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Mbabazi, the engine at Mbarara University

Those who believe in horoscopes have a clue to what drives the deputy vice chancellor of the Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), associate professor Pamela Mbabazi.

She was born on April 6, and as her horoscope reads, she’s one upbeat woman. Since her appointment in 2010, Dr Mbabazi has carefully chosen her activities but used them to maximum advantage to garner publicity for the university.

Take her involvement with Makerere University’s efforts to restore the public lecture series, where she served as mistress of ceremonies, drawing attention from such dignitaries as Kenya’s minister of Medical Services, Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, and the Fulbright board chair, Dr Shelby Lewis. She was also involved in the establishment of the Female Scholarship foundation board (FSF) at Makerere, an initiative that raises the number of underprivileged but gifted female students at university.

Today the US-based Carnegie Foundation supports the initiative.

“We are at the conceptual stage and are looking to bring that same initiative to MUST so that more gifted female students can embrace the sciences,” Mbabazi says passionately.

Indeed passion is Mbabazi’s driving force and her friends attest to the fact. Catherine Kanabahita, the director of the Gender Mainstreaming Directorate at Makerere, says Mbabazi never lets go of an initiative she is sure will succeed.

“She is very principled and this might intimidate some but she is also very fair and a very good negotiator,” Kanabahita says.
“But she also has a unique eye for opportunities and loves her university passionately.”

The two worked to launch the FSF. Mbabazi is a no-frills woman and prefers to wear her hair short – usually in dreadlocks that don’t require a lot of care.
“I don’t have that much time for the beauty salon, so, these work well for me,” Mbabazi says.

At MUST, the energetic don built the faculty of Development Studies from scratch. And now that the university is restructuring its programmes to return to its former vision of a science-based institution, Mbabazi is at the heart of the changes.
“For now we are not recruiting anymore students for the degree in Development Studies, although we will continue some of its course units in all the programmes for our students to have a well-rounded education,” she says.

The decision to stop the programme stems from President Yoweri Museveni’s continued complaints that the course has no use at a science-based university. Mbabazi, 43, hails from Mbarara and had all her early schooling here before joining Kigezi High School for her O-levels and later Bweranyangi Girls School, for her A-levels.

She would later join Makerere University for a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science which she completed in 1990. She did her MA in Development Studies at the University of Leeds in 1992 and another MA in Development Planning and Management at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, before pursuing a PhD in Development Studies at Mbarara University.

She is married to an engineer, Ivan Mbabazi, son of Kabale’s wealthiest farmer, John Batuma, who runs the town’s most prominent radio station, Voice of Kigezi. Mbabazi, who also chairs the committee working to relocate MUST to Kihumuro campus, says she is working towards a day when the university will grow from its present population of 3,500 to over 40,000 students in the next 10 years.

As I walked out of her office pointed out that she had a daunting task ahead of her.

“Well, I believe in possibilities and a God who makes them happen,” she remarked before turning to her read on her laptop.


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