BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU
ARUA: TUESDAY, JUNE 28, 2022
Prof Christine Dranzoa, Muni University’s top ranked scientist and Vice chancellor has passed on.
A natural and biological scientist, Dranzoa’s areas of specialty included biodiversity conservation, ecology, tourism, and gender and community development.
At the time of her demise at about 3:30am last night, Prof Dranzoa was ranked number one scientist at Muni University and 171 scientist in Uganda by the Alper-Doger Scientific Index, a new system of analysis and ranking based on scientific productivity and the added value of the scientific product of individual scientists.
She was also the chairperson of the executive committee of the inter-university council of East Africa.
Born to peasant parents in Adua village near Moyo catholic mission, Dranzoa’s father Desdeo Ito worked as a casual labourer in Moyo town while her mother Victoriana Waiya was a disciplined house wife, having come from a royal family of a Madi clan.
Dranzoa, the seventh child in the family of eight children was born and bred in a typically rural setting.
Much as she was a little girl who attracted sympathy from her siblings, Dranzoa adopted a cow boyish life style where she liked grazing the family cattle and goats. She still has a visible scar on the mouth that was left by a cow’s kick during milking from its udder.
In 1971, she joined primary one at Maduga Moyo Girl’s primary school just a stone’s throw away from their home.
Dranzoa went to school barefoot like her peers and they learnt the alphabet while writing in the sand on the school compound with their fingers.
On many occasions she ran to school after hearing the school gong because each child at home had a plot of garden to water early in the morning in addition to the routine chores such as grinding sorghum, cassava or simsim (sesame) on stones.
Waiya made sure Dranzoa ate potatoes and the leftover of the previous supper before going to school so as to concentrate in class.
For school fees, the family sold foodstuff and the girls joined Waiya in brewing enguli and Kwete (local brews) which were stealthily brewed at night and sold at Maringo drinking joint in Moyo town.
It was a dangerous trade because the Enguli Act prohibited the brewing of local liquor at homes, that Dranzoa’s mother was frequently arrested by the police.
This period also coincided with the devastating consequences of former president Idd Amin’s “economic liberation” that led to scarcity of essential goods such as sugar, salt and soap due to the various embargoes Uganda was put under.
Dranzoa and her siblings would be sometimes withdrawn from school to go and line up at shops in town in order to buy these essentials when their mother fell sick.
Despite these immense difficulties, Dranzoa’s mother remained a devote Christian from whom she learnt her first catechism while grinding simsim. She was also strict on school attendance and despite not knowing how to read and write, she would check the children’s report cards and ask the older ones to interpret it for her.
That exposed Dranzoa to goal setting early that while some people celebrated scoring 70% in examinations, Dranzoa would cry in disappointment at such results.
“I really don’t know how people fail. Throughout my school time I have either being in the first or second position,” Dranzoa told this reporter back in 2014 as she waved a voluminous curriculum vitae that look like a pamphlet.
Such were the formative years of the professor who sat on that majestic seat as the Vice chancellor of Muni, the first ever public university to be established in the West Nile region.
She sat primary leaving examinations at Moyo parents’ primary school from where she was amongst the top five best performers. That won her a district scholarship to study at Sacred Heart secondary school in Gulu and relieved the family of the huge burden of paying school fees.
Liberation war interrupts studies
Her studies in Gulu were interrupted by the 1979 war that drove Amin out of power. The war found the children for holidays and Dranzoa fled with parents to exile in Sudan.
They returned in 1980 whereupon she returned to Sacred Heart to resume her studies but the scholarship programme had already collapsed with the deposed system. In October that year, all the students were sent home to register for the upcoming elections.
The elections were immediately accompanied by the most devastating war in the region that nearly emptied West Nile of its inhabitants.
Dranzoa and the parents were forced to flee to exile again. In mid 1981, Dranzoa threatened to commit suicide as she continued to press on her parents to bring her back to Uganda so that she would rejoin school.
Incensed by this persistence, Ito decided to bring and dump Dranzoa at Moyo catholic parish centre and he returned to Sudan. The reverend brothers at the parish centre took Dranzoa to a Comboni missionary in Gulu who accepted to pay her fees at Sacred Heart until she finished secondary education.
In 1984, she joined Makerere University under a government scholarship to study Bachelor of Science in zoology, majoring in aquaculture.
Dranzoa got her first job soon after graduating in 1987 as a fisheries officer at Kajansi. A few months later, she began her Master of Science in zoology programme at Makerere under East African Wildlife Society sponsorship.
She also saw brief services as laboratory assistant at the National Water and Sewerage Corporation, assistant sales officer at the Agricultural Enterprises and as a research fellow with the World Conservation Society.
Dranzoa completed the master degree programme in 1991 and without wasting time enrolled at the same university for PHD (Doctor of Philosophy in Zoology) by research, eventually attaining it in 1997.
Dranzoa as a lecturer
Dranzoa began lecturing at the Faculty of Veterinary science in 1991 and in the following year, she was elevated to head the unit and oversee its development.
By the time she left the portfolio in 2005 to take on administrative roles, the faculty had transformed into the College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-security (COVAB).
She became the deputy director of the school of graduate studies until 2010 when the government appointed her the chairperson of the Muni University Taskforce and the de facto Vice chancellor. This was the icing on Dranzoa’s cake in her meteoric rise through the academic ladder.
Honours and peer recognition
Dranzoa’s work propelled by persistence, hard work, integrity and consistency, attracted wide ranging recognition from the public including her professional peers.
Her first major recognition came in 1999 from the Forum for African Women Educationists-Uganda chapter who awarded Dranzoa a medal of excellence in education for mentoring the girl child and she went on to become the honorary secretary for the pan-African body.
In 2002 her contribution in wildlife conservation was rewarded with the Wankele Aarde (Unbalanced Earth Trophy) by the Dierenpark Amersfoort of the Netherlands while the Pan-African Ornithological Congress between 2004 and 2008 made her its president in honor of Dranzoa’s contribution in the field of avian research and conservation.
She has numerous publications in chapters of important journals in the field of zoology, wildlife and biodiversity.