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KU agrees on collaboration and education projects in Uganda

The Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (KU) intends to expand on its activities in the area of research and transfer projects in Africa. In order to achieve this goal, the KU will intensify its collaboration with partners in the field of education. Recently, a university delegation led by KU President Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien visited a dozen schools and universities in the Central African State Uganda in order to establish collaboration projects.

Uganda01: Schüler der Luigi Giussani Grundschule in Kampala

Pupils at Luigi Giussani elementary school in Kampala (Photos: Klenk/Press Office)

Uganda02: Unterricht in der Grundschule St. James in Kampala

Class at St. James Primary School in Kampala

Uganda03: Eine Schülerin der St. James Primary School

A pupil of St. James Primary School

Uganda04: Die Delegation der KU an der Luigi Giussani Grundschule in Kampala mit Schulleiter Andrea Nembrini (links neben KU-Präsidentin Gien) und Mauro Giacomazzi vom Luigi Giussani Institute (rechts von Prof. Gien)

the KU delegation visiting Luigi Giussani elementary school in Kampala with Principal Andrea Nembrini (to the left of KU President Gien) and Mauro Giacomazzi of Luigi Giussani Institute (to the right of Prof. Gien)

Uganda05: Ein Teil der Delegation der KU an der Makerere University: Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kropac, Simone Rieger, Prof. Ernest Okello Ogwang (Acting Vice Chancellor), KU-Präsidentin Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien, Prof. Tony Oyana (Principal des College of Computing and Information Science), Martha Muwanguzi (International Office der Makerere), Prof. Dr. Klaudia Schultheis, Thomas Sporer, Dr. Christian Klenk

Part of the KU delegation together with representatives of Makerere University: (From left) Prof. Dr. Ulrich Kropac, Simone Rieger, Prof. Ernest Okello Ogwang (Acting Vice Chancellor), KU President Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien, Prof. Tony Oyana (Principal at the College of Computing and Information Science), Martha Muwanguzi (International Office of Makerere), Prof. Dr. Klaudia Schultheis, Thomas Sporer, Dr. Christian Klenk

It is a happy reunion for the teachers at St. James Primary School in the capital Kampala when the KU delegation of twelve enters the state school’s premises. Children enthusiastically greet the visitors and curiously gather around the guests. But groups of visitors from Germany are not uncommon at this school – the KU has maintained a partnership with this primary school for seven years. Only six months ago, two teaching degree students from Eichstätt have spent three weeks at this school to complete an internship in order to gather teaching experience under special conditions: very basic classrooms which often have to accommodate more than one hundred children, the majority of them from poorest backgrounds. Parents have to pay the equivalent of 100 euros as an annual school fee plus two brooms and toilet paper.

During class at St. James Primary School, pupils usually read a text out loud in chorus which the teacher wrote on the blackboard beforehand. A teaching practice focusing on the individual and taking into account the weaknesses of individual pupils is hardly possible in view of the number of pupils. These difficult circumstances in the educational landscape were the starting point for KU President Gabriele Gien to establish the first collaboration in Africa and to initiate the educational project „KUganda – The Challenge of Education in Uganda“ in 2011. “Our students were given the opportunity of experiencing school from an entirely different perspective – far from the favorable conditions in Europe. They got first-hand insight into how important it is to have sufficiently qualified teachers in order to make further development of pupils even possible in the first place”, explains Gien. However, not only KU students should benefit from this valuable collaboration and the KU also started to get active in the area of urgently required teacher training. “From the very beginning, it was our designated aim to carry out workshops with lecturers and teaching degree students of our university as well as teachers from Uganda in order to jointly develop concepts which take into account the educational situation in the country”, says Gien.

The KU is now planning on expanding its activities in Africa. In autumn 2017, the university management and the German development minister Gerd Müller signed an agreement on a collaboration between the KU and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development. Currently, the details for the joint projects on the African continent are being discussed – most recently, representatives of the KU visited the Ministry in Bonn on October 25, 2018. “Our Catholic University attaches particular importance to get active in the field of education in a developing country in order to strengthen the region in the long term and create functioning structures”, explains Gien.

Drawing on the already existing collaborations, the KU wants to focus its engagement in Africa on Uganda. This is why KU President Gien traveled to Kampala in early October accompanied by professors from different disciplines as well as colleagues from the university management and administration. The delegation started their program by visiting several schools –e.g. the state elementary school St. James as well as other institutions run by private organizations, where teaching conditions are significantly better compared to state schools, in many cases also thanks to financial support from abroad. The KU concluded an agreement with GEMS Cambridge International School which will enable up to four KU students a year to carry out internships at the institution in future. This private school offers an excellent learning environment, which becomes evident in the equipment or class sizes of 15 pupils at most. However, this privilege has its price and costs parents up to 19,000 dollars per year in school fees. The harsh contrast between rich and poor is constantly visible during the delegation’s visit.

The KU maintains a long-standing partnership with the Luigi Giussani schools – a primary school and a high school which were built thanks to the initiative of mothers from the Kampala slums and which now receive international support from Catholic organizations in Germany and Italy. The Luigi Giussani schools also include a professional development institute for teachers. KU President Gien had the chance to attend the school’s graduation ceremony as guest of honor. Amongst others, the KU and the institute agreed on joint programs for professional development for teachers.

For the first time, the KU established relations with a school project in the Masaka district, approx. 90 miles southwest of the capital Kampala. An association from Remscheid in Germany supports the operation of an orphanage, an elementary school, a high school and a vocational school. Support in the field of education is of particular importance in the rural areas of Uganda. Provision of a comprehensive network of schools is one of the country’s major problems – often, the way to the next village with a school is too far for many children. Furthermore, many parents cannot afford the school fees or need their children’s support for work on their farms. According to figures published by the Ugandan government in 2015, more than 50 per cent of people between 15 and 30 years of age have either not completed their primary school education or had no school education at all. Only one fifth attended a secondary school and just over three per cent went to university.

With its 40,000 students, Makerere University in Kampala is the biggest university in the country. The KU had already signed a cooperation agreement with Makerere back in 2014. To date, the collaboration mainly focused on student exchange programs: This semester as well, two students from Eichstätt spend their semester abroad Kampala. The KU delegation spent a one-day visit at Makerere University. In discussions with the university management, the delegation focused on topics and formats of collaboration in the areas of research and transfer. Prof. Dr. Thomas Setzer from the KU Ingolstadt School of Management led a workshop for students from the College of Computing and Information Science. In this workshop, participants developed business models based on the use of internet technology.

The KU delegation also spent a day’s visit at Uganda Martyrs University in Nkozi, about 50 miles southwest of Kampala. The Catholic university is led by the Ugandan Bishops Conference and has similarities with the KU regarding the size (approx. 5,000 students), structure of courses and the green campus. Vice Chancellor Prof. John C. Maviiri and KU President Prof. Dr. Gabriele Gien signed a Memorandum of Understanding on future collaboration. Both Catholic universities are planning on establishing exchange programs for students and lecturers and on developing projects in the field of research and transfer.