Wednesday August 27 2014

How do we promote sciences without adequate funding?

By Morris Komakech

Going by President Museveni’s wishes, Uganda will soon become a nation of robots and scientists. For the second time, the President has condemned Arts subjects for causing rampant youth unemployment. Many writers have pitched in on this subject already in the last week, criticising the President for his rash utterances.
Every nation prides in its education system as the engine of civilisation and economic growth. The human experience is dynamic, fluid, unique and infinite. The so-called civilisation and renaissance were inspired by determinism manifesting in imagery, artistry - paintings of the likes of Michelangelo (1475-1564) and his contemporaries like Raphael, Donattello, Giorgio Vasari etc., changed the world’s value systems. The works of literature and philosophical thoughts that shaped public administration and a more elaborate understanding of the human mind, body and ways were all entrenched in art and language. The importance of humanities from historical perspective and its centrality in human civilisation today cannot be under estimated.

The President comes from this school of simplistic reasoning that Arts subjects are purely theoretical. The undermining of theory is a common mistake among elites in Uganda. I maintain a simple argument that subjects in the Humanities are as practical as those in sciences and require same prioritising. In fact, in most cases, they mobilise innovation, which inspires scientific breakthroughs. Arts and science, therefore, cannot be segregated without causing genocide of the other!
One of the problems with Ugandans is to under-estimate the power of thinking. There are no scientific realms which can over step the boundaries and mandate of thinking. Unfortunately, we are quick at consigning thinkers to the anal of history. We believe that as Black people, we are incapable of thinking and reasoning. We place very little value in examining immediate phenomena, but prefer to know how Europeans or Americans dealt with similar issues. This is why we rubbish Humanities.

We buy books of philosophy, quote great Western orators and write our theses with enormous citations from Western literature and research evidence. President Museveni forgets that these people invest in research and thinking. They actually grow grey hair and give up their families, friends and social life to concentrate and produce classic products that transcends generations. We must recognise the validity of thinking as a practice – which intersects both sciences and Arts.

The roles of Humanities in society are immense; whether the painters or singers, dancers, political scientists, sociologists, social workers etc. The end objective is as practical as sciences. Artists produce expensive Art pieces, dramatists control theatres and movie making, lawyers make constitutions and dispense justice, etc.
The President who criticises studies in Humanities presides over a government which does not fund science education. Since 2005, science subjects became compulsory but most of the schools have no science labs or science teachers.

Sciences have been taught alongside humanities in Uganda for over a Century. We have not had any major scientific innovations, such as those in South Korea and yet those with Arts background have written policies, maintained our theatres, produced music and movies and won global awards in journalism.
Ugandans must come to accept that theory informs scientific practice. Scientific practice without theory and ethics is false science. This is precisely why everything we do appears shoddy, incompetent and worthless in the long-run.

Mr Komakech is a Ugandan social critic and political analyst based in Toronto. Can contact via