Meet Uganda’s First Professor Of Journalism

Written by: 


The department of Journalism and Communication at Makerere University last week erupted with joy as news filtered in of the promotion of DR GORETTI NASSANGA to full professor of journalism. Marion Alina spoke to the new professor.Makerere University’s senate sat on July 29, 2016, to approve applications for staff promotion. Nassanga appointment makes her the first full professor of journalism and communication in Uganda.

Her promotion is the latest of several firsts, as she was also the first PhD graduate from the department.

“This qualification means a lot to me. I look back at all the years of hard work, right from primary one. Through all those stages, I have been able to reach the peak and I am satisfied,” she said. “I have reached what Abraham Maslow calls self-actualization, a point in life when you are able to realize your full potential.”

Prof Nassanga says she has been on the road to self-actualization for 37 years, starting off as a journalist in 1979, at what is today Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (then Radio Uganda).

From here, she moved into training journalists, training them at Uganda Management Institute from 1989, before moving to Makerere. She started her education at Naggalama and Namilyango primary schools, before joining Mt St Mary’s College Namagunga for her Ordinary and Advanced level education.

“At A-level, my subject combination was Literature, Economics, Geography, Sub-Mathematics and General Paper. I particularly liked the economics because most of the decisions we make either in our professional work or as individuals are largely based on economic considerations.”

From here, she joined Makerere University, graduating in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and Social Administration.


As an information officer/news reporter under the ministry of Information, she embraced a complete new world.

“It was by accident. I never really thought about being a journalist at first. During our time, the arrangement was that officials from Public Service interviewed graduates and the best-performing ones got employed,” she reminisces. “I got several openings but did not want to keep moving from one upcountry job to another.

So, I opted for an opening at the Ministry of Information. I was required to file stories to the Uganda News Agency to air on Radio Uganda and Uganda Television”.

Although her training was outside the journalism world, she had a natural appetite for news.

“Before joining journalism, my idea of Uganda was the 15-km radius from home [Naggalama] to my former schools; which is 10km from Mukono - my home, Namagunga which is 8km from Mukono, and Makerere, about 18km,” she said. “As a journalist, I have been able to move all over Uganda… and many other countries all because of the nature of my job either as a journalist or as an academic.”

But she acknowledges that the profession is rife with several pitfalls. “The pay is not much in journalism but you get wide exposure and get to learn a lot of things, which you would not have learnt staying on one desk job,” she asserts. “Here, we are not looking at only financial rewards but the social capital in terms of wide knowledge gained with local and international networks.”

From the Information ministry, Nassanga moved to Parliament, where she was in charge of covering the House sessions and the Office of the Speaker. It was not long before Nassanga became head of the Presidential Press Unit. However, the pressure of the job proved too hectic and in 1989, she opted out, securing a position at the Uganda Management Institute.


Prof Nassanga is concerned about the current trends in the media both at national and regional level. She is particularly concerned at the trends of media ownership concentration, where two strong conglomerates have been allowed to emerge, with minimum regulation, and is also concerned about the misuse of social media.

“At the regional level, we are getting this trend of media concentration. Businesswise, it makes very good sense because now things are becoming cheaper and production costs are lower; although the cover price still continues to rise,” she says, in reference to a media landscape dominated by the Nation Media Group and the Vision Group.

She thinks the two groups should be allowed to grow, but not at the expense of other players. “In some countries, you cannot own radio, television and print media houses in the same geographical area. You can only have a certain percentage to avoid such media concentration and allow for fair play,” she argues. “This is still a problem that developing countries have not yet foreseen, in relation to regulating the airwaves.”

However, Prof Nassanga believes that the increase in the number of journalism and media training institutions in the country has improved the standard of journalism practice.

“We have citizen journalism now; so, information collection and dissemination [are] no longer a monopoly of journalists. This comes with a cost since regulation is now a big issue both nationally and internationally.”

Prof Nassanga was once the head of what is today the department of Journalism and Communication, following the acquisition of a PhD in 2003. At the time, she had worked with Dr Monica Chibita (now an associate professor at Uganda Christian University) since 1998 to establish the department.

The current head, Dr William Tayeebwa, is happy for the foundation laid by Nassanga and others.

“As a scholar, Prof Nassanga has led by example and published widely in addition to supervising several graduate students to completion. She continues to provide leadership to all staff in her capacity as coordinator for research and publications,” he said.

“We are counting on her to see the department grow into a school, as our first dean.”

Apart from lecturing and supervision of students, Prof Nassanga has carried out research in several areas relating to the media, and participated in the drafting of the national population policy and the national ICT policy. She has published 30 articles in local and international journals, and has been a consultant to national, regional and international projects. She is also a former chairperson of the Media Council.

A September 2016 analysis by Makerere’s directorate for Quality Assurance puts the number of female full professors at eight, compared to 68 male professors.

“We have continued to see an improvement in the number of female professors, although more efforts are needed,” explains Dr. Vincent Ssembatya, the director for Quality Assurance, who is also equally-excited about Prof Goretti Nassanga’s appointment.

Prof Nassanga acknowledges this finding and thinks it should be reversed as a matter of urgency.

“Women need to put extra effort in reconciling time for their office work, studies and the home responsibilities. This is because if anything goes wrong … the educated woman takes the blame.”

As part of her routine, Prof Nassanga listens to radio news regularly and will not miss out on television prime time news. You will find a copy of one of the dailies in her possession, or she will read the online papers.

The tech-savvy professor diligently responds to all emails on time and is an active participant on the department’s WhatsApp group. Prof Nassanga was previously married to Charles Mugoya, who passed on in 1996. She has a son, Kenneth Mugoya.

Some journalists with PhDs

1. Dr Peter G Mwesige
2. Dr George William Lugalambi
3. Dr Monica Chibita
4. Dr Annette Kezaabu
5. Dr William Tayeebwa
6. Dr Simwogerere Kyazze

This story was first published in The Observer newspaper