Row explodes between veterinary board and Makerere university as board refused to license 200 students

KAMPALA. The refusal by the Uganda Veterinary Board (UVB) to license at least 200 graduates of Makerere University College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity (COVAB) has sparked a row with former students unable to enroll for jobs and current students facing a dark future.

Former students say that their applications for licenses have been bounced by the board on claims that they don’t qualify because they have been trained from a university that does not have enough infrastructure.

Current students have also noted that the development has caused a dilemma and have summoned their Principal Dr. Frank Mwiine to restore their hope.

The challenge was first reported on Monday by Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, who told Parliament’s Committee on Education and Sports to avail Shs52.9 billion in its new budget to renovate facilities at the Colleges of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine.

However, Nawangw’e statement has been interpreted by some critics as politics aimed at lowering the college’s leadership and or a pawn, he used to justify the demands for the Shs.52bn.

One former student Dr. Joel Musafiri a victim of UVB’s step said that he viewed the board’s action as political and said that it was wrong for students to be caught in the middle of the war.

“The problem seems to be between the leadership of the college and the board. Unfortunately, it is the students suffering now. When they reject our applications, they tell us verbally there is unfinished business with the college. They say the students are incompetent,” Musafiri said.

UVB is the professional regulatory body established by an Act of Parliament (The Veterinary Surgeons Act 1958, Cap 277). It is composed of a team of seven veterinarians. They are appointed by the Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries with approval of Cabinet. Its major mandate is to ensure that animal health services are offered by qualified, registered and licensed veterinary professionals under their regulatory supervision.

UVB’s Executive Director, Dr. Nuwagaba did not pick or respond to our calls when contacted variously.

The Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr. Rose Ademun referred our enquiries to the UVB Registrar, Dr. Florence Kasirye. She did not comment as she is abroad.

Several affected students assert, it is ridiculous for UVB to reject licensing some graduates on grounds of infrastructure, while investigations indicate that since 1971, following the Idi Amin Coup, the infrastructure of the faculty was never constructed to completion. All graduates from the institution including those in the current UVB went through the same incomplete veterinary facilities.

It is true the University has been struggling with incomplete infrastructure. During the tumultuous times of the 1980s and the 1990s, the animal facilities were neglected and mostly occupied by human dwellers. Neither the laboratory animal facilities nor the veterinary hospital was completed. Yet, UVB registered graduates of that time.

When the government introduced privatization and liberalization of education, the Makerere Veterinary Institution introduced new programs which increased the number of students sharing the facilities. As demand for learning facilities increased, the mood among veterinary establishments was that allied science programs at the institution enjoyed better support a move that could pressure UVB to action.

By 2010, which is nearly 13 years ago, government moved to improve COVAB Infrastructures which were worse then and the student numbers were larger. Even at the time, UVB never raised alarm, the University worked with the regulator and UVB continued registering students.

Now 13 years later, the infrastructure at COVAB is improved and much better. Government has invested in more teaching and research facilities, and provided additional training infrastructure at farms such as Nakyesasa.

“Students’ enrolment is lower improving teacher-student ratio. How then do you claim gross inadequacies in training to justify non-registration of graduates?”a source asked adding, “Instead of assessing graduates based on individual competence, UVB has chosen infrastructure is the measure of graduate competence”.

Analysis of budgets run by the college show heightening figures with more resources pumped into training.

A visit at the college also revealed improved investments in infrastructure, training facilities, and staff with higher qualifications. The main block and animal houses for training have been renovated and alternative training facilities have been added. There are more staff who have PhD qualifications.

“With all that in place, UVB cannot register vet graduates at this stage when things are much better. There could be something more to the story. It’s interesting to note for example, that this spectacle has targeted students after the grueling effects of COVID19?”, a source wondered.

There are claims by observers that the phenomenon could be actually targeting University leadership. “Some UVB leadership members appear to be conflicted since some of them fiercely fought reforms at the university. It is important to encourage the board members to engage in open and transparent discussions with relevant stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the situation and save future of the next generation,” another source pointed out.

Dr. Abed Bwanika speaks out

Someone to be graduated and licensed must have attained minimum standards which can only be provided by teaching which is well facilitated. So if there are gaps they are due to poor funding.

I heard that UVB examined the college and training and found some gaps, let government boos funding not only of Veterinary medicine but all professional courses because Makerere used to produce very fine products who could even flourish anywhere in the world but this status is lost.

However, UVB should come up with a special examination for assessing the latest graduates and those of past immediate years, those who succeeds should be licensed and failures be advised accordingly.

A remedy for this should be urgent because Uganda has only one Veterinary school and I hope that a decision was based on genuine grounds to avoid costing the country because we need these professionals.