By Andrew Visper
Education in Uganda, like in many other sectors, is undergoing through a transformation that needs tailor-made teaching packages and solutions to keep up with the times.
And in a country like Uganda where government liberalized almost all sectors, much of this transformation in the education sector is being spearheaded by private higher institutions of learning.
This liberalization has seen many teaching and training schools started; right from primary schools, secondary schools, vocational schools and universities in almost all corners of Uganda.
And universities as the most known final stage of the education cycle have a big role to ensure that they churn out competitive graduates that can fit in the employment world and are able to offer solutions that match global trends.
To achieve this, universities need to have open-minded and experiential management leadership that understand the modern needs of education.
As one of the fast-growing private universities in Uganda, Victoria University is well responding to this notion and has invested in state of the art facilities and is putting in place the right human resource to achieve just this.
This evolution started at a time when Victoria University hired Dr. Krishna N. Sharma as the Vice Chancellor in July of 2017. Dr. Sharma had six months earlier joined the university as dean faculty of health sciences.
Dr. Sharma Joins Victoria University
Dr. Sharma joined Victoria University in January 2017 and set out to transform the faculty of health science by prioritizing research and publishing of such research findings.
He sought out collaborations with international universities and organizations.
This, according to Dr. Sharma it was made possible because of a good team at the university that supported each other.
With a good, supportive and focused team, including the directors of the university, the university under the administrative leadership of Dr. Sharma set their targets and started walking the talk.
“Our priority at that time was to come up with strong policies and procedures. We had some but we wanted to improve on that. In two years, we have almost 30 policies. I am happy that my team could achieve that,”
“Our next priority was to put in place a good human resource- to attract and retain good human resource. We mobilized professors from Sweden, Nigeria, Uganda and India,”
“We also increased the number of fulltime, dedicated, staff members to decrease on the number of absenteeism by lecturers which is very common with part-timers because they just come, teach and go.
“Part-timers are not available to mentor students; they are not committed and never focus. They have limited time at the university,” Dr. Sharma said of his start at the university.
Improving research and collaboration
Once the administrative targets were achieved, Dr. Sharma and his team set out to work and establish themselves as a research-based university. He notes that research became very prominent and is making their work smoother.
“When I joined, at that time, we had only about three or four publications since 2010. But since I joined, we have about 35 publications, by both students and lecturers. That is quite a good improvement in the past two years,”
“We also started on community engagements. We started to go into slums to work with NGOs, held health camps and others. At the moment we are working with Mpigi local government to set up a model village,”
“We are trying to see how we can create collaborations because you cannot do everything alone. We started signing MoUs and implementing them. These are the things we are focusing on,”
“Our collaboration with Victoria Hospital and other hospitals around us is giving us better opportunities for students in the faculty of health sciences to do an internship,”
“We also engaged professional bodies. We sit with technocrats, employers, experts and regulators to revise our curriculum. So we revised everything in the curriculum. We made it more practical, market driven and research based. We needed that paradigm shift,”
“We have started working with the Uganda Cricket Association and Federation of Uganda Basketball Association offering free courses to officials and players. We are planning to do so much so that we can create an impact,”
The challenge at hand
In what looks like has been a successful tenure, Dr. Sharma says finding the right people to employ has been a problem especially on the teaching staff side.
“My biggest challenge is to find the right human resource in academia. We get so many applications but unfortunately, when we interview them we get disappointed. Many people are trying to make money,”
Why study at Victoria University
Dr. Sharma is confident the university is going in the right direction and is destined for greatness and wants parents and students to consider it because it is a university that ‘helps you identify where your strength lies as an individual.’
He says that before choosing a university, a student and parent should know what the child wants to do for the rest of his or her life. He suggests that parents should help their children identify their passion.
“A parent and student should know why they should join a particular university. For example, why should one go to a business school when they can help their parents operate a shop or anyone’s shop and start learning on the ground?”
Victoria University having invested in state of the art facilities takes due diligence and is careful when recruiting lecturers. It helps students during the time of finding internship placement.
“We help students get an internship at the right organizations. We structure internship objectives for students, give them internship introduction letters, pay for the internship and the student will just go to do the internship,” “Thereafter, the student will have to defend the internship report proposal, even at diploma level. I am surprised many universities in Uganda don’t do it,” he said.