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Dr Maractho reminisces Nebbi childhood, career journeys

Dr Emilly Maractho

Dr Emilly Maractho

DR EMILLY COMFORT MARACTHO is the director, UCU Africa Policy Centre.

With a career spanning more than 20 years, she is also a senior lecturer, Journalism and Media Studies at the faculty of Journalism, Media and Communication of Uganda Christian University, Mukono. She talked to Quick Talk recently, shortly after her appointment as board chairperson of the African Centre for Media Excellence [ACME], the third person to hold that office after Dr Monica Chibita and Susan Nsibirwa.

Doctor, if you had not gotten into journalism, what would you be doing?

I studied for a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies. That is what I started teaching at Makerere University in 2004 as a teaching assistant, then studied Environmental Journalism in 2005, still at Makerere, because I had a passion for Journalism.

I also graduated with a master’s degree in Development Studies, with a bias on development policy, which is what I taught at Makerere until 2018. I had returned to journalism in 2012 when I studied an MA in Communication at Daystar University in Nairobi, then enrolled for a PhD in Cultural and Media Studies at University of KwaZulu Natal. So, if I am not doing journalism, then it will definitely be development policy.

How did you become the vice chairperson of UWMA?

I was elected in 2017. The executive director, Margaret Sentamu, encouraged me to vie for the position. I will soon be leaving that stage for someone else.

What surprised you the most about your current job?

I did not think I could be a lecturer. I was very soft-spoken and a quiet person. But I was persuaded to try it. So, when I started teaching at Makerere, I had a fulltime job at Uganda Electricity Board, which then became Umeme.

I resigned from Umeme in 2007 to complete my MA studies and teach fulltime at Makerere. The surprise is that I enjoyed teaching so much that I left my better-paying job to do it fulltime. I have not left although I do other interesting things in the process [she was recently appointed board chairperson of African Centre for Media Excellence - ACME].

Would you rather work four 10-hour days, or five eight-hour days?

As an academic, I am used to working out my schedules and working long hours and six days a week. So, 8 am to 5 pm would be a struggle.

If success were guaranteed, what job would you choose?

I love what I do. I enjoy reading and like to write. Much of my work revolves around reading and writing. I am lucky to be paid to do things that I really love.

What was your first job? Did you like it?

My very first job was with ACNielsen, straight out of campus. We had an office in Bugolobi. They hired me as a research officer and after training, graduated me to a research supervisor.

They do market research. I think that is where my love for research started. I am lucky research remained part of my 20-year career. I loved ACNielsen; my supervisors were really nice and I only left because I got a job with government [UEB].

What’s the best career advice you have ever received?

My mum told me to always let my work speak for me. She said she was not connected and the only way to get jobs was good grades and excellent work ethic. I think that advice has served me well. I have not had to look for opportunities much of my life.

Aww…Tell Quick Talk about your parents – what were they like?

Both were very kind people. My mother was a civil servant in the local government of Nebbi as I grew up, and very well respected. My dad lived in Kampala and I did not spend a lot of time with him. Still, I had good people for parents.

Describe a typical day in your childhood.

House chores and school. Cooking was a big part of my life. I loved school.

What was the happiest day of your childhood?

Always, visiting my grandparents in Pakwach.

What was your first personal experience with death?

My classmate in primary three who was my good friend died after an overdose of malaria treatment. I took a long time getting over it. I started to really fear medicine and to-date, I hate swallowing tablets. I [first] read about every medication I am given.

When did you get your first doll?

I never got a doll as a child, I think. [Eh…! Quick Talk has heard about the homemade dolls made from banana fibre and other stuff that some generations of Ugandan girls played with. Well…]

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a writer. I loved reading.

Who were your childhood heroes?

Hon Grace Kwiyucwiny was our neighbour and often bought my handmade crafts. They meant a lot to me and gave me pocket money.

Were you popular as a teenager?

No. Very quiet. I stayed home.

Growing up, what were your favourite books, singers?

I read a lot of Danielle Steel, Barbara Taylor Bradford and John Grisham, while for music it was either Lucky Dube or Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

If you could have dinner with five famous people from history, who would they be?

Martin Luther King Jr [American minister and civil rights activist, assassinated in 1968], Margaret Thatcher [former British prime minister], Winnie Mandela [died 2018 – wife of Nelson Mandela], Madeline Albright [former US secretary of state – died 2022] and Joyce Mpanga [Ugandan educationist, politician and activist, who died last year].

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Thoughtful.

What are you most proud of?

My professional life.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a person who liked to make a difference in whatever she did.

What is the one thing about you few people know?

That I love music and cinema a lot.

What do you dislike most in others?

I despise people who abuse and demean others.

If they made a movie of your life story... would it sell?

I believe so. I have done some incredible things in my life, had an exciting career and been in the company of brilliance much of my life, something that keeps me humble.

What do you like most about your job?

Engaging with new ideas all the time.

Would you want your children to be like you when they grow up?

I would want them to be interesting with interesting lives of their own, not necessarily like me.
 
What has been the happiest day of your life?

Taking my mother around in Durban, South Africa after she witnessed my graduation with a PhD. Watching her so happy.

And what has been the saddest?

Losing family members. That is always, really sad.

When did you find out life was not always fair?

When my classmate died in P.3 and she was so lovely, just because she overdosed herself.

Do you believe in life after death?

I am a Christian and trust in God.

Ann Frank once said that in spite of everything, she believed people were basically good. Do you agree?

Yes, people are generally good. There are stories around us that prove just that. It makes me very forgiving. I do not hold grudges.

ashleymwesigye@gmail.com

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