Praise and joy as UCU holds first professorial inaugural lecture
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2020/01/praise-and-joy-as-ucu-holds-first-professorial-inaugural-lecture/
By Douglas Olum
It was 1:45 p.m. East African Time on Friday, January 17, and I was in the Nkoyoyo Hall at Uganda Christian University (UCU). A couple of other people were gathered under the same roof. But, unlike the other days of that week, the sky was coated in dark clouds. And drizzles from the sky were peacefully showering the trees and green grass on the compound, making them look even more beautiful.
For a moment, my heart wondered why the rain on such a day? We were set to listen to the first-ever professorial inaugural lecture at UCU, and it was to be delivered by the dean of the faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication, Prof. Monica Balya Chibita, receiving full professorship.
Then I remembered one Bible verse, Hebrews 6:7 (KJV) which states: “Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God.” Indeed, the rain was a momentous blessing as Dr. Chibita was to be only the second to Rev. Prof. Christopher Byaruhanga, the dean of the UCU School of Divinity and Theology, to receive such a full academic professor designation
Over the weeks, this particular lecture on the topic of “Between freedom and regulation: Reflection on Uganda’s Communication landscape” had been widely advertised. And a number of people, both within and without UCU were eagerly waiting to listen to this incredible academic whose childhood dream wandered from becoming a nurse, to becoming a lawyer because it seemed prestigious, then to becoming an altar girl, a social worker and finally a teacher.
Soon, Prof. Chibita marched into the hall in company of her husband, Supreme Court Justice Mike Chibita; her mother; four of her five children; Rev. Byaruhanga; the Vice Chancellor, Rev. Canon Dr. John Senyonyi; two UCU deputy vice chancellors; and other UCU faculty members, donned in their academic gowns but not the mortarboard cap that only Monica Chibita wore to match her red robe.
The University Chaplain, Rev. Eng. Paul Wasswa Ssembiro, led the opening prayer. And it was all joy and praises as the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Rev. Dr. John Kitayimbwa, the Vice Chancellor, and the dean of the UCU School of Divinity and Theology, provided words in the ceremony for the highly anticipated lecture.
“To us as a university, Uganda Christian University, this is a very welcome opportunity for us to showcase to the public but also to showcase to our very students what it is we are doing in the area of teaching and learning, in the area of research and in the area of community outreach,” Rev. Dr. Kitayimbwa said.
Dr. Senyonyi expressed appreciation to Prof. Chibita for her focused developmental leadership that has transformed the former department of Mass Communication under the Education and Arts faculty to its own esteemed faculty.
“Shortly after she joined UCU, Prof. Chibita sent five staff for PhD studies to build her department. Furthermore, she merged that departmental growth with her personal academic growth, thus becoming the second home-grown professor at Uganda Christian University,” Dr. Senyonyi said, “Today her contributions are out for all of us to see. She stands tall in every way among the achievers of this university.”
Dr. Chibita graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts in Education (Literature in English) from Makerere University. In 1992, she obtained an MA in Journalism from the University of Iowa. She joined Makerere University as a lecturer in 1994, where she rose through ranks up to Associate Professor. Between 2003 and 2006, she pursued her doctoral studies from the University of South Africa. She joined UCU in 2012 as head of the then department of Mass Communication under the Faculty of Education and Arts. Over the years, she developed and got her department lifted to a faculty status.
“Congratulations to you, Prof. Chibita, for a well-deserved promotion,” the vice chancellor continued. “I am elated to host UCU’s first inaugural lecture.”
An inaugural lecture is a formal public function in which a newly appointed full professor is unveiled to the public, with the desire to inform the academic and general public of the professor’s recent research and publication works that have merited her new appointment.
Dr. Senyonyi warned that UCU will not grant professorship and honorary doctorates to people who do not deserve it.
“It seems to me today that university leaders and even none academic personalities have taken to self-proclaim themselves professors. Someone asked me to give him an honorary doctorate, even without a clear beneficial relationship with this university. Of course I refused and instead proceeded to write a policy on honorary doctorate to knock out the quacks,” Dr. Senyonyi said.
He also encouraged the university academic staff members to invest in research, warning that, “Academics who do not research are digging their academic grave,” because without research, they die academically.
In her lecture, Prof. Chibita illustrated the issues of media ownership, management, operations, legal frameworks and how the arms of the media in Uganda have continuously been twisted since the pre-colonial days, to curtail media freedom and serve the interests of the financial and political powers. Some of the means used by the governments that she illustrated included expelling foreign journalists and banning newspapers under the Milton Obote II Government. Others include the mandatory annual licensing of all journalists by the Government of Uganda. She noted that the pages of laws may be confusing for journalists.
Another challenge to Uganda and global communication in the age of social media is the blur of lines between consumers and distributors of news. She concurred with the vice chancellor and his concern with lack of research, including lack of deep reading in an age when people get news from Facebook.
For Uganda, part of the answer is in translation to mother tongue. Prof. Chibita asserted that, at least 36 different languages are spoken in Uganda, including dialects like English and Kiswahili. But research has shown that people in the central and western parts of Uganda prefer to receive information in their own languages.
To her, that explains why large corporations like the Vision Group, with 53 percent ownership of the media in Uganda, run English and Local Language newspapers, radios and television. These include: The New Vision as English Newspaper, Bukedde as Luganda paper, radio and TV for the central region. Others include: Rupiny Newspaper and Radio for the North, Orumuri newspaper, Radio West and TV West for Western Uganda.
At that, she joked with her audience of roughly 500 dignitaries, current and former students and colleagues and family and friends, “I won’t embarrass you by asking how many of you read the newspaper today.”
To access a video of the lecture, click here. https://www.facebook.com/UgandaChristianUniversity/videos/486175712043875/?epa=SEARCH_BOX
To support Uganda Christian University programs, go to www.ugandapartners.org and click on the “donate” button, or contact UCU Partners Executive Director, Mark Bartels, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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