On 29th October, 2010, I graduated from Uganda Christian University after a four-year stint pursuing a Bachelor of Laws Degree. One of the pre-graduation requirements was mandatory subscription to the University Alumni Association. I was excited! I saw prospects of keeping in touch with classmates, networking with other alumni, and who knows; those connections could easily land me the much-needed job at the time. Sadly, this was my last interaction with the Association—registration!
A photo grid of my class graduation in 2010 (PHOTO: Onyait Odeke)
Four years later, I am clueless of what the Association is doing. I hear stories of poorly-attended meetings where elections to the Executive Committee were held. Dead silence follows. Another election. Then dead silence… The vicious cycle of inactivity continues.
This brings me to my first observation—the insufficient communication approach used by those in charge of this entity. A number of colleagues I have interacted with on this matter corroborate my view.
Secondly, I think there is some form of a leadership crisis in this group. An alumni association, by its very nature is a link between the past and the present. They are like the “external wing of UCU linking former students to the institution“, as a politically active friend of mine put it. This means those leading it should be able to appeal to the wide and professionally diverse membership of the group. They should be ambitious and look at the Association as a launch pad for bigger things in life. Such people should be creative and design innovative projects that will make membership to the Association a source of pride.
From my own observation, the group is currently led by “contented” people–the conventional type. One of my friends, in an email exchange had no polite words. He insinuated that the leadership is so literally operating under fear, like continuing students “who can be suspended.” He advised them to up their game! Another opined that such a financially-limping group needs leaders who have worked for some with a little financial stability and resource mobilization capabilities so that they can bolster its image with their rich experience (and may be wallets as well!).
Lastly, is the operating environment in UCU. A growing association like this one needs a flexible setting to thrive. For all its great things, UCU is a very restrictive place and this, if unchecked may stifle progress.
UCU’s main building. The beautiful scenery around the University is breath taking.
Besides organizing social events, publishing newsletters, fundraising, and helping the alumni maintain connections to their educational institution and fellow graduates, an alumni association should be able to, for example hold public debates on various issues in the country. But many times, this is a frustratingly bureaucratic undertaking in UCU. I state this with my own experience organizing well-intentioned public discussions while I was a student. Yet such events give the Association the much-needed publicity and in effect, attract many former students. Who would want to be associated with a dull entity, anyway?
I will not touch the “childish” and “harsh” policies that many had to endure during their time at this University and how it has ruined the University’s relationship with its (former) students. This can be a topic for another day!
Moving forward, I encourage the present leadership to fully embrace the use of social media and other electronic avenues like google groups to mobilize the alumni. Some of them are within Kampala and surrounding areas thus reachable. With all the thousands of alumni, just a few hundreds can be sufficient to reawaken this Association. And I believe many are willing and ready to be counted. But this needs an institutional structure to accommodate. For me, this is where UCU has miserably failed–to exploit the alumni’s good will to its advantage!
Up to now, there is no clear Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn page for this Association and yet thousands of potential members use these platforms. They should plan and communicate projects that can benefit the alumni or students. Can we have a forum to share jobs/internship opportunities or fundraise for needy students? All these obvious ideas can only be done if members have been adequately mobilized!!!
As I sum up, I want to challenge the University alumni to “come back home”. Like it or not, UCU is inextricably linked to our lives. It made us what we are now. It is our duty to re-organize ourselves and see how we can contribute to the betterment of the “Centre of Excellence in the Heart of Africa”
I rest my case!
Author’s Note: This is an unabridged version of the article written by Yours Truly and published in The Standard–Uganda Christian University’s community newspaper on 19th January, 2015