Practical university education will transform Uganda’s economy – say Dutch professors

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Two visiting professors, Jaap Mennes from the School of Business, Marketing & Finance and Johan Heijink from the School of Financial and Economic Management at Hanze University of Applied Sciences in Groningen, the Netherlands, are in Uganda.

The visit is part of a Memorandum of Understanding between Uganda Christian University (UCU) and the Hanze University Foundation.

They spoke to samuel sania and Olivia Kamusiime on practical education and its impact on the economy, here are excerpts;

Why should university education be more practical in your opinion?

Johan: This is beneficial in more ways than one. First, students must learn a practical attitude; if they learn for four years just from the book and then they get a job, there is a big gap between theory and practice at work. Second, college can have a great impact on society if students do practical work for companies. You have a win-win situation, companies learn from students and students learn from the society around them.

Johan Heijink, one of the visiting professors

Uganda is a developing country, does this hands-on approach impact economic development?

Johan: Yes. We are not here to share how to do it, but we share our ideas and our knowledge. I think all foreign partners should share their knowledge with Uganda. For example, many foreign entrepreneurs do not share their knowledge.

Say there is a Chinese contractor for a bridge, he needs to share his knowledge so that the next bridge will be made by Ugandans themselves. I think it will be a good way to develop.

Uganda is a beautiful land with lots of good resources. We need to share knowledge and experience on how to use resources.

Yap: I agree with Johan; I think better educated students can have more impact. This is also what we believe according to Hanze’s approach. We believe in active learning with students having a more critical attitude, more flexible and prepared for the outside world where it is not like most schools at the moment where it is more structured and theoretical. A more practice-oriented education makes them more ready for professional life, for example, and how they make an impact in their business or in any organization. Then they can have an impact on Ugandan society and they can help the country in the future.

How will the exchange program work, will it be physical or virtual?

Japanese: At the moment about three or four UCU students have come to Hanze with Erasmus funding. We had a Dutch student come to do research in Uganda from Hanze. What we have in mind is to work together virtually. We call it virtual mobility, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. Internationalization is what we want to do between UCU and Hanze because we can learn a lot from Uganda and from UCU students and colleagues.

We want to connect UCU and Hanze students through virtual classrooms and on projects. Many Hanze students don’t know anything about Africa, but we can solve this problem with one click. We can connect virtually and it’s very efficient and simple. Meeting face to face is always better, but it’s not always possible.

John: We have to learn from each other; the way UCU professors treat students is one thing we can learn from here among others.

Japanese: Finally, we are very grateful to be here. The hospitality has been amazing.

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