Makerere’s diverse Hall culture: Is it not a tool for intimidation?

The 'Rat' statue at Mitchell Hall
Written by: 
Kabuulwa Muzafaluh

Walking through Makerere University feels like a free world out of restrictions - though the constraints on campus are obvious as stipulated in the University’s rules and regulations. However, the story differs when you get to the University halls of residence.

Halls of residence have certain norms and values, and they are ‘jealously’ protected by and passed on to every resident. These include anthems, parades, jogging, honoring statues and many more. For instance, at Lumumba hall, all residents respect the statue at the entrance only known to most as Gongom. To Gongom, they sing praise and give respect.

What identifies you as one of the members of a certain hall is the mastery of its culture or else you risk being forced to assimilate. Your ignorance only saves you when you find the hall commanders jolly. Many a time, they have not time to waste on deviants as one is immediately given a reprisal before being taught the culture in there. The treatment is fairly distributed to all no matter one’s size, age, and/or appearance.

When it’s time to instill cultural morals, the responsible people you passed by earlier on at campus become fierce, rude, unscrupulous and wild doing everything in their capacity to ensure that the recipients get a good teaching.

“You useless prick. Who are you to violate the culture of this hall?” A student tells the other as they force them to learn the anthems.

Well, it looks like the hall culture at Makerere is here to stay; but for what good is it when it inflicts harm to some in order to ensure its continuity?

Kiggundu Muhammed, the GRC at University Hall (UH) says the hall culture comes with both good and bad consequences. Kiggundu says culture practices such as jogging, interactions and porridge nights promote socialization and that respect to culture reciprocates respect to people in society.

Besides, Kiggundu disagrees with some practices such as banging people’s doors to force them into jogging. He further condemns the practice of  beating students for failing to respect hall culture.

“I am a student leader and an elder, but I have never for once believed in that (beating others). And I as well really condemn it. It is an unbecoming disgrace,” he says.

However, being violent to a faction around you feels comforting not until you don’t have it anymore. No one would wish to be beaten like a thief; and perhaps, revenge is inevitable. If one is beaten for his/her irrespective behavior, they will be eager to get the oppressor at the hall they are attached to and do the same in an act of revenge.

I don’t know of any society that respects culture like the halls of residence at Makerere University. But is this really culture? Bullying, intimidation, teasing and the like. For instance, I for one witnessed a fresher being hijacked into a parade at one of the halls, he was then gifted with two slaps for failing to recognize that one hand should be in the air and the other should touch the pivot of his body as they sing the anthem. “Squeeze them, squeeze them tighter,” a parade commander demanded as he slapped the innocent fresher.

According to the Makerere University rules and regulations, no student is expected to bully or tease another nor destroy university or individual property as this may  invoke disciplinary action.

For fear of contradiction, the outspoken people and the leaders in particular also fail to comment on such atrocities but rather dine with the tormentors. It is being reasonable to have norms and values in a society but adoption should be seen as a gradual process. Unless you are comfortable with the culture, getting accommodation elsewhere seems to be a good option.