Mbarara University vice chancellor is new UNEB chairperson

05 Nov 2023

Professor Celestino Obua, the Vice Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology, has been appointed the new Chairperson of the Uganda Examinations Board (UNEB).

Professor Obua’s appointment was announced by Education Minister Janet Museveni. He was subsequently sworn in during a Friday afternoon board meeting convened at the UNEB headquarters in Ntinda.

During the inauguration, Janet cautioned the new chairperson regarding the new responsibilities and the anticipated challenges. She underscored the institution’s strategic significance to the government, given its central role in Human Capital Development.

“Your role and level of responsibility will change, but with your ability that I am aware of, you will “hit the ground running” as they say. I, and the Ministry of Education and Sports look towards working with you and giving you the support you need to ensure that the Board fulfills its mandate,” her speech delivered by John Chrysostom Muyingo reads in part.

Professor Obua assumes his role following the tenure of Professor Mary Okwakol, who has led the examination body since 2014, succeeding educationist Fagil Mandy.

Professor Obua is no stranger to UNEB, having previously served on the 10th board of the examination body and chaired various committees, including the Research and ICT Committees. His past involvement with UNEB, officials said, provides him with a solid foundation for taking on the new role of Chairperson.

His appointment comes at a crucial time when UNEB needs to adapt its assessment methods to align with the new curriculum and consider the integration of continuous assessments conducted at the school level.

Janet Museveni emphasized the significance of this task, underscoring that the new Chairperson must ensure the assessment process is both valid and reliable to ensure that the national certificates issued by UNEB to successful candidates attain universal recognition.

The First Lady praised the outgoing Chairperson for her unwavering leadership during difficult periods marked by budget constraints and crises like epidemics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that despite these challenges, the organization achieved success and maintained an impeccable record without any scandals.

Under Professor Okwakol’s leadership, the board achieved some milestones, including the enactment of the long-stalled UNEB Act. This new legislation redefined the board’s functions, restructured the board’s membership, and granted it expanded powers.

Furthermore, it introduced more stringent sanctions to deter examination malpractice and broadened the range of offenses covered by the Act.

In addition, during the same period, the board passed and implemented 12 policies aimed at addressing various challenges, including the Whistleblowers Policy, which has proven to be an effective tool in combating malpractice.

In her speech, Professor Okwakol expressed her gratitude to the appointing authority for giving her the opportunity to lead. However, she also candidly addressed her successor and the appointing authority, highlighting the pressing challenges that the board faces and which require urgent attention.

She emphasized the critical need for increased funding to the board to support the special needs of learners, as well as the necessity for a revision of the unit cost for administering examinations. Additionally, Professor Okwakol pointed out the lack of reliable funding for the Board’s National Assessment of Progress in Education (NAPE) program, despite its substantial benefits to the Ministry.

Okwakol expressed her satisfaction that her successor brings a wealth of experience and an institutional memory of the board’s operations. She is pleased that Professor Obua is well-acquainted with the intricacies of the board’s functioning.

“My term of office has expired. I thank you, Hon. Minister, for the prompt action in appointing the new Chairperson. This means that UNEB has not had a time-lapse without a Chairperson at this time when very important decisions must be made by the Board, including the passing of the Budget for the 2024/2025 Financial Year,” she concluded before handing over instruments of power.

Dan Odongo, the UNEB Executive Director, also commended Professor Okwakol for her leadership. He noted that her tenure had brought about peaceful years and a lack of interference in the management functions of the board. Under her leadership, the organization experienced stability and autonomy, contributing to its overall effectiveness.

Odongo’s comments pertained to a turbulent period when Fagil Mandy engaged in open conflict with the UNEB Executive Secretary at the time, Mathew Bukenya. This period concluded with Mandy’s resignation amid considerable controversy.

Mandy’s decision to step down came after his efforts to prevent Bukenya’s reappointment proved unsuccessful. Eventually, Bukenya was reappointed by the President. Mandy’s difficulties had actually begun earlier in the year when the Inspector General of Government (IGG) initiated an investigation into his handling of the process to replace Bukenya. The IGG’s report accused Mandy of mishandling the process.

Odongo extended a warm welcome and expressed his support for the incoming Chairperson, stating that Professor Obua has returned to familiar territory, and this will facilitate a smooth transition. He acknowledged that Professor Obua’s prior experience with the board means he already understands the inner workings of the organization, ensuring a seamless continuation of its operations.

Upon assuming office, Professor Obua conveyed his acceptance of the role and expressed his commitment to both upholding the legacy of his predecessor’s successes and driving the board to new heights. He emphasized that his leadership would be characterized by collaboration and teamwork, working closely with all board members, the ministry, and the board secretary to achieve the institution’s goals and objectives.

Obua will be heading the 11th board of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB).

The rest of the board members are continuing their service, having been inaugurated on the board last year.

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