Inaugural Acceptance Speech by Prof. Ikoja Odongo Chairperson of the Taskforce and Vice Chancellor Soroti University

Teso Affairs Ms Christine Amongin Aporu commended his excellency president Yoweri Museveni for his tireless efforts in initializing Soroti university
September 20, 2012

It is a great honour for me to address you today at our inauguration as the members of the Task Force of Soroti University. I am so humbled but delighted to say that no words can express most fittingly the feelings we have about this event. For many months now if not years, a lot of anxiety has been expressed through different arenas and media about the delay in the opening of the University in our region. The day has finally arrived. Today we come together to celebrate the official inauguration of the Soroti University Task force. Thanks are to God for this day and achievement.

I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all those that have made invaluable contributions to the setting up of a public University in this region. I want in particularly recongnise the important roles His Excellency the President of Uganda has played in ensuring that government sets up public university in Soroti. In the same breath I take this opportunity to thank you Hon Minister for your role in the realization of this dream. Similarly the officials from the Ministry of Education and Sports deserve our recognisation for the guidance and for the struggle well accomplished so far.

To you all, our people, leaders in Teso, our members of Parliament and friends, I extend to you our deepest appreciation and gratitude for the various roles each one of you played towards realizing the dream of Teso becoming a seat of a public university. The journey has been long and stressful but patience is beginning to pay off. I wish to stress that now is not the time to rest but to join the Task force in the next journey of setting up world Class University.

Hon. Minister, Ladies and gentlemen on behalf of the Taskforce I pledge and guarantee that we will do our best to see that Soroti University gets off the ground and keep you informed about how we are making progress.
As we celebrate this day as an historic event, lets remind ourselves that it was our forefathers who dreamt, thought, decided and sowed the seeds of higher education in Teso. To give you insight of how this happened lets ask ourselves why Teso College was so named and not Teso Secondary School? Today bears the testimony to that wish. You are the witnesses and trustees. And allow me say to us all that we have the duty and reason to remember our forefathers for beginning what we are witnessing today as the beginning of the University. I am calling upon you all to come and let us join hands in developing this new university. We will make extensive consultations, carry out needs assessment to identify what we and the country needs and also ask you to build facilities for staff and students.

Hon. Minister allow me take a moment to consider why universities exist. For centuries, the conventional wisdom is that universities serve two functions namely, to teach and to conduct research. This remains true to this day but issues of relevance, and competence in whatever learners gain while at the university and service to society are becoming issues of critical debate throughout the world.

As late as fifty years ago (1960) Harold Wilson Government outlined the essentials of university education namely expanding the powers of the mind, advancing learning, teaching people the background of their culture and social awareness upon which a healthy society depends and most importantly teaching people how to earn a living. We envision that this is what our University should aspire to achieve. We should be working towards a university providing excellence in education for the transformation of peoples and community lives while responding to national and global needs. This translates to developing and maintaining a balance between the pursuit of knowledge and vocational relevance and excellence.

Today thus is truly a new beginning and an ideal moment for reflection; what kind of a university is we going to build? How are we going to achieve our ambitious goals? The world is changing knowledge is expanding and our problems have become far more complex than before therefore universities needs to respond to needs of society.

A good university should impart skills important in employment, including communication, problem solving and teamwork. We will work towards a curriculum that strikes a balance between broadening the minds through intellectual theory and skilling education. Soroti University Task Force has been granted guidelines, but also given the responsibility to build a world class university in Uganda. We will base our efforts on the strengths and values characteristic to Uganda and the people in this region.

Our mission is to change the world through top?quality research, pioneering education and continuous renewal.

  • We will educate responsible, broad?minded experts to act as future visionaries in our society.
  • We will stimulate innovations that surpass traditional boundaries.
  • We will build an open community of students and experts, academic and others, for free exchange of ideas to impact the society at large.
  • We will fight society ills of poverty disease ignorance and unemployment

Hon. Minister, allow me congratulate the members of the Taskforce upon your appointment and acceptance to serve. And I caution you, Do not imagine, comrades that, the leadership and trust Government has bestowed up on us is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility demanding of your bravery, selflessness, loyalty and obedience. I remind you that we are starting from Grass but we have to work extremely hard to rise to Grace. We have to start small and grow and within the resources available.

We have to be selective to take advantages of our geographic location. We have to be mindful about those people who demanded for the University and do something for them. We have to engage in inventive and innovative thinking so as to avoid spreading too thinly. We simply do not have the resources or scale to be all things to all people. The key to our success is to do those things that will enable Government to register the University as soon as possible. Our masters, the people of this region and Uganda in general are looking up on us to deliver. Lets put everything aside and commit and dedicate ourselves to this enormous task. Lets pledge that By the Grace of God, hard work and full support of all of our guests and Government, we shall deliver. In doing this lets be guided by no other principles but those of good practice as enshrined in the Bible and the Constitution. And lets recognize efforts of all persons who have in the past tried so hard to pay back to our people and communities and attempt to carry on with their wishes.

Hon. Minister, I would like to thank government for the money allocated to Soroti University this financial year. We will use this money efficiently for planning purposes including producing a Master Plan before March next year. I inform you that there is a lot that requires doing on this land. The University will be located on a 564 acres (228 hectares) of land. I call upon you to enlist the maximum support from your political colleagues at cabinet and parliament that your budget for the next financial year should reflect the money for capital development. We need to launch the building of the first faculty.

Hon Minister and our leaders, building a university is no simple task. It takes many years but a start must be made. This money may look too much but lets remember we should not replicate secondary school buildings here. There must be a difference and we should be conscious about availability of land for now and in the future. As a Taskforce we will enlist the support of stakeholders in planning the kind of infrastructure we need. At this point therefore I will ask my Academic Registrar to hand you the Architectural drawings, Artistic impression and Bill of Quantities (BoQs) for that building.

Equally important to the Hon. Minister is that our eyes and those of our guests are on you. I am asking you to go extra mile to talk to development partners that in Soroti there is an institution you want see grow during your tenure of office as Minister of Education and Sports. Right now there is a building you see there. We need to complete it although it looks like one for a secondary school. That was the vision of our forefathers.
Hon. Minster and our guests, it is not my day but permit me make register our appreciation and acknowledgements to all visitors for coming to Soroti University grounds.

I also wish to thank the team that worked tirelessly to make this event take place in this bush. In equal measure, I thank the Ministry of Education and Sports for sponsoring this event. Finally I wish to adjourn here by once more expressing how grateful we are to you and our guests for coming to be witnesses to this important occasion. We are proud of the trust you have bestowed to us and we will justify this to the best of our competence and knowledge. As the Chairperson of the Task Force I promise that the Task Force will be run efficiently and effectively. Let me conclude my speech by stating that there are three categories of people in the world;

  • Some people make things happen,
  • Some watch things happen,
  • While others wonder what has happened

Hon Minister I want to assure the government of Uganda through you and the people of Uganda that the task force inaugurated today will make things happen. Thank you once again for your trust in me and my team. Thank you for your time. And journey mercies to your destinations.
I say this for god and my country