Humanities and Social Sciences Research Critical in the Development of African Countries - Prof. Nakanyike Musisi

Makerere University Alumnus Prof. Nakanyike Musisi has underscored the importance of Humanities and Social Sciences in providing foundational knowledge and understanding of Africa.

Prof. Nakanyike was delivering the key note address during the  international Humanities Conference 2022 organized by Makerere University College of Humanities and Social Sciences on 24th August 2022, titled, “ Unstoppable Scholarly Activism and Paradigmatic Transitions in the Humanities and social Sciences: ”Refusal” as Theory and Praxis.
 In her address Prof. Nakanyike  said irrespective of their importance in providing foundational knowledge and understanding of Africa, the Humanities and Social Sciences are often neglected by many African governments as well as goodwill interventions that fund higher education.

Looking at the pressing challenge for the Humanities and Social Sciences Prof. Nakanyike  commenced from a strong belief that in any given country there ought to be an intimate relationship between Humanities, Social Sciences knowledge, and development--social, economic and political.

The most pressing challenge for the Humanities and  Social Sciences’ research according to Prof. Nakanyike is its limited appreciation outside academic circles, its inability so far to be deployed in service of social change or impact policy formulation. 

“This challenge emerges out of the fact that the relationship between scholars’ research, communities (beyond field work) and governments is very much underdeveloped in most African countries and nonexistent in some.  Scholars in our disciplines have a pathetic history of lobbying governments or the end users of their research products”, Prof. Nakanyike asserted.

Advising the university on how to  seize the opportunity to feed research findings into local, regional, national and continental debates and how to harness humanities research’s power to empower communities, countries, regions with knowledge for tomorrow, Prof. Nakanyike re-visited Makerere’s I@Mak Program of 2000 to 2009 as an example to make her point and show what is feasible as well as to propose a way forward to push Makerere’s past innovative achievements into the future. 

The philosophy and activities of the founding committee of I@Mak’s  Nakanyike  said, were guided by two ultimate questions: “how best can we make Makerere relevant to the needs of society? How can we harness the transformations at Makerere for the greater cause of the nation, the marginal, the dispossessed?”

Prof. Nakanyike explained   that initially, a planning Committee of Fourteen (C-14) comprised of seven (7) Deans and Directors from Makerere and seven (7) members from Government. The C-14 was soon institutionalized and evolved into the Innovations at Makerere Committee, later dubbed

The Committee she said, was able to mobilize the whole university to actively engage in innovative research aimed at more than creating knowledge for knowledge’s sake by devising innovations to solve particular problems at the local or national level. 

The Committee she added, encouraged teamwork and cross disciplinary ventures within the gender mainstreaming spirit at the University.  In collaboration with five other Universities, district councils and the private sector, Makerere was set on the road of innovation for a decade. 

“This was electrifying and left no moment for slack. I had never in my life seen different university units come together and in solidarity with local governments as well as the Ministry of Finance for a common cause – propelling innovations. 

The Committee’s ultimate goal was to make use of a higher institution of learning to help society to address problems of underdevelopment to empower the disadvantaged. The Committee’s secret to success was being broad-based or what could be seen as being inclusive”, she said.

Prof. Nakanyike reported that, studies elsewhere have demonstrated that humanities research is likely to be translated into action if it is planned with that goal at the design stage. With hindsight,  Nakanyike said the I@Mak program provides numerous examples of what is feasible if a university is serious in harnessing its research’s power to empower communities.

Nakanyike was optimistic that the African continent is poised to benefit from the research of its universities by harnessing the power of university research to transform the lives of the marginalized groups on the continent.

Prof. Nakanyike explained that Multi-disciplinary and collaborative research presents a particularly exciting pathway for seizing the present moment and achieving multiple goals -- some of which have been so difficult to realize in the past. What and how we design, conceptualize, create, built support and document Nakanyike noted, will be a substantive heritage of tomorrow.

“Today, on the African continent, generating innovative “knowledge” with the Humanities and  Social Sciences included is pertinently relevant as concerns, such as: inter-cultural/ethnic tolerance and understanding; an urgent need for the preservation of cultural heritage/history; environmental renewal; economic mismanagement; a broader understanding of the effects of wars, migrations, deadly viral infections, mental disorders, re-emerging despotisms as well as colonialism and other evils/challenges are increasingly coming to the fore.  These challenges cannot be solved by science alone”, She said.

Prof. Nakanyike stressed that It is common knowledge that successful countries have had a balance between humanities and science research and that,  If Uganda is to meet its many and pressing challenges; and if Makerere was to be seen as fruitfully contributing to the public good today and in the future; humanities and social sciences’ research must strive to claim and take that center stage as well as be made to stand alongside the sciences to solve societal problems.

For this to happen, Prof. Nakanyike  said, two things are crucial. First and foremost, refocusing attention with new insights about the relationship between knowledge and politics in general.

Second, perceiving and packaging our work as Makerereans in a significantly different way than scholars in the Humanities and Social Sciences have done in the past.  In addition to theory, this new way takes praxis seriously into consideration -- or what we may call intellectual/scholarly activism. 

You can get these and more by clicking on the link and listen to Prof. Nakanyike delivering her key note at Makerere university or read her key note speech attached.

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