Professors adopt hawker mindset

Author: Alan Tacca. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

The ill-defined and ill-executed PDM is partly a product of Museveni’s impatience with institutional procedure. He has raised ‘informality’ to something of a management philosophy. 

Last weekend, many media people kept referring to an Executive Order issued by President Museveni.
I must have been too distracted to follow the great man closely. All I knew was that he was roaming around the country, and I had the impression that after so many failed poverty alleviation, poverty eradication and wealth creation programmes, Mr Museveni was trying to figure out how the Parish Development Model (PDM) could at least pretend to succeed.

If I remember, part of President Museveni’s pre-2021 election message was that bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption had slowed and eaten up much of the money pumped into the earlier initiatives. He was a good man who wanted his people to be rich, but bad officials made it difficult.

If one did away with red tape, action would be quicker, and the thieving officials would be bypassed.
So Museveni seemed to be peddling this funny idea that money could jump from some central point and land directly into the bank accounts (or pockets?) of very poor people out there.
They would thus enter the ‘money economy’, whatever that means, invest the money and eventually pay back. 

Or maybe not even pay back, depending on Mr Museveni’s frame of mind around the 2026 general election.
The ill-defined and ill-executed PDM is partly a product of Museveni’s impatience with institutional procedure. He has raised ‘informality’ to something of a management philosophy. 

Whether he is buying fighter aircraft or sending soldiers abroad before parliamentary authorisation, or enlarging budget allocations for State House and classified expenditure on the army and coffee development, he wants a free hand. Even his hats, his baggy clothes and rambling speeches bear the stamp of informality. 
Similarly stamped was his Executive Order, which apparently was rather like a protracted monologue.

The order had something about banning the burning of charcoal in Acholi, and some rules for nomadic herders. But I am not going there. My interest is in the spread of the informality virus. 
Boda boda riders have it. Street vendors have it. NRM muchomo eaters at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi have it. Carpenters have it. Hawkers and other nomadic people have it.

Actually, because we so often stigmatise the hawker and the nomad generally, this Ugandan aversion to regulations and formal ways of doing things can be called the hawker mindset. 
Now, Uganda’s gods be glorified; because the professors running our citadels of learning have caught up with the rest of us.
I have listened to their excuses for running academic courses whose accreditation expired long ago.

Many years ago, they accepted the logic behind scrutinising their study programmes, the environments in which teaching was done, and their staffing positions. A (presumably) independent National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) would do the job. Every certification was valid for five years.

In 2023, when, ordinarily, the professors would see the logic even more clearly, given the rapid developments in education-related technology, shifting content needs, the mobility and departure of lecturers, and the mushrooming of rather dubious universities, the professors instead do not see accreditation as a serious matter!

When they complain that the accreditation process is too slow and the cost too high (never mind that they routinely charge the students a fee for this specific task), the professors are only confirming that they have no more confidence in the NCHE. They have finally embraced the hawker mindset.
The question is, did the NRM ruling elite contract this mindset from our people, or have our people been infected by the ruling elite?

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.
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