Don't censor exams on my account, Speaker tells Makerere

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Don't censor exams on my account, Speaker tells Makerere
Speaker Anita Among | Courtesy

Ms Among, in a post on X on Wednesday evening, said she found no fault in the School of Law's satirical essay that parodied her conduct of business in Parliament.

NATIONAL | The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, has urged Makerere University to "let the students learn" and that it is important to respect the ideals of a free society by not censoring conduct of examinations on her account.

Ms Among, in a post on X on Wednesday evening, said she found no fault in the School of Law's satirical essay that parodied her conduct of business in Parliament.

In a strong call for the ideals of democracy, the Speaker said freedom of thought, conscience, and belief which shall include academic freedom in institutions of learning, is sacrosanct.

"I hold the view that this is a free society in which freedom of expression is guaranteed and sacrosanct, including academic freedom protected under Article 29(1)(b), which protects academic freedom in the following terms," she said.

The Speaker's reaction comes after the Nile Post on Tuesday broke the news that Makerere University vice-chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe had directed an investigation into the conduct of exams subjected to First Year law students at the end of the second semester.

The Principal of the School of Law, Dr Ronald Naluwairo, admitted receiving concerns but defended the conduct of the examination that was administered in course unit L1210 - Principles of Constitutional Law II - that First Year students in the second semester wrote on May 11.

Ms Among said she had received media reports of disciplinary processes being instituted against Makerere University School of Law lecturers "on an exam that referred to myself and a sitting of Parliament".

"As Parliament, we unreservedly submit to public scrutiny, which we believe is the pillar upon which a strong, representative legislature is founded," she said.

In the controversial exam, the School of Law challenged its First Year students on current affairs but using a satirical essay that shows Speaker Anita Among fighting back the recent UK government sanctions.

The parody lists clauses from the fictitious Bill, including a ban on adverse comment on the office of the Speaker of Parliament, and in particular on the person of Anita Annet Among, and empowers the speaker to make recommendations to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on which individuals to be charged under the law.

Asking the students to be succinct and well thought-out in their answers, the examiner further parodied the speaker's exchange with the Leader of the Opposition - who had taken issues with the draconian Bill.

"You Joelo; shut up. Are you one of those bum-shafters who is after my life? I am the Speaker of the Parliament of Uganda, Queen of Bukedea and Conqueress of the British Empire: In this House I can do whatever I please," the fictitious essay adds.

The Speaker then takes the Bill to President Museveni for assent. In response, the President told the Speaker, "This is a very good Bill; it only misses specific mention of me as the Fountain of Honour, Maama Janet, the First Lady and all my children: let me add that clause in and sign."

The Bill was duly amended and declared to have come into force on January 26, 1986 - the year Museveni's guerilla took over Kampala.

The cuff on the essay is that the DPP immediately institutes charges against Dr Johhny Spear and Agana Agana - two Social Media activists who organised the 2nd Social Media Parliamentary Exhibition that concluded in March this year, in which they criticised the speaker's "profligate spending" and "lack of sexual mores."

The students were asked to discuss all the Constitutional Law issues raised by in the fictitious essay, as well as to critically assess the implications of the directives such as by the President to the rule of law, democratic governance and constitutionalism.

The fictitious essay also parodied the Shs500 million service award to former Leader of the Opposition Mathias Mpuuga as well as the appointment of Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba as Chief of Defence Forces.

But Ms Among said she found no fault in the exam set for the students.

"I believe our duty will be to give the students unbiased context on what exactly happened during the sitting in issue, so that, as academicians, they form their own opinion on the conduct of public affairs and how they will improve them when it is their turn to be in charge of the management of our society," the Speaker said.

Ms Among's stance will welcome as a welcome to a society that was fast forming the opinion that she does not allow criticism of her person or her office.

In particular, she opens the Ugandan society to democratic dispensation in the public domain where satirical writings and cartoons are considered freedom of expression.

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