Security at Makerere University has been heightened following a series of fires that destroyed the main building over the weekend.
A statement from the Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe indicates that the fire first broke out in the morning of Sunday 20th September 2020, at around half past midnight when a police patrol team at Makerere University noticed smoke coming out of the roof of the Main Administration Building.
The patrol team alerted the OC Makerere Police Station, who had been deployed at Nateete Police Station for the night and after zooming in the CCTV cameras to the Main Building, he too could see the smoke.
The OC Station alerted the Makerere University Chief Security Officer Who rushed to the Mani Building immediately and arrived at the building about 0.47 a.m. He immediately alerted the control room to request the Fire Brigade to rush to the scene. The Chief Security Officer also alerted the Vice Chancellor and Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, who both rushed to the scene.
The police Fire Brigade arrived at the scene at 1.10 am initially with 2 fire engines which did not have the capacity to jet water to the roof of the building. After about 30 minutes more fire engines with better capacity arrived, but by this time the fire had spread through a big part of the roof.
The Fire Brigade managed to subdue the fire at around 4 am, but after the entire roof of the building had collapsed and the entire top floor of the building and the entire Finance Department had been burnt.
Prof. Nawangwe says all the documents in the Directorates of Finance, Human Resource, including the Central Registry, and the Directorate of Internal Audit were practically destroyed. He is however quick to add that Fortunately, all hard copies of the financial documents for previous financial years had been moved to the archives, which was not affected by the fire.
“Similarly all old files in the Central Registry had been moved to the archives. Information of the staff in service has been digitalized and is safely kept on servers, which are not in the Main Building. The financial documents for the Financial Year 2019/2020 are currently being audited by the Auditor General and were safely evacuated from the Main Building” the VC says.
He also noted that with the move to the Integrated Finance Management System (IFMS), all financial transactions of the University are automatically backed up electronically at the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. In addition, with the recent financial decentralization at the University, a considerable percentage of the financial documents are kept in the Colleges and administrative Units.
“All revenue collection including student fees, rent and other payments are received directly by URA, which then transfers the money to the consolidated fund. All payments are similarly made through the IFMS. Management therefore does not keep cash in offices as alleged by some social media reports and there was no loss of cash in the fire. Documents from the offices of the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (F&A) and some of the documents in the Office of the University Secretary which were not razed in the fire were also evacuated” Nawangwe revealed.
The Vice Chancellor says management is currently compiling the value of all property lost in the fire, based on the University Inventory and Board of Survey report, which was concluded at the end of August 2020.
All students related data including academic records is stored digitally on the Academic Information Management System (AIMS), which is also backed up at the Ministry of Science and Technology. Hard copy student information is kept in the Senate Building.
The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataha Museveni, accompanied by the Minister of State for Higher Education and the Permanent Secretary visited Makerere University on Sunday and addressed members of Council and Management and pledged Government support to restore the building.
“During the night of the fire, H.E. the President called the Vice-Chancellor several times requesting for an update on the efforts to extinguish the fire and on the causes of the fire. I thank H.E. the President and the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports for the concern they have shown during this difficult time. I similarly thank the Chancellor, Chairperson and Vice Chairperson of Council as well as other members of Council who responded immediately after this most unfortunate incident unfolded” Nawangwe says.
Meanwhile, arrangements are under way for the university to receive the final year students as directed by Government. “Final year medical students will resume studies for the second semester on 3rd October 2020 and end on 28th November 2020. The rest of the final year undergraduate students and the graduate students will report on 17th October 2020 and end on12th December 2020.”
He added that students who were ordinarily residing in halls of residence will be admitted in the halls of residence and the non-residents will continue residing off campus. This is because the capacity of the halls of residence cannot accommodate all of them. Announcements will be made to all the students in good time to allow foreign students undergo quarantine if necessary. After receipt of clearance by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), teaching for the rest of the students will commence on 15th October 2020. Arrangements for this are under way.