Dr. Innocent Sebasaza Mugisha who recently appointed as the chairman of University Counsil of Mount Kigali, sat down with media and talk about his background and his vision on his new position.
QUESTION: Kindly tell us a little bit about yourself
I am Dr. Innocent Sebasaza Mugisha, 64. I was born here in Rwanda but was educated in Sweden, Israel, Lesotho, Botswana and Uganda. I have worked in academia throughout my professional life. I was the Executive Director at the Higher Education Council of the Ministry of Education from 2014-2017, and Director of Quality Assurance at the University of Rwanda (UoR) up to the year 2021 when I went for early retirement. I have also taught at the UoR and at the National University of Lesotho. I am a teacher by profession and I like calling myself a teacher.
QUESTION: What sparked your life-long interest in education?
It is an interesting, I guess. I am from a very humble family background. I undertook my early education in Uganda in the early 1970s where we lived as refugees. The system of education at that time was inherited from the British. At the A-Level (last exam before joining university), I did Sciences and I thought I would study for a related career at university. But when my parents took me to Lesotho (southern Africa), I found myself doing Education.
I gradually became interested in it and I have never regretted the choice. So, I could say my pursuit of a career in education was by chance. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the National University of Lesotho International School in 1990, and with a Master’s degree from the same institution three years later.
Thereafter, I taught at the same university before proceeding to Linkoping University in Sweden from where I graduated with a PhD in Education in the year 2010. By then, I was already a member of faculty of education at the University of Rwanda.
QUESTION:What are your sentiments about the new name ‘Mount Kigali University’ and especially in how it portrays Rwandans’ sense of patriotism?
The name ‘Mount Kigali University’ was approved through a Cabinet resolution chaired by His Excellency President Paul Kagame. I concur with the cabinet decision to approve the change of name from Mount Kenya University Rwanda (MKUR) to Mount Kigali University (MKU) as it reflects Rwanda's pride, and it resonates well with the country’s identity.
Mount Kigali is one of the most prominent and historically-relevant places in Rwanda. Therefore, naming the university after it is also very appropriate.
It also gives the university a local identity, even as the institution retains all the attributes that place it head and shoulders above other universities. There is also some pride that comes with being autonomous now that Mount Kigali University will adhere to the Rwanda Qualification Framework, and the laws governing higher education in the country. But I also realize that Mount Kigali University’s mother institution Mount Kenya University has reached such great heights in Kenya. We shall replicate that success here in Rwanda.
QUESTION: What is your vision as Chairman of Mount Kigali University Council?
Let me start by saying that I’m so excited about this new assignment. My vision is big but doable. Mount Kigali University comes at a time when it has become more evident of the need for a paradigm shift in the way institutions of higher learning operate.
Graduates from universities should be products of not only what takes place in lecture rooms but also what’s happening in the community. At postgraduate level especially, the focus must be on research that enables the community solve its challenges.
I will give you an example: Recently, Rwanda like most other countries in the region, was hit by floods. Several people died. I could have expected students who are studying courses on urban settlement, land management, planning, and disaster management to actively participate in finding solutions to this catastrophe, to be on the ground.
The immediate remedy is to integrate research in the teaching-learning activity. It should not come at the end of the teaching. This way, the marks awarded to a learner are a reflection of learner’s contribution to the advancement of knowledge in his/her chosen area.
We must also delink the pursuit of postgraduate training with career growth and progression. In so doing, research will be used to back up what is taught theoretically and help the country advance.
We must also create strong industrial linkages (with for example, banks, hotels, hospitals, secondary and primary schools) to equip our students with more hands-on skills. These linkages will create opportunities for apprenticeship and job-shadowing. A student graduating from Mount Kigali University will not require any further hands-on training before venturing in his or her area of expertise.
I am delighted that Mount Kigali University is constructing a Four-Star Hotel (Kigali Paramount), which will offer practical skills to our students in the School of Hospitality. By the time they graduate, they should be skilled enough to even go it alone.
In addition, we shall strengthen the apprenticeship program such that it ceases from being just a requirement for students before they graduate. We shall also host more public lectures with industry luminaries and change makers to counsel the students.
Of course, these efforts will be complemented by a regular curriculum review to ensure the teaching and instruction is aligned with the country’s human resource needs.
We shall also ensure that Mount Kigali University has a very vibrant Community Welfare Program. One of our core programs is the support to Imbuto Foundation, which will continue. We shall also operationalize the clinic within the university locality to provide medical services to the community. At the Kigali Paramount Hotel, we are also constructing a Pharmacy which will dispense medicinal drugs to the community.
In addition, Mount Kigali University will increase its support to neighboring primary and secondary schools especially in the areas of sports, construction of classrooms, and targeted scholarships. The scholarships will be in diverse fields including sports, ICT and journalism.
We will also increase the resources that we use to support Girinka and Umuganda for the benefit of all Rwandans.
QUESTION: How will Mount Kigali University continue with the good name of Mount Kenya University Rwanda?
In order to remain competitive both locally and internationally, Mount Kigali University will tap both local and international human resources. Currently, the investors, who are the same as those of the cross-border institution, have released all the infrastructure (physical and human resource) to Mount Kigali University. They have also committed to continue investing in infrastructure to ensure our graduands are competitive not only locally but internationally.
The new status allows the university to organize local graduation ceremonies, thus removing the hurdle of graduands having to travel to Kenya.
Allow me to highlight however that Mount Kigali University has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Mount Kenya University, which will see a seamless transfer.
QUESTION: What’s your plan for Mount Kigali University in regards to online learning?
Online learning is an important strategy for increasing access to university education. We shall do this by bolstering the ICT infrastructure and also the checks
and balances in the process of administering the online degrees.
In addition, we shall consider rolling out a cost-per-module payment especially for students who want to undertake our courses to acquire knowledge and skills on a particular area and not necessarily for certification. This way, our online education will reach even more people around the globe who are seeking to gain specific expertise.
The world is increasingly adopting the use of Artificial Intelligence. We’ve seen students use it to write essays, media houses use life-like robots to read news. What is your view about this phenomenon?
I perceive it as an opportunity and not a threat. When I started teaching in 1990, Microsoft PowerPoint was just becoming an in-thing. Some of my teachers were very skeptical about it. But now, as you know, almost everyone uses it. A.I (Artificial Intelligence) might mimic some human attributes but it’s important to note that there is no single day when the human brain will ever be replaced. At Mount Kigali University, we shall strive to be part and parcel of the A.I gameplay. We shall orient our program reviews in a manner that places our students at the forefront on Machine Learning, and when necessary, use A.I without compromising academic quality.