At the “Harvard of Africa” in Uganda, power remains in imperial structures and bodies, while excellence is still defined on Western terms.
August 1, 2016
by Bwesigye Bwa Mwesigire
Republished from African Arguments
In 1922, within a few decades of British colonial control of the protectorate called Uganda, a technical school was founded. According to folklore, the hill on which the school was built was famed for its many noises. Kelele is the Kiswahili word for noise, the plural: Makelele. The folk tale concludes that the hill and the technical school took on the name, but with the ls replaced with rs. The Makerere Technical College, as it was known at the time, taught carpentry, building and mechanics.
In 1949, the school became affiliated to the University of London. Alongside the likes of Ibadan, Legon and Gordon – as well as Dar es Salaam and Nairobi later on – it became one of the so-called ‘Asquith colleges’ offering courses with degrees awarded by its Britain-based mother. As Carol Sicherman notes in Becoming an African University: Makerere 1922–2000, this arrangement was “presented as a means of guaranteeing world-class quality, [but it] ensured continued British influence once the colonies ceased to exist as such”.