UCU students reap rewards from Google Developer Student Club

By Pauline Luba
It was a simple request. Patience Ankunda was asked to help start a tech club at Uganda Christian University (UCU). At the time, she was a second-year student of Bachelor of Science in Architecture at Uganda’s Makerere University. She went to UCU and didn’t look back as she became a new UCU student, enrolling for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. 

Ankunda abandoned her Makerere, government-sponsored course, which she had already studied for two of the four years, for a privately-sponsored one at UCU. And she was at peace with the decision. 

“I saw computer science creating different opportunities for me in the future, which it is already doing now,” Ankunda, who graduated in 2021 with a First Class degree in computer science, told Uganda Partners during an interview last year.  

For her switch of programs, she says many people branded her a failure because they thought she was substituting a more prestigious course for a lesser one. And many more people prophesied that she would not go far in life with a career in computer science.  

Looking back, Ankunda believes the real spark of her love for computer science was her joining the Google Developer Student Club (GDSC) at Makerere University. She says the club helped her realize her love for technology. 

“I was able to learn more about tech before I started to study it,” Ankunda said in late May 2023. “I got a number of opportunities and that boosted my confidence.” 

Google Developer Student Clubs are university-based community groups for students who are interested in technology and cutting their professional teeth in developing applications. In the GDSC clubs, the learning is usually peer-to-peer, with emphasis on creating local solutions for local challenges. There are more than 1,900 college and university chapters across more than 100 countries in the world.

When Ankunda completed her switch from Makerere to UCU, she helped to found the GDSC in the latter university and later headed it, becoming the first woman to hold such a position in Uganda. Considered the most successful story of the club at UCU, Ankunda is already implementing the knowledge she gathered from both the classroom and her peer-to-peer interaction in the club. She likely will always be found at the intersection where technology meets business, finance and fitness.

She has co-founded Culipa, a financial technology company offering digital payment solutions for individuals and businesses of all sizes. With Culipa, Ankunda believes she is keeping the GDSC slogan of innovate, inspire, and ignite alive. Culipa has a mobile application that enables individuals and businesses to send and receive money –  something that Ankunda believes is helping to make the lives of  people better. 

As part of its recruitment drive, on May 26, the GDSC UCU chapter held a sensitisation meeting, targeting the university’s fresh entrants. 

Google Club Leader Jasper Ashaba
Google Club Leader Jasper Ashaba

Jasper Ashaba, the current club lead at UCU, urged first-year students to join the club, giving himself as an example of a beneficiary of serious membership in the club. Ashaba says a Ugandan transport and tracking company hired him to build for them and help them to manage their networks. From gigs like these, Ashaba says he is able to pay for his amenities at the university. Just like it is expected for any working student, there are times when the work has clashed with Ashaba’s time for class work.

“Every night, I pray to God to give me wisdom to be able to properly manage my time well,” Ashaba says.

Arthur Yawe, a first-year student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, said the session with freshers on May 26 gave him the opportunity to appreciate more the influence of technology in people’s lives. 

Hassan Bahati, a member of the club, communicating to new students
Hassan Bahati, a member of the club, communicating to new students

“I will join the club,” Yawe said. “I want to learn new skills and get opportunities.”

Hassan Bahati, a member of the club, currently in his final year at the university and a student of Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, said the club offers opportunities for a diverse array of talents. 

“I’m in my third year, and I’m grateful for all I have learned from this club, as well as the opportunities that have come my way,” said Nabirye Joan, a student of Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. “I advise others to join it.”