Soroti– Prof Francis Omaswa was installed as the first Chancellor of Soroti University Chancellor on Thursday at a ceremony presided over by Vice President Jessica Alupo.
Established by Statutory Instrument in 2015, and ascending to the heights as Uganda’s 9th public University, Soroti University has also been declared a fully-fledged Public University joining the likes of MUNI, Gulu and Busitema.
There are over 43 universities in Uganda, 11 of which are public; including Soroti University.
President Yoweri Museveni in his speech read by Maj. Alupo, also Woman Member of Parliament for Katakwi district, congratulated Omaswa for accepting to be the Chancellor of Soroti University.
Prof. Omaswa has over the years earned distinguished honours as a global and international executive who has served in different capacities, including the Global Health Workforce Alliance.
According to his bio, Prof Omaswa is a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, founding president of the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa, and a senior associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public.
He is a graduate of Makerere Medical School, Kampala, Uganda, and once served as Director General of health services in the Ministry of health.
President Museveni said he has known Omaswa for quite a long time and that together, they had accomplished many things for the benefit of the Country.
“Today is yet another milestone in our working time together and I have no doubt, he will lead Soroti University to even greater heights,” Museveni said.
He said a university has a central agent to national transformation and renewal, has many roles and responsibilities, many partners, and serves many constituencies, therefore, he noted, “the university must guide and shape students to be creative and productive for the future of our country”.
President Museveni also said that the university has further responsibilities; to be a place that provides opportunities for lifelong learning; not only to graduates but also to those who never had the opportunity to attend an institution of higher learning.
“The university has the ultimate responsibility of constructively contributing to national policies to address grave national development needs”, he remarked.
He noted that Prof. Francis Omaswa’s assumption of this high and prestigious office at this particular time in our country’s transformation and indeed the transformation of the university is significant.
The president explained that the Peace and security ushered in over the last 35 years have seen government commit resources to ensure that Ugandans work in a safe environment.
“As a result of peace and stability ushered in by the government, institutions, including Soroti University have been able to peacefully undertake their activities”, the President said, adding that Our development depends on having skilled people in leadership positions”.
Museveni acknowledged that many Ugandans are up against many challenges; that many have to study, teach and research under conditions that are far from ideal, but, he added, the transformation includes making the most of the limited opportunities available without compromising quality and excellence.
The President pledged commitment to seeing Soroti University continue to prosper as one of the leading higher education institutions in this country and urged academicians and planners of this University to look into human resource gaps in our country and select courses that are useful and attractive in the market and must be science-based.
“This is how we shall solve the problem of unemployment in the country and be more relevant in the job market”, he added.
The President also urged the university staff to work closely with different Government Ministries and Departments to ensure their programs are relevant and aligned to national priorities and needs, improve on the substance of national policies and broadly contribute to national development and the realization of Vision 2040.
The President noted that Prof. Francis Omaswa like his predecessor Professor John Robert Ikoja Odongo are role models. “Today, we celebrate with the new Vice Chancellor the fruits of that individual responsibility well aware that he has a huge task in overseeing the growth and transformation of this university from its infant stages into an even more effective functioning institution by broadening access and improving quality of teaching, learning and research in a situation of limited resources; how the university harness modern communications and information technology for teaching and research.
In her remarks Alupo, congratulated Soroti University upon becoming a fully-fledged University adding that in Prof. Omaswa, they have got the cream and as a government they have high hopes in them. She supported the idea of establishing a Referral and Teaching hospital at the Soroti as requested by Prof. Omaswa.
She said Omaswa is a person with national and global stature whose connections and attributes would help the University grow from strength to strength.
Representing Janet Museveni, the minister of Education and Sports, Joyce Kaducu the state minister for Primary Education said as a ministry they are sure Prof. Omaswa will add value to the university.
She appealed to the university academic staff to avoid infighting and be role models to students.
She called for teamwork among the academic staff as they teach and supervise students.
Omaswa lauded Alupo for her contribution towards the establishment of Soroti University during her tenure as minister of Education and Sports.
“Sitting me on this Chair like a baby bond very well with the future of this university. I thank the family of Soroti University for welcoming me,” Omaswa said.
He assured the President and Ugandans of total commitment to working and growing the university.
Omaswa said the university has a strategic plan for 2020/2021-2024/25 which provides the strategic direction the university is following in its development and it’s in line with NDP 111 and the country’s Vision 2040. He said together with every stakeholder they will achieve the university’s aspirations.
“We are going to lead by providing services to communities including treating patients. Universities need to be accountable to communities where they operate and serve,” Omaswa noted.
He noted that there’s a need for partnerships with other universities both locally and internationally to achieve their mission.
Omaswa alluded to the fact Uganda has a huge young population adding that there’s need to see this resource transformed into a commodity. “Let’s invest in our young people and share them with the international platforms in a phased way like other countries are doing. Africa needs to embrace this move,”Omaswa noted.
The Vice-Chancellor Prof. John Robert Odongo thanked government of Uganda especially President Museveni for establishing Soroti University and promised to fulfill all the aspirations of their forefathers.
He noted that the movement government has been so instrumental in establishing this university. “We have benefitted from the rural electrification program, piped water, UNRA tarmacked all university roads, computers were provided by the ICT and Education ministries, greening of the campus has been by water and environment ministry,” Odongo said.
The university currently has two schools namely; school of Health Sciences and School of Engineering and Technology which were established in 2018. More academic programs were submitted to National Council for Higher Education awaiting approval.