The renovation of the “Ivory Tower” at Makerere University’s main building will not be complete by the time of the centenary celebrations on the independence eve on October 8, the contractor has revealed.

Fire gutted the historic building in September 2020 sending shockwaves across the country. The mystery fire according to a report compiled by the Criminal Investigations Department and the Ministry of Works resulted from a short circuit arising from a faulty electrical system.

Ever since preparations for the centenary celebrations started, the university management has been chest-thumping that the iconic building, which was opened by the colonial government in 1941 will be restored in record time and act as a gift for the centenary celebrations.

However, Satvinder Saini, the Director of Excel Construction Ltd, which is handling the restoration works, notes that this will not possible. According to Saini, even if they up their speed, they will complete the building in 18 months.

The contractor revealed this in an interview with our reporter on the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony for the restoration works presided over by the Education and Sports Minister, Janet Kataha Museveni Tuesday.

Saini noted that the construction works would be delayed up until June when they hope to finish the demolition of the existing structure whose integrity was questioned by engineers who recommended its demolition.

He explained that the demolition is taking too long because they want to preserve some of the windows and other items that survived the fire.

Talking about the construction and architectural works, Saini said he has already been availed with the original architectural designs of the building with slight adjustments in the interior.

The government has allocated UGX 21 bn for the restoration works of the historic building whose original construction began in 1938 with funding from several sources including regional governments, the Uganda protectorate government and several individuals.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony, Lorna Magara, the Makerere University Council Chairperson, showered praises on the minister for her continued support of different projects at the university since her appointment as Education Minister.

Magara pointed out that although the Makerere community is sad to have lost their great building, which many people had a special attachment to, the restoration project is opening a new dawn symbolizing a new philosophy of education aligned to Uganda’s aspiration.

Mrs Museveni noted that she was happy and humbled to return to Makerere university where the restoration works for the great ivory tower have started, saying it is a blessing for a double jubilee (100 years) and a milestone not only for the university and the ministry of education but the entire country.

Quoting the book of Isaiah in the Bible, the first lady noted that the restoration signals that Makerere has been given an opportunity to let go of the past and embrace the new future.

The minister also officially commissioned the refurbished dental hospital, central teaching facilities and building works of a block at the school of law. During her tour around the university, the minister could not resist pointing out that as Makerere University marks 100 years there is a need to carry out general renovations on several facilities including halls of residence, offices and lecture blocks that are now in an appalling state.

Prof Barnabas Nawangwe, the vice-chancellor, said that the government has already promised to allocate over Shillings 100 billion to give a facelift to each building in the university. He however notes that the works will be done in phases beginning with halls of residence.

Daniel Kidega, the university council vice-chairperson who is also the chairperson of the centenary celebrations noted that there are also plans to put in legacy projects as they mark 100 years including opening a student’s centre, which he said will be named after Mrs Museveni for her great contribution to the university. 

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