SDI/Makerere University Planning Studio Pushes Ahead

by James Tayler


By Skye Dobson, SDI Secretariat

The SDI/Makerere University Urban Studio is entering its final stage and things are moving along very well. A smaller selection of Makerere Students are working together with graduate students from the New School in New York to further clean the enumeration data and disaggregate information by settlement. The New School students are in Kampala as part of their International Fieldwork and the team of five Makerere students was selected for demonstrating commitment and professionalism during the studio’s first two phases. These local students have just finished their final exams so are now officially graduates and this work experience and mentoring thought the SDI/Makerere Urban Studio will be invaluable as they enter the job market or pursue further studies.

The settlement-level data disaggregation that the teams are carrying out is critical because each settlement has a unique set of circumstances. The interests on the use of land differs between settlements in the same city and this has significant implications for development interventions. Slum upgrading efforts need to be cognizant of existing land use and the corresponding social and economic realities.  While the interests on the use of land will be constituted typically of resident tenants, resident and non-resident structure and land owners, business, institutional and public interests, the proportions of these interests will vary greatly from one settlement to the next.

As a result of such variations, the negotiation the federation will engage in around the enumeration data will seek to achieve a solution that reconciles the greatest number of interests in a specific settlement. This is differentiated from conventional approaches to upgrading based on fixed planning standards. For the students involved in the studio the learning is constant. This assertion is supported by a selection of comments from the team:

Sophian (Makerere): “This has taught me a lot like being social, punctual and above all getting involved in data analysis. The process of analyzing data has proved a lot about informal settlements in Uganda like a lot of imbalance in the education levels where we have males being the pioneers, limited access to water, toilets, poor housing etc. “

Audrey (Makerere): “We started off with this exercise with the students of Makerere University and New York cleaning up of the data from Mbarara city. As we completed the cleaning up, we analyzed each of the settlements on their own and we started the drawing of the charts in the respective areas that are we think the graphs are needed.”

Carol (Makerere): “During this exercise we were coordinated by Mara [New School student] whom we consider our group leader. All of us who are doing the cleaning and analyzing of the data are currently working for SDI which has given us the opportunity to learn more which has been a blessing to all of us.”

Judith (Makerere): “Everyone is so great so far and I am so sure every one has learnt so much already. Personally, I wasn’t good with Excel, but now I am unbelievably so good. We have so far finished analyzing the data for Mbarara, Kabale and Arua settlements and have done the graphs for the reports for each of the settlements as well. At the end of last week, we had started writing the reports and we are hopeful that we will be through with them by the end of this week. Thank you so much for this opportunity because the experience I have so far, I would not have gotten it anywhere else.”

Sam (Makerere): “Through this work so far we have done, I have managed to gain some skills and added them to what I already had and I think as we go on, we will continue to teach each other new things in the due course. The work with both Makerere students and students from New York is going well and we are looking forward to produce quality for the community so as to satisfy the set goals and objectives.“

Mara (New School): “The process of cleaning the enumeration data and compiling the reports has given me deeper insight into the work of SDI.  In analyzing the data we have been able to see discrepancies in basic services such as education, access to water, and access to sanitation both at the settlement and city level.  This data also shows that not all informal settlements are alike and face the same challenges; each is unique and has different needs. Working with the Makerere students has been great. We have been able to exchange ideas and work together, all learning different skills from each other. I am looking forward to the next step of presenting our work back to the community and seeing how they can continue to use these reports to empower and provide the necessary services to their communities.”

Sam (New School graduate): “The enumeration exercises are impressive in their scope and ambition. The data they produce are very interesting and potentially useful because they provide such detail about marginal communities. You cant just google this information! There have been some challenges in working with the data so far, due to incompleteness or errors in data capture. The current review and editing process is a great opportunity to learn from the past and improve how data is captured and reports are written for the future. It is clear that the students, community members and various workers all put a tremendous effort into producing the enumerations and reports, and it is a pleasure to build on their work and support this project.” 

We will keep you posted on the final stage of this unique studio which has brought together slum dwellers, local academics, international academics, and local authorities in the pursuit of community-driven information gathering and inclusive, pragmatic planning. During the final stage the students will return to the various cities and accompany the federation as it presents its data to the municipalities. 

If you haven’t read the previous two blogs on the studio, please view them here: