University student leaders in eastern Uganda say they are interested in engaging in legislation and governance of the country but are constrained by the unavailability of enabling platforms.
The students voiced their concern during an engagement with the Communications and Public Affairs Department of Parliament in which the aspiring young leaders were educated on how they can participate in the legislation and governance of the country through social media.
The student meetings which happened from 11th to 16th February 2018, attracted 247 student leaders from four universities; Busitema University in Tororo, Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU), Mbale campus, Uganda Christian University, Mbale campus and Kumi University.
Lillian Asale, a student leader from Busitema University advised Parliament to establish a platform where students are invited to Parliament to engage with MPs annually.
“Let Parliament develop a programme in each academic year, where a particular university is invited to have an extensive engagement with the Members of Parliament so as to allow exchange of ideas and also mentorship of students in leadership,” said Asale.
Sulaiman Kawuzi, the Clerk to the IUIU Parliament, suggested the establishment of a special platform to enable students engage with the Speaker of Parliament and MPs.
“The student leadership is a unique group and therefore, need unique platforms to engage on issues of legislation and governance,” said Kawuzi.
Elijah Oliria of Kumi University noted the need to accord students more time, saying that they have diverse views.
“We need ample time to meet the MPs if we are to have meaningful discussions with them,” said Oliria.
Martin Muhereza, from Busitema University welcomed the initiative of using social media to engage students but urged Parliament to ensure that comments on such pages are always answered and action taken.
“People make comments on the Parliament’s Facebook page but these comments are ignored, this therefore, does not give people the morale to continue engaging on social media,” said Muhereza.
Student leaders also asked Parliament to investigate the shutdown of social media platorms that occurred in 2016, saying it was unconstitutional as it deprived them the right of access to information.
“Now that government has recognized the usefulness of social media, Parliament should ensure that we are not deprived of our constitutional right to access it,” said Opolot Bernad, a student leader at Uganda Christian University Mbale.
The Department of Communications and Public Affairs is holding a countrywide engagement with University student leaders with the aim of enhancing participation of students in legislation and governance.