On Saturday, 6th June, 2015, Makerere University Peace and Conflict Studies Centre staff held a workshop with representatives of key stakeholder community based organizations (CBOs) to discuss ways of transforming Peace and Conflict Studies training at Makerere. The half day workshop held under the theme: “Social Engagement and strengthening Experiential learning in the M.A. Peace and Conflict Studies Curriculum” was also attended by students of M.A. Peace and Conflict Studies.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, Prof. Edward Kirumira, the Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences thanked the host organizations for agreeing to partner with Makerere University in implementing the component of experiential learning in the curriculum of peace and conflict studies. He said the component would enable the programme to produce holistic individuals.
Prof. Kirumira however, decried the current education system that puts a heavy burden on universities to correct anomalies that have accumulated from lower levels of pre- primary, primary and secondary education. “Makerere is expected to correct what has gone wrong over the years. Engaging different stakeholders is key to producing a better Ugandan with a richer experience. This exercise is very important in finding ways and means of correcting the anomalies in the education system,” Prof. Kirumira noted. He urged the project staff to work from a nationalistic approach and appreciated the diversity of community based organizations from the country side that had attended the workshop.
Prof. Kirumira called on the organizations to create a context for learning that is mutual and less formal. “Expose our students to social experiences and the world of work. Some students have never really worked or gone beyond a 25 kilometer radius from the city - all their life and yet would be expected to work in the community after graduation. Let them not stay in the office. Let them go to the field,” he reiterated. He added that this will give the students the real experience that the project aspires to, test their character and build competences.
One of the components of the project is to translate theory into practice. The Dean, School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni, reechoed that commitment. “Beyond theory, develop knowledge out of practice,” he urged. He appreciated the coordination of the programme and noted that it provides an opportunity for reflective learning that is extensively lacking in most university programmes.
The M.A Peace and Conflict Studies programme is an interdisciplinary subject and draws candidates from diverse fields of study, said Dr. Paddy Musana, Head of Department, Religion and Peace Studies. He asked the organizations to encourage their staff to enroll on the programme so as to enrich their theoretical background on peace and conflict studies. He identified financing as a major challenge and thanked funders that have been supportive of the projects that the department has undertaken.
Representatives of host organizations welcomed the opportunity extended to them. They indicated that it is an opportunity that will strengthen research, enrich organizations advocacy strategy and will provide an opportunity to work with Makerere University. “There are issues that the university can articulate without getting into trouble and would be understood as the work of the academic and researchers,” noted Dr. Sam Barigye, a Project team member.
The host organizations also appreciated that there is a lot they have to offer and also learn from Makerere University. However, they noted that the time was too short for the programme and this would not be adequate enough to ensure that they tap into the rich experience from the students and their mentors. They called on the university faculty to work with them to implement joint proposals that would make a difference in the work of peace and conflict areas that they pursue.
The CBOs present at the workshop were Rwenzori Peace Bridge, Rwenzori Development Research Centre, and Agency for Rural Development Community Education from South Western Uganda. Others were Benet Lobby Group, Kapchorwa/Bukwo Women in Peace Initiative, Mount Elgon Resident Association (MERA), Kapchorwa Civil Society Alliance and Community Action for Human Rights (CAFHUR), from Eastern Uganda.
Dr. Helen Nambalirwa Nkabala welcomed them to Makerere University and reiterated that the purpose of the workshop was to meet with students and academic staff that would be visiting the different experiential learning sites.
Closing the workshop, the Dean, School of Liberal and Performing Arts, Assoc. Prof. Patrick Mangeni thanked the participants for committing efforts and time to the sustainability of the project so as to enrich the learning experience of both the learner and the lecturer. He called for more engagements in this direction.
The project started in November 2014 and is funded by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) with the primary objective of incorporating experiential learning into the curriculum of the M.A. Peace and Conflict Studies Programme at Makerere University. The project funds have so far supported key workshops for administrators and academic staff on integrating experiential learning in the peace and conflict studies curriculum, revised the old curriculum to incorporate experiential learning component in the current M.A. Peace and Conflict Studies Programme 2014/2015 and sought the engagement of different actors in the peace and conflict studies areas for collaboration.