The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) represented by the Director Education Standards, Dr. Kedrace Turyagyenda and the Chairperson of Council, Mrs. Lorna Magara have commended the progress made by the Digitalizing of Academic Records and Processes (DARP) project so far. DARP is a collaboration between the Department of the Academic Registrar (AR), the East African School of Library and Information Science (EASLIS), Directorate for ICT Support (DICTS), and School of Education.
Funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), the ultimate goal of the DARP project is to improve the status of both undergraduate and graduate academic records by preserving them, converting them into digital form, and automating academic processes for e-service delivery.
In her remarks at the blended dissemination event held on 1st September 2021, Dr. Turyagyenda who was part of the virtual audience congratulated the Makerere University Management and the Department of Academic Registrar upon embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) buy using ICT to strengthen its document retrieval processes.
“As you are aware, Makerere University is not only the mother University for Uganda but for East and Central Africa. It should always be ahead and set an example for the rest” noted Dr. Turyagyenda who added that the project was in line with the National e-Government Policy Framework.
She congratulated Makerere upon completing the first phase of the three-year project but nevertheless requested that the remaining phases be completed promptly so as to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.
“I am really delighted to join you on the occasion of presenting yet another digitisation initiative at Makerere University” admitted the Chairperson of Council as she began her remarks.
Mrs. Magara noted that the digitisation of all university processes is the core target of the Council. This is illustrated by ongoing initiatives such as the e-Human Resource Management System (e-HRMS), Academic Records Information System (MakARIS), digitisation of Financial Management process among others. She added that the DARP project was in line with the second goal of the university strategic plan that focuses on fostering innovations in teaching and learning that respond to the changing environment.
“The sudden change of our work environment following the outbreak of COVID-19 almost two years ago demands that we fast track initiatives to deliver services with limited physical contact. I see the digitisation of our academic records as a crucial step in adapting to the new working environment” she explained.
The Chairperson of Council nevertheless urged the University to develop a risk profile and management plan for e-resources to guard against the challenges of digitisation such as system failures and data piracy. “We must ensure that university systems have the necessary protection against these risks.”
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe noted that digitisation of student records has been of great concern to the University Council and Management, given the physical nature and age of some of the records. He therefore thanked the Government for providing funds to support the DARP project through Mak-RIF, and the commitment to continue providing resources for research and innovations at the institution.
Prof. Nawangwe equally thanked the Chairperson and Members of Council for their continual support to Management in the execution of various initiatives and institutional programmes. “The issue of digitisation has been one of the most important issues the Chairperson has been emphasisng to us and we thank Council for their leadership and support.”
The Vice Chancellor announced the University Management’s recommendation that part of the relief funding by the MasterCard Foundation to Makerere University following the Main Building fire be allocated to support the DARP project to its conclusive end. The announcement was greeted by thunderous applause from the team.
Making a presentation on what had been achieved under Phase I of the DARP project, the Principal Investigator (PI), Mrs. Patience Mushengyezi thanked the Government, University Council, Management and the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) headed by Prof. William Bazeyo for the funding and support that had propelled the project to its present stage. She paid tribute to the Ag. Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration), Dr. Josephine Nabukenya for the guidance during the grant preparation stage as well as the Academic Registrar, Mr. Alfred Masikye Namoah and Directorate of Research and Graduate Training (DRGT) leadership for supervising the project.
Mrs. Mushengyezi introduced members of her team who included; Archivist-Dr. David Luyombya, Project Coordinator/ Administration-Dr. Peace B. Tumuheki-Mukombe, ICT Specialist/Administrator Records-Ms. Ruth Iteu Eyoku, Database Managers-Mr. Tonny Oluka and Mr. Juma Katongole, Monitoring and Evaluation in-charge-Dr. Betty Akullu Ezati and Project Accountant-Mr. Gyaviira Lubowa.
The PI shared that DARP is a multiyear project made up of the following three-phase:
Phase 1: Planning/preparation for system design
- Identification and classification of records
- Physical organisation of records (sorting, arranging, labelling, archiving)
- Study visits
Phase 2: System Design and Implementation
- Scanning, archiving, data entry
- Digitizing records and automation of processes
- Policy formulation and approval
- Refurbishment of the Senate conference Hall for provision of ICT services
Phase 3: Implementation and Evaluation
- Installation of Records Management System
- Establishing a Records Verification and Certification Centre
Mrs. Mushengyezi shared that as a result of completion of Phase 1, the DARP project had; Sorted and cleaned at least 80% of undergraduate students’ results and files, Established 50% inventory of existing records, Recorded and labelled Senate minutes and records, Opened files for vital documents and closed redundant files, as well as Archived, labelled and systematically shelved boxes containing records.
Furthermore, the reorganisation had; Helped redeem space and creating a better working environment, Prepared records for digitisation under Phase 2, Facilitated easy retrieval of records, Conserved and preserved records – some over 50 years old, and Equipped 10 students of Bachelor of Records and Archives Management and Bachelor of Library and Information Science with hands-on experience.
The PI recommended that funds should be availed to help procure modern records storage facilities such as electronic rotating shelves, which help ensure efficient space utilisation. She further recommended that Makerere should identify land where an off-site record storage facility can be constructed and safely secured for University records. This, she added, could act as an income generating facility, whereby government and non-government entities could be allowed to store their records at a fee.
Appreciating the importance and long overdue implementation of the DARP project, Prof. William Bazeyo the Head Grants Administration and Management Support Unit (GAMSU) and Chairperson Mak-RIF GMC announced that funding had already been earmarked for Phases 2 and 3 of the project.
“I would like to affirm to the Academic Registrar that of the resources we received, one of the projects Makerere will be happy to support is DARP Phases 2 and 3. The GMC has approved these subsequent phases because this is something we think we ought to do” announced Prof. Bazeyo to yet more thunderous applause.
Prof. Bazeyo paid tribute to the Chairperson and Members of Council for their support to Management, which underlined their commitment to cause change through digitisation of processes. He equally paid tribute to the Vice Chancellor for his vision of unlocking the potential of Makerere University.
The concluding remarks at the dissemination were delivered by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs), Dr. Umar Kakumba who was represented by the Deputy Director DRGT, Dr. Robert Wamala. He sincerely appreciated the Government for the first disbursement of funds to Mak-RIF for the current financial year despite the COVID-19 crisis and various commitments.
He concluded by thanking the PI and her team for the commendable job done despite the enormity of the task, and the GMC for guaranteeing to fund for the remaining phases of the project.
Rev. Can. Onesimus Asiimwe, the Chaplain St. Francis Chapel delivered the opening and closing prayers at the dissemination that was moderated by the Principal Public Relations Officer, Ms. Ritah Namisango as well as the Director Communications and Knowledge Management, ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) and PRO Mak-RIF, Ms. Harriet Adong.