UiB Alumni Network
Alumni of the month

Alumni of the month: Ronald Semyalo

Ronald is the coordinator of the long-lasting cooperation between UiB and Makerere and a former PhD student at UiB. He tells us about the situation with COVID19 in Uganda and how he prepares for Christmas.

Ronald Semyalo
Ronald Semyalo with Thorkild Tylleskär, the two coordinators of the UiB-Makerere collaboration.
University of Bergen

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I consider Bergen my second home. It was in Bergen that I started my family and became father to my two children, Ronald tells us sitting at his home-office in Kampala.

- What are your best memories from your time in Bergen?

- My best memories are related to playing football with my colleagues from the Faculty of Biology. You can imagine that playing football in the Norwegian winter, outdoors, was quite a challenge for a Ugandese, but I really enjoyed it, going back home cold and covered in mud. I used to play keeper as I'm almost two meters tall.

- Now you are the coordinator of the collaboration between UiB and Makere.

- Yes, I am the Academic coordinator of this 30-year collaboration that has been the basis for joint research and training in fields from Philosophy to ICT. UiB has been very important for Makerere in the last 30 years, it has shaped and trained a large number of our academic staff and contributed to the development of our University. The focus of our collaboration with UiB is on the capacity development of Makerere and we want to keep strengthening this cooperation as soon as the pandemic is over.

- How is the situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda and how does it effect students at Makerere University?

- Unfortunately the pandemic is strongly affecting Uganda as well as the rest of the world. In our country we have not seen the same magnitude of deaths as in Europe, as today we have around 200 reported deaths, but we have to be extremely careful to prevent the virus from spreading. Now we have a lockdown with limited traveling between cities and this is helping keeping the spreading at bay. 

“Uganda is a very social country, we love to meet with our neighbors and friends as often as possible. Now we can't have social gatherings and people are getting very tired of that”

The students at Makerere are strongly affected as they have to attend lectures from home, only the last year’s and graduate students are allowed to attend classes physically. All other students are allowed to the universitie's premises only to perform their exams. This is a challenge as Uganda lacks the infrastructure to guarantee that all students have the IT-support to attend digital classes.

- The “Ivory Tower” of Makerere University was gutted in September. Do we now know what happened?

- The fire started in the middle of the night and kept going through the day after. The tower of Makerere is a prominent landmark for our University but also for the city of Kampala in addition to being Makerere’s main administration building. The Police has started an investigation into the cause of the fire but we don’t know yet the causes of it.

Fortunately, the University of Bergen and several other international partners are keen to help us reconstructing.

- Christmas is approaching. Would you like to share few traditions that shape the Ugandese Christmas?

- One of our must-watch Christmas movies is “The sound of music” which is an American musical from 1965. The story takes place on the Austrian Alps, not quite the scenario we have in Kampala. But watching this movie has become part of the tradition, hence we watch it on national television year-after-year, and we love it.

Christmas in Uganda is about eating with the people we love and care about, my favorite Christmas dish is the Luwombo which is a dish composed by fresh banana leaves wrapping chicken and vegetables. That’s my favorite. I can’t wait for it.