World over, Centres of Excellence have become an integral part of the policy mix for realizing higher education and research sector goals. They have proved to be important avenues for minimizing inefficiency and enhancing the quality of teaching and learning.
In a bid to strengthen scholarship in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Makerere University and other Higher Education Institutions in the country, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHUSS), with support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in New York early this year set out to establish a Centre of Excellence in Research, Teaching and Learning. The Centre launched by the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe on 16th September 2020 aims to equip and revitalize faculty, graduate teaching fellows, and graduate students in the College with skills in research, academic writing, teaching and learning.
The Centre will among other things offer opportunities for faculty to retool and learn from each other about the teaching of the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in a university. It will also provide opportunities for faculty to explore new pedagogies that foster critical thinking; and support senior academics to provide orientation, mentorship, and instructional guidance to new and upcoming faculty. In addition, the Centre will conduct research in the teaching and learning of humanities and social sciences in the University; and ensure that students in the Humanities, Arts and Humanistic Social Sciences disciplines and programmes are properly grounded in debates, methodologies and writing in their respective disciplines. The Centre also intends to initiate a culture of recognition and reward for excellence in research, teaching and learning in the University. It is headed by the Dean, School of School of Social Sciences, Dr Andrew Elias State (Director) who is deputized by Dr Pamela Khanakwa, Senior Lecturer in the Department of History, Archeology, and Heritage Studies.
On 27th October 2020, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences held the inaugural workshop of the Centre. The workshop presided over by the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs at Makerere University, Dr Umar Kakumba was attended by Vice Chancellors and representatives from other Universities including Dr Aaron Mushegyezi, the Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University, Mukono; Mr Musisi Fred from Muteesa 1 Royal University; and Ms. Lynn Amanya from Victoria University. It was also attended by a representative from the Ministry of Education and Sports, Mr. Timothy Sejjoba; and a representative from the National Council for Higher Education Mr. Robert Ayine.
The main objective of the workshop was to introduce the Centre to staff at CHUSS and the entire University community. In the course of the event, participants were briefed about the importance of centres of excellence. Participants were also introduced to the New Academic Practitioners Programme and elements of good academic writing.
Addressing participants, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs, Dr Umar Kakumba commended CHUSS for the great initiative, noting that it was a timely intervention that would partly address some of the teaching and learning challenges occasioned by COVID-19. “COVID-19 has created a lot of opportunities and reconfigured our minds to think more professionally as academics and researchers. The idea of establishing a Centre of Excellence in Research, Teaching and Learning could therefore not have come at a better time. I congratulate Dr Andrew Elias State (Principal Investigator and Director of the Centre) and Dr Aaron Mushengyezi (Co-PI) for all the great ideas they had when they thought of this initiative,” he stated. Highlighting the importance of Centres of Excellence, Dr Kakumba said CERTL was a great initiative that would redirect and strengthen research, teaching and learning at the University. “Centres of Excellence are hubs of research and innovations. They are an idea integrating many ideas that bring together innovations, the value of research, and spearhead knowledge management. In all the protocols of International Development Agencies like the UN Sustainable Development Goals, knowledge management is key in every aspect. Many funders are re-directing their resources towards knowledge production because the dividends from knowledge are enormous. You cannot transform society without knowledge. As University Management, we appreciate this initiative and we are looking at CERTL as a critical centre of knowledge creation, development and application. The Centre should therefore galvanize the centrality of knowledge economy in the centrality of teaching and learning innovations. It should tease out the teaching and learning methodologies, approaches and dynamics, and should re-shape the initial imperatives of learning to merely acquire a transcript. The imperatives of teaching and learning should move beyond that to equipping and imparting hands on skills in the learners to ably contribute to the transformation of the country. Conducting impactful research should also be one of the major objectives of the Centre,” he advised.
Dr Kakumba called for a redirection of the initiative towards fostering the vision and mission of Makerere. The objectives of the Centre blend harmoniously well with the vision and mission of the University. We cannot therefore allow this great idea to stagger around. As Management, we pledge our support towards the growth of the Centre. Dr Kakumba appreciated the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the unwavering support towards the humanities and social sciences scholarship at Makerere.
In her remarks, the Principal of CHUSS, Dr Josephine Ahikire said the Centre will efficiently engage and motivate students to become part of the broader Humanities and Social Sciences intellectual cohort on the African Continent. She further noted that the Centre will galvanize and scale up the teaching and learning of the humanities and social sciences in modified ways. “When someone performs well, they are enrolled and immediately sent to class without any orientation of joining an academic career. This has posed a number of challenges on the teaching and learning process. The Centre will largely address these challenges by orienting the appointees on how to deal students and fellow staff,” she noted. Dr Ahikire appreciated the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the support towards the establishment of the Centre and other academic programmes at CHUSS.
Highlighting the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Acting Deputy Principal, CHUSS, Dr Julius Kikooma said the Centre was a timely initiative that would address some of the challenges many academic institutions are grappling with. "Today many higher education institutions are moving quickly to remote learning and other delivery models. Here at Makerere, colleges are launching a range of initiatives and are finding creative ways to support their students. The Centre comes in handy to support this process,” he noted.
The representative from the National Council for Higher Education, Mr. Robert Ayine described CERTL as an exciting initiative that will address generic issues affecting scholarship in Higher Education Institutions in the Country.
See workshop presentations in the attachments below.