“When he entered the room, they looked at him with beaming smiles, an expression of sincere gratitude deep within. A true friend, he was representing a generous People and Country that saved them from dropping out of Makerere University!”
That was the mood on Tuesday 26th July, 2022 when the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Uganda, H.E. Zhang Lizhong entered the Tele-Presence Centre at the Senate Building to officiate at the Scholarship Award Ceremony.
A total of 24 Makerere University students who are academically gifted, but challenged with raising tuition and functional fees received financial support to continue and complete their studies courtesy of the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship programme.
H.E. Zhang Lizhong presented the scholarship package worth UGX 83 million to Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe at a colourful award ceremony witnessed by the beneficiaries and invited guests.
The 24 scholarship recipients currently in their third year of study were identified and supported during the second year of study, following documented evidence that they had performed well in the first year of study, but were struggling with payment of tuition and functional fees to move on to the next level. The Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship programme is coordinated by the Makerere University Gender Mainstreaming Directorate (GMD).
In her remarks, the Director GMD, Dr. Euzobia Mugisha Baine welcomed Ambassador Zhang Lizhong to Makerere University and commended him for the continuity of the scholarship programme started by his predecessor. She thanked the Ambassador and the People’s Republic of China in general for the scholarship programme aimed at transforming lives of the scholars through provision of access to university education.
Providing an overview, Dr. Mugisha Baine pointed out that Makerere University signed the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship contract in 2018 when the then Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China presented the scholarship programme as a sign of friendship and cooperation between the people of Uganda and China.
“In 2018, the Chinese Ambassador offered 30 scholarships to students who are academically talented, but economically disadvantaged to study at Makerere University. In 2020, the Chinese Embassy renewed this scholarship offer by supporting an additional 24 students with scholarships categorized into two – the Friendship Award and Excellence Award.
“To date, 54 scholarships have been awarded to students studying various programmes in the different Colleges at Makerere University. The first cohort started with the Academic year 2018/2019. Out of the 30 scholars in the first cohort, 26 had graduated as at May 2022. The second cohort of 2020/2021 are now in the third year of study and are 24,” highlighted Dr. Mugisha Baine.
She was happy to note that the scholars have continued to excel in their studies. “We are delighted that three (3) of the 26 graduates obtained first-class degrees, fifteen (15) obtained second-class upper degrees, and the rest second-class lower degrees. The remaining four (4) are pursuing programmes that are more than three (3) years and are expected to complete studies this semester.”
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Nawangwe underscored the value of education by quoting a line from the speech delivered by President Nelson Mandela on 16th July 2003 at the launch of the Mindset Network in South Africa.
Prof. Nawangwe informed the audience that although many people in Uganda value education, not everyone can access university education. He provided an account of telephone calls that he regularly receives from different parts of the globe requesting for scholarships to study at Makerere University. He also noted that every year, more than 1,000 students drop out of school due to lack of fees.
Based on this lived experience, Prof. Nawangwe saluted the Ambassador and People’s Republic of China for the generosity extended to students pursuing studies at Makerere University supported by the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship programme.
Upholding the fact that there are many more students who would wish to receive such scholarships, the Vice Chancellor implored the lucky scholars to concentrate on their studies and use the knowledge acquired to contribute to the transformation of communities, Uganda and the world at large.
“Education will enable you to be a better person. Always remember that as a beneficiary under the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship, you have a duty to create a positive change in your life, your families and communities. When you become a better person, we expect you to uplift your families and communities,” he said.
Prof. Nawangwe re-echoed to the students that Makerere University by virtue of a number of collaboration activities/programmes involving the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese companies, the Confucius institute, and memoranda of understanding with universities in China accords them a number of golden opportunities to further their education.
Presenting the dummy cheque worth UGX 83 million to the Vice Chancellor, H.E. Zhang Lizhong congratulated the scholars on being awarded the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship for Excellence and Friendship. The Ambassador pointed that for five consecutive years, nearly 100 students have received financial support to fulfill their dreams through the Chinese Ambassador’s scholarship, with some graduates already active in all walks of life in Uganda. He thanked the Vice Chancellor and staff of Makerere University for promoting education and cooperation between Uganda and China.
H.E. Zhang Lizhong disclosed that people-to-people exchange is an important component of the China-Uganda Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership. He was therefore happy to witness the fruitful results brought by the cooperation in the education field among China, Makerere University and the Ministry of Education and Sports.
The Ambassador acknowledged the Confucius Institute at Makerere University for the instrumental role played in cementing the relationships at different levels and partnerships involving Uganda and China. The Confucius Institute has facilitated classes and cultural exchanges that have enabled many Ugandans to learn Chinese.
“The first phase of language training has been completed successfully and 100 Ugandan teachers for Chinese language are able to teach Mandarin in schools in Uganda, and the second phase of 500 is in good progress,” he highlighted. He also stated that for the past five years, China has provided 5,000 training opportunities and government scholarships to Ugandans.
In line with the Ambassador’s address, the Director of the Confucius Institute at Makerere University, Dr. Gilbert Gumoshabe called upon the scholars to create time and participate in activities undertaken by the Institute. He also expressed readiness to work with the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate to come up with a schedule that would enable the scholars to learn the Chinese language and culture.
On behalf of the students, Ms. Daphne Naudho who is studying a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences profoundly thanked the Ambassador, the People’s Republic of China and Makerere University for according them the golden opportunity to complete their studies.
“Your generosity has inspired us to help others and give back to the community. Thank you for putting our feet on the path of true greatness and setting us on the path of true discovery,” remarked Naudo amidst applause from scholars.
Ms. Ritah Namisango, the Principal Public Relations Officer of Makerere University moderated the Scholarship Award ceremony as well as discussions between the Ambassador, the Vice Chancellor, the Confucius Institute, staff, scholars and the media.