There is a general concurrence that with a proper functional education system, Uganda would be producing a lot more talent, that is, in different disciplines.
While the country has been blessed with occasional breakthroughs of Olympic and World marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich, footballer Ibra Sekagya or sprinter bronze medalist Davis Kamoga, with proper systems, that number would even have been in tens, if not hundreds.
Like in most developing countries, identifying one’s talent at a young age and nurturing it has been difficult. As such, it is often down to luck and an individual’s own effort to have a breakthrough.
Some have blamed Uganda’s education system that has for long not done enough to marry education and sports, for example.
But is it down to lack of a defined system? Do we even recognise and appreciate talent at a young age in school as a country?
The problem is implementation
“Generally, I could say we do. By policy,” says Fagil Mandy, former boss of Uganda National Examination Board (Uneb).
“But, by about 80 per cent, we do not implement. I think our weakness is the implementation levels,” he adds. “When you look for example at the Education White Paper – which is a policy document – the characteristics of a young person are described clearly, that our education system is supposed to produce a wealth generating youth, somebody who is scientific. Now, who has measured that?”
Actually, there is no lack of a sports policy in place. Way back in the late 90s, the government realised that there was increasing public demand for; better performance in sports, art and culture; improved funding; better management and administration; and transparency and accountability in sports.
The government also could not escape from the benefits of Physical Education and Sports to the individual as well as to the nation.
So they embarked on a journey to have a Physical Education and Sports Policy in 1999, which was finally put in place five years later.
In the policy, the Ministry of Education and Sports is, in conjunction with the National Council of Sports, charged with monitoring and evaluating the implementation, coordinating with the relevant line ministries.
National Sports Association are charged with identifying and developing Physical Education and Sports talents through youth competitions and training coaches, athletes and technical personnel, while the National Commission for Unesco links up with the body in matters of sports, culture and education.
The policy was developed along lines of formal education and emphasises that such education should cover basic theoretical and practical skills of handling different types of sports.
It rightly insists on physical education or sports education being based on comprehensive and relevant curriculum and syllabus, hence, the need for specialised higher institutions of learning for professional sports to cater for those interested in pursuing sports as a lifelong career and profession.
While the latter still has a long way to go, physical education has been accommodated in the syllabus, and a good number of primary schools generally practice it. But Mandy believes it is not going the right way.
“For example, at the introduction of the Education White Paper; every school is supposed to teach physical education. But right now, my estimation is that less than five per cent of schools, government and private, are teaching PE,” he says.
Co-curriculum activities in schools
“We know that we have a document called basic requirements and minimum standards indicators for schools, and I was chairman of the committee that initiated that thing when I was a commissioner.