The 6th of July 2021 was a monumental day in the School of Law Makerere University following the laying of the foundation stone for the new office block.
The three storied structure will house Lecture, tutorial and seminar rooms, a library, a moot court, a cafeteria and a number of offices. The project to cost Uganda Shillings 7.3 Billion is expected to be completed in a period of eight months with works undertaken by Symbion as the consultants and Ms CK Associates as the Contractor.
While presiding over the ground breaking ceremony at the School of Law, the Chairperson of Makerere University Council Mrs Lorna Magara affirmed the University’s commitment in ensuring that the structure is completed in the set time. She noted that the need for a new building for the School of Law was glaring and commended Government of Uganda for responding to the call made by Council and Management in availing resources for the project. She noted that the approved designs provided for the needed infrastructure required by the School of Law to deliver on its mandate of teaching, research and knowledge transfer in the legal field.
Mrs. Magara urged the Law faculty and students to support the University in the delivery on its mandate as provided for in the Universities and other Tertiary Institutions Act and the National Development Plan 3 goal of Human development. She called for provision of guidance in policy making processes and administrative decisions that have legal implications.
She further said Universities were challenged to become centers of innovation noting that Makerere University had started realising some for the results through innovations like the Kiira EV vehicle and the Covid testing kits among others. She pointed out the need to ensure the protection and reward of intellectual property rights. ‘We need to find a way to protect and reward individual innovation and enterprise within publicly funded research while providing the right incentives for researchers and innovators’ she emphasized and further called for the support of the legal expertise in the School of Law in the enforcement of the patent rights for the innovators.
The Ag. Vice Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs Dr. Umar Kakumba noted that the all the prominent members of the bench except a few were products of the school of Law Makerere University. He congratulated the management of the School of Law for the great work realized over time despite the challenges of space and infrastructure. He specially applauded the enthusiasm exhibited in the school of law through legal research in the Human Rights and Peace Centre, the Community Outreaches undertaken by the Public Interest Law Clinic, and the Disability Law research and advocacy in the Disability Law and Rights Centre.
He said for a long time, the University management was fully aware of the space challenges of the School of Law but the resource envelope was prohibitive and could not allow the University to address it with the urgency it deserved since effort was put on improving the welfare of the staff. Dr. Kakumba said the School of Law project was a beneficiary of 40% of the 10 Billion budget appropriation. He expressed commitment that the project would be completed in record time and urged the law faculty to commit more time towards teaching, learning and research in addition to their work in the law firms.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration Dr. Josephine Nabukenya said the School of Law office block was one of such projects earmarked in the forthcoming 100-year celebration of Makerere University. She was optimistic that the Contractor, CK Associates would deliver as expected due to their track record.
The Ag. Principal of the School of Law Prof. Christopher Mbazira noted that since its start in 1968, the School of Law had weathered through the turbulence and years of disregard of the rule of Law, becoming a leader in legal education in all areas of the legal sector and beyond.
He said with the largest pool of prominent expert legal academics in Uganda, the School of Law continues to contribute towards the gallant Makerere University through not only teaching and nurturing lawyers but also in community outreach, serving as a centre for legal research, providing guidance on legal matters and the rule of law as well as providing multi-disciplinary legal education.
He however noted that despite the effort by the School of Law to deliver on its mandate, it was faced by encumbrances that included the poor and inadequate infrastructure. He commended the University Council and Management for the decision to commit resources towards the construction of the new building following years of endurance and engagement. He said the new structure would help in enhancing the future of Legal education by the School of Law and Makerere University.
Prof. Mbazira further pointed out to the University management the staffing challenge affecting the School of Law describing it as ‘the depleting collection of senior staff’. He said of the six professors in the Law School, three were on contract, one retiring the coming year and yet another in three years’ time, leaving only one thereafter. He urged management and council to take due consideration on the staffing issue.
The School of Law Makerere University, one of the best Law teaching institutions in Africa was started way back in 1968 and recently celebrated 50 years of its existence. It has hitherto produced the largest pool of legal professionals in Uganda and the region. It has continued to be a trail blazer in teaching law, engaging the communities in addressing legal issues as well as Legal research. Since 1971, the School of Law has occupied the present premises that are in an obsolete state. With a student population of over 1100 law students offering a Bachelors of Law, Masters of Law and Doctorate programs, the structures could not allow for an increase in the number of students despite the ever-increasing demand for the program as exhibited in the high numbers that apply for the pre entry exams.
The ground breaking ceremony was witnessed by Project Manager, the Director Estates and Works Department Engineer Christina Kakeeto, Management and staff of the School of Law, The University Secretary, Mr. Yusuf Kiranda, The Chairperson Contracts Committee Mr. Moses Musinguzi, the Director Internal Audit, and Head PPDU, Mr. Agaba and representatives from CK Associates, the Contractor