Uganda Law Society Defends Academic Freedom Amidst Makerere University Exam Controversy

The Uganda Law Society (ULS) has raised concerns over recent developments at Makerere University, where a letter from Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe triggered an investigation into a law exam question touching on current political events. In a bold statement, ULS President Bernard Oundo emphasized the importance of academic freedom, a cornerstone of both international treaties and Uganda’s own constitutional law.

“Academic freedom is a vital right enshrined in our legal framework,” stated Oundo, underscoring the ULS’s commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law. He stressed that academic freedom encompasses the freedom of expression, opinion, association, and assembly, essential for fostering critical thinking and knowledge pursuit.

Addressing the specific exam question under scrutiny, Oundo clarified that such scenarios are designed to stimulate critical analysis within the bounds of academic freedom and learning. He cited legal precedents affirming the rights of teachers and students to engage in open discourse without undue interference.

While acknowledging limitations on freedoms, ULS firmly asserted that the exam in question falls within the realm of academic discourse and serves to enhance students’ understanding of real-life contexts. Oundo condemned any attempts to intimidate academic institutions, asserting that such actions pose a direct threat to academic freedom.

In response to the controversy, Speaker of Parliament Anita Among echoed sentiments of upholding academic freedom, emphasizing the importance of a free society that respects diverse viewpoints. She affirmed the inviolability of freedom of expression, including academic freedom, as enshrined in Uganda’s Constitution.

The disputed exam, challenging first-year law students with a satirical essay, touched on recent political events, including Speaker Among’s interaction with UK sanctions. The satirical piece, while provocative, aimed to stimulate critical analysis and prompt thoughtful responses from students.

As the discourse unfolds, ULS vows to monitor the situation closely to ensure due process and protection of individuals’ rights. The society’s stance underscores the imperative of safeguarding academic freedom as a fundamental pillar of democracy and intellectual growth in Uganda’s educational landscape

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