Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Guest Lecturing in the Tourism Department at Makerere University

As you know, I’ve already arrived back in Botswana from my trip to Uganda, but I realized I never actually talked about one of the main motivations for my visit: seeing Makerere University.  Makerere University is considered “The Harvard of Africa,” or at least that’s what I was told by a few locals.  Or maybe they said “Harvard is the Makerere of America.”  I can’t be sure.  But, you get the picture.

In all honesty, I don’t know much about Makerere, but it is the largest public university in the country, and first opened there in 1936.  And I knew they had a tourism program, which was what prompted my visit.  The professor with whom I co-teach here gave me the name of a professor at Makerere who I emailed and asked about visiting campus.  The Makerere professor asked me to guest lecture for two days about career opportunities in the tourism industry, the American perspective of tourism in Africa and Uganda, and how to appropriately market to western tourists.
I really enjoyed my time at Makerere.  I was so impressed with the faculty and the students.  Everyone was very engaged and asked lots of questions, which was great.  One of my occasional frustrations with University of Botswana is that sometimes there is a bit too much arrogance and unwillingness to consider suggestions/ advice/ criticism.  At times it feels that UB has a “We already know everything” attitude, so they rebuff new ideas.  Refreshingly, Makerere was the exact opposite.  When I mentioned that a lot could be done to improve the way Uganda markets to westerners, the crowd was all ears.  They originally asked me to speak on the topic for three hours.  I told them that was too long and suggested an hour.  After two hours the audience was still going strong and we probably could have gone on discussing the entire afternoon, but I had to end it there in order to get to my next appointment.  But I really enjoyed the conversation and their willingness to consider new ideas.

While at Makerere I was also very happy to meet the professor who owned the tour guide company I used for my trip to Bwindi to see the gorillas.  In fact, I used his company as an example, and afterward told him I thought the tour guide I had, Tolbert, was a rock star.
In addition to visiting classes at Makerere, I also stayed at the guest house on campus.  It was convenient because it made getting back and forth to lectures easy, but the campus was huge and very hilly, so I could do my morning and evening “hikes” around the buildings.  Below are a few pictures I took from one of my morning strolls.

Welcome to Makerere University, “The Harvard of Africa”:
And the Guest House, complete with contact information if you would like to make a reservation:

Makerere had these giant birds all over campus.  I’m not sure what they are called, but when I say giant, I really mean that.  If I stood next to one it would probably come up to about hip height:
The School of Forestry, Environmental and Geographical Sciences, where the Tourism Department is located.  There were over 1,000 undergrad students enrolled in the Tourism Program:
And some of the students who attended the lecture I gave about career development in the tourism industry.  This was a shot of only half the room; the room was wide, and packed pretty tight, but at least the students look as if they were having fun:

Another building on campus:
There were also at least two churches and a mosque on campus.  The only negative to having a mosque on campus, for me at least, was that it was only about 300 meters from the guest house where I was staying.  And if you haven’t spent much time around mosques, they all have loud speakers attached to the buildings which broadcast a call to prayer five times a day.  The first prayer time is at dawn, so every morning at about 5am I was woken up.  By the end of my stay the sound became incorporated into my dreams.  Here is one of the churches where a wedding was being held:

Overall I had an excellent visit to Makerere and I’m hoping I get the opportunity to go back.  In fact, since my trip to Rwanda was cancelled, I think when I reschedule the trip to Rwanda sometime in the next few months I will add a few days in Uganda so I can spend some more time there and at Makerere.


  1. I think this is one of your best postings yet. I love the picture of the attendees of your lecture on career development... Makes it all worthwhile, doesn't it?

    1. Thanks Bill! I'm glad you liked it. Yes, it definitely made the trip worth it.

  2. Kelly Phelan, this is a great post. The big bird is called a marabou my language it is called Karoli.