoi, appealed to other professional bodies to support the initiative of recognizing best performing students.