By Nickie Karitas
Recent Uganda Christian University (UCU) graduate Jimmy Siyasa didn’t wait to have a degree in hand before applying what he learned in his journalism program. And it has paid off – in experience and money to support his next level of master’s degree studies.
On October 22, 2021, Jimmy Siyasa was among the more than 3,000 students who graduated at UCU’s 22nd graduation ceremony. He bagged a Second-Class Upper Division, with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.38 out of 5.0. A First Class starts at 4.40.
In December 2021, he is enrolled in a UCU post-graduate degree path in Strategic Communication (MA). At the same time, he has been helping the UCU Partners NGO by producing videos and print stories for several months and is a writer in the UCU Office of Communications and Public Relations. He gets stipends for each.
Before all this, here’s his story.
Siyasa attended Mbuya Church of Uganda for primary education and St. Kizito SS Bugolobi for O’level. For his A’level, Siyasa attended Bishop Cypriano Kihangire Secondary School. All three schools are in Kampala.
Jimmy Siyasa never dreamed of studying at UCU. In fact, he knew little about the institution as he thought about studies after high school. In Senior Six, while making choices for courses to study at a university, he opted for the Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Bachelor of Arts in Education, in that order, at Makerere University.
In 2017, Makerere admitted him for his second choice, the Bachelor of Arts in Education, specializing in English and Literature in English. Siyasa’s father, Robert Waiga, insisted that his son live on campus for added security that an outside hostel wouldn’t provide. Siyasa was admitted to Mitchell Hall where, because of high demand for slots, students were asked to pay accommodation fees for the first semester in advance.
The lodging payment was the first of the many hurdles for the second born of the three children of Waiga and Celine Ayikoru. The family did not have the money to secure the slot. This setback caused Siyasa to ask himself whether he really should pursue a course in education, where he did not have much passion anyway.
One of the members of the church band that Siyasa was in suggested he consider applying at UCU. Siyasa did and was offered studies toward the Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication.
“I heard of UCU from my friends at church,” the 24-year-old Siyasa said. “I also discovered that friends from my former school were already there. . . but I feared the expenses associated with private universities in Uganda.”
University fees in private institutions in Uganda tend to be higher than public institutions, largely because of no funding support from the government.
Now, Siyasa’s younger sister, Peace Asara, is the one trying to ensure that she graduates in the course her brother did not pursue at Makerere University. Asara, who wants to become a teacher of English and Literature in English at an institution of higher learning, is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree at Kyambogo University in Uganda.
As Siyasa was getting ready for his second semester in first year at UCU, Waiga’s contract at his workplace ended, and it was not renewed. That meant one thing – Siyasa had no tuition to continue with his studies. His father advised him to take a “dead semester” as he tried to find more solid financial footing.
When Siyasa shared his challenges with some friends he had made at UCU, they were against the dead semester. They mobilized funds and paid his tuition. For the second-year first semester, Siyasa’s friend, Rick Kagoro, and his father, Ivan Lumala, met the tuition requirements. The two are based in Washington State, USA. Rick, whose family is acquainted with former UCU Vice-Chancellor, John Senyonyi, had come to Uganda for a visit. He resided at UCU for a while, and at some point visited Jimmy’s class as a Teaching Assistant for a foundational course unit- Elements of Math.
By the next semester, Waiga (Jimmy’s father) had found financial stability, having been recalled to his former workplace, the U.S Embassy in Iraq.
Fast forward to December 2021.
“Siyasa is a brilliant, and dependable young man,” Frank Obonyo, UCU’s communications manager, said. “He is a valuable addition to our great team as we can already see his contribution.’’
The platform that offered Siyasa the opportunity to cut his professional teeth months ago is the USA-based UCU Partners.
This happened because his lecturer, John Semakula, now head of UCU’s journalism department, asked if he could write an article about dental challenges that students face at UCU. He says that story ushered him into writing for the non-profit’s Web site, an opportunity that helped him turn classroom knowledge into real-life practice.
Stephanie Gloria, who studied with Siyasa, says he has worked his way to the top.
“His hard work and integrity cannot go unnoticed,” Gloria says of Siyasa, adding: “His greatest happiness is not in having everything he wants in life, but in appreciating the little or whatever that is available.”
In the next five years, Siyasa hopes to have his master’s degree as well as a Ph.D. in a media-related field. At the same time, he is engaged in music. He has some original songs, including this one he has recorded here: (https://soundcloud.com/siyasa-jimmy/workingfromhome)