The minister wept.
As the New Vision told it, complete with pictures, Trade and Industry minister Amelia Kyambadde broke down as she began to address the audience at a primary school in Mpigi last week.
The paper said the minister blamed her tears on the sight of “hungry pupils and the state of the school”. Or could it have been also that the ministerial tear ducts gave because it was a nine-year-old American kid who had come to the rescue? Whatever the case, the tears sprung from a place of shame. What a shame!
The American child, who the newspaper does not name for whatever reason, made a donation (again the paper does not say what kind of donation but we can assume it took the form of American dollars) that will see latrines and four classroom blocks built. The donation is being channelled through Twezimbe Development Foundation that minister Kyambadde owns.
Right. Toddler heroes aside, we effectively have a progressive government that for three decades has failed to provide the basics in health and education for Uganda’s children. The government is presided over by a ruling party that would rather spend billions of shillings promoting its leader’s sole presidential candidacy than build latrines and classroom blocks in its primary schools.
There is obviously enough money for this government to feed Uganda’s young and build decent latrines and classroom blocks in all primary schools. It has chosen otherwise. It has chosen corruption, incompetence and patronage. Evidently, this way of running a country provides room for people with milk teeth to ride in and reduce ministers to tears.
I suspect minister Kyambadde’s bubble finally burst when she burst into those tears. I hope she is now down to earth, down from the perches that are State House and the ministerial chambers.
What will she do with her newfound knowledge and place? Keep begging from American babies? She is a minister in the Government of the Republic of Uganda and a Member of Parliament too.
Start a campaign
She could start a campaign, a movement in fact, for clean and efficient government in Uganda. She should start with fellow ministers. She should tell them that pretending to be forever busy while riding around in expensive fuel guzzlers rushing to cut corrupt deals is a large part of the reason our primary schoolers live wretched lives. She should burst her colleagues’ bubble. I don’t expect any of them to shed tears, after all Uganda’s revolutionaries are supremely cool even under immense emotional pressure. She should try nonetheless.
A ministerial voice speaking out for better learning conditions for Uganda’s children can be a powerful one. This lady minister has found her cause. She should embrace it, even if social media has been scathing in ridiculing her tears.
The school that broke the minister’s heart is an urban school. According to the Vision, Namabo Primary School lies in Kafumu Parish in Mpigi Town Council. Not that village schools deserve worse, but you can imagine what most of them must look like. Hungry pupils, jigger-infested pupils, under-the-tree classrooms, zero latrines, clueless teachers, idiotic district education authorities.
Of course, Ugandans have talked and talked about how bad things are especially in the education and health sectors. No one up there where big decisions are made ever appears to pay them any meaningful attention. That happens where a government is not bothered with things like accountability and responsiveness to people’s needs.
Minister Amelia Kyambadde can lend her voice. She must not let her tears go to waste. Else she will keep crying – apparently the last time had been in Parliament about 2011 as she listened to a teacher talk about surviving on Shs200,000 a month.
Mr Tabaire is the co-founder and director of programmes at African Centre for Media Excellence in Kampala.