Makerere Graduation: Parents, Graduands Decry Inconvenience

A section of parents and graduands attending the 73rd Makerere University graduation ceremonies are protesting the inconveniences and restrictions caused by the organizers. Notably, the attendees could not stop wondering why they are being stopped from carrying mobile phones and bags into the university premises. 

Some of the attendees were sighted at different entry points pleading with security officers to allow them to enter with their mobile phones. When our reporter reached the eastern gate, tens of parents and graduates were seen looking confused as the security officers informed them of the restrictions.

“No phones, no bags,” a soldier stated. One parent, who had a baby with her, pleaded to be allowed to access the university with a bag, saying it contained the child’s food, drinks, and clothes.  “Sir, you can check the bag, it only has clothes and food for the baby,” the parent said with a pleading face

Despite the parent’s pleas, the soldiers ignored her request. Even though the police officers at the gate appeared to sympathize with the mother, they were unable to assist.

“The rule is clear: no bags, no phones. I won’t repeat it. If you’re feeling inconvenienced, please go back. If you can carry the child’s clothes and milk in your hands, that would be great,” a man in civilian attire firmly stated before ordering police officers at the gate to control the crowd that was gathering in front of the entrance. 

No one was exempted from the rule, including staff from Makerere University and journalists who argued that they needed their phones and bags for their work. Some individuals decided to use alternative gates, where security was not as strict, as long as they had an invitation card or university staff ID. 

Even those who used the main gate were not allowed to access the university with bags, and phones once they reached the checkpoint near the senate building. At the checkpoint, some enterprising young people saw an opportunity and offered to keep the bags and phones of those who wanted to enter the premises. 

One of the youths approached the graduands offering to keep their phones. “Madam, we can keep your phone for you.” Our reporter later discovered that these young people were charging between Shillings 5,000 to 8,000 to keep the items of the parents and graduates. 

However, it should be noted that the Ceremonies Committee had warned on the invitation cards that attendees should not bring certain items to the function. This list included: mobile phones, firearms, dangerous weapons, cameras (both video and still cameras), batteries, chemicals, alcohol, cigarettes, canned foods and drinks, bottled drinks, backpacks, lighters, matchboxes, candles, glasses, and knives. 

Kelvin Goddie, a graduand, expressed frustration with the decision not to allow mobile phones and deemed it a “draconian rule.”

Jack Mutabingwa, a parent expressed surprise that such a big university as Makerere was limiting people from carrying phones. He questioned those behind the decision and wondered how they were supposed to communicate.

He stated that he was trying to locate his child and was expecting important business calls, saying that those who run a university in the 21st century should understand the importance of phones. Mark Opio, another guardian, says that he had not brought his phone with him after reading a Facebook post from Makerere that listed phones and bags among the prohibited items.   

However, to Opio’s surprise, he later learned that the Minister of Education, Janet Kataha Museveni was going to attend the ceremony via Zoom from State House, which made him question the need for the inconvenience caused by the restriction on phones. 

At least 13,221 people are expected to graduate by the end of the graduation ceremonies which will run until Friday. These comprise 6809 (52%) females and 6412 (48%) males. 102 of these are expected to receive PhDs and 1,378 will receive Master’s degrees.

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