Not many times do we see women get hold of top leadership positions in our society which is male dominated. It is even uncommon if the woman in question is a student at young but steadily growing university.
Maria Peggy Nabunya, the new guild president of Victoria University Kampala, has added her name to the short list of female guild presidents to rise that high in Uganda’s education history.
In this exlusive interview with Earthfinds, Ms Nabunya elaborates what this feat means to her, her plans for the university and vows to make an everlasting legacy at Victoria University Kampala, owned by businessman Dr. Sudhir Ruparelia.
Tell us about your background and the important parts of your life that the public should know about you as the new guild president of Victoria University Kampala.
My name is Maria Peggy Nabunya. I’m a student here at Victoria University Kampala. I’m doing a bachelors degree in science in public health, this is my second year. I have one and a half years to finish the course.
Aside from being a student, I have a television show. It is called Girl Talk. It was on NBS Television for some time but it is now in Kenya on Citizen Television.
I traveled a lot before university. I started my nursery here in Kampala. I did a little bit of my primary education at Kampala Parents’ School up to P3 then I left the country. I joined my parents in United Arab Emirates (UAE).
I stayed there for sometime before I came back in my O’level – in senior three (It is year nine in Cambridge education system). I came back and joined Agha Khan where I completed by O’level. Then for my A’level, I was at St Lawrence Crown City. While at Crown City I was the head girl.
What attracted you to join students’ leadership in schools that you attended? What inspired you to join school politics?
I have been a leader in high school before. In O’level I was junior house captain and in A’level I was the head girl. In my normal life, I am the first born. So leadership has been with me for a very long time.
So coming to Victoria University and be presented with an opportunity to be guild president was obvious for me, I had to do it. It is a challenge, that I am very well aware, but then it is also something I am sure I can take on.
What do you hate and love about leading your fellow students?
What I love about being a student leader is that if there is anything you want and love, you can easily push it directly to the people concerned and it happens. I also like the idea that being a student leader I can be able to interact with students.
What I hate about it is the meetings. I don’t like sitting in meetings.
Why did you choose Victoria University Kampala of all universities in Uganda and the world?
First of all given my background and moving around the world exposed me, when I saw and read about Victoria University, and talked to a few friends who had been here, it was just a perfect choice for me.
It is an international University. Here you are exposed to so much – networking, great internships plus I liked the idea of a getting a free laptop (Editor: Each student who joins Victoria University is given a free laptop).
Two years down the road as a student at Victoria University Kampala, how best can you describe your stay here, at this university?
My stay here at Victoria University has been one of a kind. It has not been like any other institution where I have been. People here are so warm and welcoming.
And the fact that we are not many students gives you a chance to interact with everyone at a very personal level. And you have access to everybody in administration.
We have an open door place so when you want to talk to a lecture, dean or the vice chancellor himself, it is very easy. They are willing to help you. My stay here has been awesome, the internship – it has been amazing.
Would you join Victoria University if you have another opportunity and task to choose which university to join for your post secondary education?
I would choose Victoria University in a heartbeat.
What inspired you to join student leadership here at Victoria University and later vie for guild presidency?
It is a very funny way how this came about. Like I said leadership has always been with me. There are people who saw it in me faster than I did last year. So they came to me and talked to me.
They asked if I had thought about being a student leader here at the University. The opportunity presented itself and I was not going to turn it down.
I was ready for leadership but I had not thought about it until I was approached.
What are some of your plans for the University as guild president? What do you want your tenure to accomplish by the end of the mandate?
As a member of the previous guild cabinet there are many things that we achieved and we are very proud. My plan is that I want to leave a legacy.
I want people at Victoria University to look back and say in 2018 this was done. And because of that, I am looking at things that are going to last for a long time.
The plans that I have will start with us in this cabinet but will go on for a long time. First of all, I am looking at engaging students more in activities that make them use their brains.
At the end of the day we are going to leave this place and go out there in the working world. You have to go there when you are equipped. You know Victoria University is all about creating job creators but not job seekers.
So in that aspect, as guild president, I feel there is a lot that I can do with my team to make that happen. We are encouraging students to start something for themselves. We want to look at people developing their talents.
You mentioned in an earlier interview that you plan to engage other universities and other higher institutes of learning, how exactly do you plan to do this?
You see there are very many inte- university activities apart from sports. What we have been doing is that we have been so active in sports especially football.
There are also other activities happening that we hear about like the miss interuniversity competitions and leadership summits, we want to be part of all these.
As a former vice guild president, what are some of the pressing challenges that the student leadership and university management need to address?
First of all, the first thing that has been challenge is students’ cooperation. You know University students want to come, do their thing and get out. I intend to change it. I want people to be more engaged.
The other challenge is raising funds for the sustainability of the activities you want to carry out. But I have a strong team behind me, they are hands on. We have ways of addressing these challenges.
Now that you are the first female guild president of Victoria University, do you feel any pressure considering that people will want to know how a young woman leads such an outstanding University?
No, it’s not pressure but it does count – you are the first female president and you must leave a legacy, that sort of thing. I don’t feel pressurized.
I feel like I am representing women not only female students at Victoria University but other girls and women who may look up to me.
It is not pressure but a blessing for me as a feminist. It is important for me to see young women doing big things. I intend to use this blessing. My sleeves are rolled up.
As a guild president and student, how do you plan to balance the two demanding responsibilities?
Well, the key thing here is planning and being disciplined. I can juggle all of this if I am organized. This can only work if I plan well with my cabinet. I have a cabinet of nine people.
We need to be focused on our books because primarily we are here to study. The only way we can do that is to be ready and organized prior to anything else.
We need to organize ourselves and activities – say this is what we intend to do this semester and we hand-it in so that when the semester begins all we do is follow up so that it doesn’t eat up our study time.