On struggle to eradicate ignorance, poverty, disease

Sunday August 25 2019

 

By Harold Acemah

During the good old days of the 1960s, the first government of the sovereign State of Uganda correctly identified three primary problems which faced the country, namely, ignorance, poverty and disease.
Contrary to the blatant lies and half-baked stories Uganda’s youth are told by the current ruling clique, ignorance, poverty and disease remain the principal problems and challenges facing our country and people; not security or infrastructure or “ideological disorientation”.

In order to effectively and decisively fight and eventually eradicate these evils of Ugandan society, the patriotic government of 1960s allocated adequate resources annually in the national Budget to three key sectors, education, agriculture and health. At least 40 per cent of Uganda’s Budget was earmarked annually for these sectors. It’s regrettable, indefensible and unacceptable that this is no longer the case.

Against this background, some illustrious young men and women from West Nile sub-region decided to take the bull by the horn. Instead of lamenting about a deplorable situation, they established West Nile Education Trust Fund (WNETF) which organised a fundraising dinner recently for the purpose of providing scholarships to bright and needy students from West Nile.

According to a story published in Daily Monitor of July 1 titled, “West Nile fund gets Shs120m for needy students,” during a dinner held on June 28, at Golf Course Hotel in Kampala, WNETF raised Shs121m in cash and pledges for scholarships to support bright and needy students from West Nile.

The commendable efforts of WNETF which started in 2013, has according to its chairman, Mr Charles Draecabo, seen the number of scholarships offered increase from four to 10, which is modest and insufficient. I would like to advise WNETF to demand some State House scholarships for students from West Nile. As proposed previously in this column, MPs should demand publication of the names of all beneficiaries of State House scholarships since the inception of this institution funded by taxpayers.

Speaking at the dinner, State Minister for Primary Education Rosemary Seninde challenged Ugandans by saying that, “elites should think about the quality of education in their regions as a way of giving back to their communities. This is what we should do to develop our people.”

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WNETF is committed to go a few steps beyond and improve vocational skills in the region as well as retool teachers. While I applaud WNETF for its commendable efforts and charitable work, I would like to remind Ugandans that it is the primary duty and responsibility of the government to provide quality education to its citizens. In this connection, it is the mandate of the Ministry of Education to translate government policy on education into concrete action through UPE, USE and public universities, such as, Makerere University, Kyambogo University and Muni University.

The role played by WNETF and similar organisations can only be supplementary and they should not take over the legal mandate of the Ministry of Education as Ms Seninde’s remarks appear to indicate. Government must own up and not abdicate its primary responsibility as the provider of public education to Ugandans from all regions and districts.

Knowledge is power
The importance and critical role of education in the political, social and economic development of Uganda cannot be overemphasised. Education is, in fact, the key which will unlock the door through which Uganda can enter into middle income and in the long term first world status.

The secret to rapid economic and social development in countries, such as Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea is education, not the AK-47 gun, as some misguided African leaders think. The saying that knowledge is power is a truism. I pity many mediocre African leaders who have put so much faith and trust in the barrel of the gun which they have used to amend national constitutions in order to entrench tyranny, rig elections and shamelessly plunder natural resources and wealth of African countries, with impunity.

I tell you, if Uganda wants to join the ranks of Singapore, Malaysia and South Korea, government must get our country’s national priorities right. Instead of wasting scarce public resources on the military and regime survival, Uganda should double investment in education, agriculture and health.

Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.
hacemah@gmail.com

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