Dr Barnabas Nawangwe, one of the few full professors of architecture in Africa, is the current Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, the oldest and largest public university in Uganda.
Born in 1956 in what is now Busia District in eastern Uganda, Barnabas Nawangwe started his education at Busia Integrated Primary School, where he became head prefect in 1971. His schoolmates remember him as inquisitive but not loud. “He often beat us in class and had such incisive arguments during conversation that it was hard to keep up with him,” Thomas Oundo, a former schoolmate and retired teacher in Busia, recalls.
From there, young Nawangwe went to Busoga College Mwiri, which he credits with his leadership skills. “Literature and history were my favourite subjects but my father insisted that I had to do sciences instead due to the political situation at the time. I think he thought it was safer,” he recalls.
As a result, Nawangwe excelled in physics, economics and mathematics at A-level, qualifying to join Makerere, where he was admitted for civil engineering. There he spent one term and got caught up in the heady university politics.
“It was 1977 and we were protesting against a situation that most of us saw as hopeless,” Nawangwe explains. But the Idi Amin government would have none of the planned strikes they were involved in and he soon became a hunted man.
Fearing for his safety, Nawangwe fled Uganda and ended up in Russia to continue his studies.
“I had always been involved in fine art. So one day a lecturer of the Russian language found me making some drawings and advised me to switch from civil engineering to architecture. I had never even heard of the subject,” he recalls. Eager for a change, Nawangwe switched to architecture and has never looked back. The subject took over his imagination and he went on to obtain a PhD in it before returning to Uganda in 1988. …Read the full story from our magazine, page 13