People & Power

On foot, from Kampala to Entebbe

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A vehicle mechanic goes about his job in Kampala early this week.

A vehicle mechanic goes about his job in Kampala early this week. PHOTO BY STEPHEN OTAGE 

By Timothy Kalyegira

Posted  Sunday, February 3  2013 at  02:00

In Summary

Need for concentration. I’m trying to see if the damaged sections of the CDs and DVDs that store our memory can be repaired by a rigorous process that involves training in indexing, research, developing the ability to get the African mind to work through tedious and irritating detail without losing concentration or patience.

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On Tuesday, January 29, I woke up early in the morning and set off on foot from Kampala to Entebbe, 35km away. The plan was to see if I could walk the 35km distance from Kampala City to Entebbe International Airport, non-stop, without sitting down to take some rest.

I set off at exactly 6:45am and arrived at the security check point and road toll station at the airport at exactly 2:15pm, exactly seven hours and 30 minutes later.

In total, I lost about three minutes along the way when I stopped to take photographs and when, upon arriving in Entebbe town, stopped by a supermarket to buy a bottle of drinking water.

The purpose of this gruelling trek to Entebbe was to test a new training routine I’m working on in the hope of thinking and working a way around the problem of our low productivity in Uganda and most of Africa.

We can start all the schools we want, have tens of thousands of our pupils and students sit PLE, O-Level and A-Level exams, give front page space to delighted “PLE stars” and their parents and teachers, take our children to international schools, but the end is always the same; we remain ordinary people incapable of achieving much beyond “surviving”.

Nothing can seem to get us out of this state of ordinariness. Universal Primary Education was introduced into Uganda by the UPC government in 1964 and re-introduced by the NRM government in 1998.

Ugandans win scholarships
Thousands of Ugandans have been awarded scholarships to Europe, Australia, North America and Asia since the 1960s, many of them at the world’s top universities.

Several dozen Ugandan army officers have undergone officer training at prestigious military academies from the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst to the Mons Officer Cadet School in Britain.

Ugandans have got jobs in the World Bank, United Nations, EEC-EU, Microsoft, 3M, Google, the US space agency NASA, and many of what are usually considered the world’s best corporations.

Hundreds of thousands of Ugandans currently and in the past have lived in or travelled through world class cities like Paris, Toronto, London, Hong Kong, New York, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Geneva, Toronto, Johannesburg, Rome and Boston.

The Internet, with its ocean of instantly accessible information is right in our midst. But all this, at least to me, is that it does not work much. We remain more or less the same as we are, no matter what top-level international work, travel and educational training and exposure we receive.

Our typically adolescent personalities that revolve around working hard (or stealing) just so that we can buy “nice things” as the crowning achievement in life, do not get transformed.

From heads of state to cabinet ministers, ambassadors, academics, corporate executives, military officers, students, peasants, social workers and civil servants, the ultimate goal toward which the Black African, Black American and Black European works is nice shoes, nice flat, nice clothes, nice furniture, nice car, nice plasma flat screen TV, nice sofa set, nice dinner set.

“Nice things”, researched, designed, manufactured and imported from Europe, Asia and America. Our whole contemporary history, national and individual effort and aspiration in Africa is to “live well”, like the Whites we see on TV and in fashion magazines.

We grow from infancy into childhood and adolescence but from that point on, we generally remain thinking and acting like teenagers for the rest of our lives, attracted forever to and by flashy things and instant gratification, with little deep concern for much else.

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