MUST expands, builds capacity

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“The infrastructural development at Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) has concurrently kept pace with the growth in the number of students and capacity building,” Prof. Celestino Obua, MUST’s vice-chancellor says. He adds that the Kihumuro campus is a hub of academic and research activities, which could not have been possible without support from the education ministry.

MUST is one of the nine beneficiary institutions that were funded under the Ministry of Education’s HEST/AfDB V project. Under the project, MUST received a funding of $ 4,800,000 (sh17.6b) to set up a state-of-the-art laboratory, lecture rooms and library. The facilities were completed and handed over to the university administration in 2018.

Income generation

Robina Nakakeeto, the university’s planning and project coordinator, also hailed the education ministry for the sh2.8b funding, which enabled the university to construct a modern hostel at Kihumuro campus. Through the same project, MUST constructed the MUST Gorilla Trekking Camp — Buhoma, located in Kayonza sub-county, Kanungu district, on the fringes of the Bwindi impenetrable forest park.

“The facility has six bandas, a conference centre, bar and restaurant. It has been developed into an income-generating project for the university,” Prof. Obua says. MUST also established an ethnobotanical garden using this support. The project also supported the staff and students of MUST to carry out research. From the research, many have come up with innovative solutions to address challenges in the community.

“The funding has enabled me finish my masters degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Cape Town and my PhD research. I developed a low-cost digital microscope slide scanner to produce quick, reliable and high-resolution cervical cell images from pap smear slides that can be analysed automatically,” Dr. Wasswa Williams, a pioneer student of the AfDB scholarship funding project, says.

Innovation

The innovation he developed with other researchers was recognised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the Africa Health Forum in Cabo Verde in March 2019 and in the Commonwealth Health Ministers meeting held in Geneva, Switzerland in May 2019. It has also been shortlisted for the African prize for engineering innovation.

According to Nakakeeto, MUST was also given ICT infrastructure and associated services and also received ICT equipment, the two campuses are now linked through NBI. Staff members were supported to attend an ICT technical training in Dubai, United Arab Emirates in 2019.

Several other installations were done to support the digital operations of the university library. “The equipment procured eases our work, especially to help students doing research carry out their work efficiently,” Lydia Ninsiima, a lab technician at MUST, says.

“In simulation and nursing, we use everything we got for teaching. They increased on the little we had. We can now teach more students,” Dr. Mulyowa Kitunzi, a senior lecturer dermatology, added. Capacity building The funding also helped the university to enhance e-learning systems and was supported in capacity building programmes.

The newly constructed library at Mbarara University

About 29 staff were awarded scholarships to pursue masters and PhD degrees, out of which 12 are female and 17 male and 11 beneficiaries have so far completed their studies. Five of these will graduate this year, one with a masters from the University of Nairobi. Two other supported students completed their masters at MUST.

“The AfDB funding helped me to complete my PhD research work. It has empowered me to help other people. The project paid all my tuition and I am now able to teach students and serve very well,” Dr. Jeninah Atwebembeire, a lecturer in the faculty of science biology, says.

A total of 86 females and 42 male administrative staff were trained in five different groups, including the university council and management, middle-level managers and members of the university policy.

Also, a total of 72 (38.9% females) needy students benefited from the merit-based needy scholarship, out of whom 61 are undergraduates and 11 postgraduates. She says 58 out of 61 undergraduate beneficiaries (95.1%) completed their studies and graduated.

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