Education democracy is crucial

Sunday September 19 2021
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Philip Matogo

By Phillip Matogo

In the early 60s, there were revolutionary changes sprouting around the country amid our flowering education sector.

At the time of Independence, Prime Minister Milton Obote’s government sought to change the education system in ways that would re-assert the self-determination of a nation still in its nappies.

First, Obote sought to address the question of the system being run by expatriates. They were still the rump of the teaching staff from secondary school upwards. So “Africanisation” of teaching posts was of the essence.

Second, yet by no means of secondary importance, was the need for double enrolment in secondary schools in five years.

In this regard, the World Bank, in its report on economic development, supported this and so did the Castle Education Commission Report, which advocated for the democratisation of education.

The Castle Report also echoed the strong missionary tradition in Uganda, placing an emphasis on ‘character-building’, general education and training for specialised jobs which would help undergird Uganda’s quest for industrialisation.

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Then there was the 1964 Education Act, which sought to put Ugandans at the helm of running schools. According to this plan, the boards of governors of each school would reflect a predominance of government representatives, specifically Ugandans.

The plan was to make schools non-denominational, that way even ivied institutions such as King’s College Budo, the so-called Eton of Africa, would no longer be a ‘Protestant’ school, or St Mary’s College Kisubi a ‘Catholic’ school. At the time, a story in the biggest newspaper of the day, Uganda Argus, (December 18, 1963) called this Education Act nothing short of revolutionary.

Obote’s determination to ensure that government take full control of the education system was transformative. The 1970 Education Act completed this revolutionary flourish. In Uganda’s Development Plan for Education, 1964/65 up to 1970, enrolment was bolstered markedly. Obote didn’t stop there.

The second five-year plan, Work for Progress, declared: “The government, therefore, attaches the highest importance to the expansion of secondary education, and much more will be spent on this than on any other branch of education during the Second Plan.”

Obote government’s ‘Move to the Left’, namely The Common Man’s Charter, 1969, explained the rationale for this plan:

“We cannot afford to build two nations within the territorial boundaries of Uganda: one rich, educated, and the other, which constitutes the majority of the population, poor and illiterate. Our (current) education system aims at producing citizens whose attitude to the uneducated and to their way of life leads them to think of themselves as the masters and the uneducated as their servants.”

One way we may rediscover such patriotism is by reinstituting the democratisation Obote sought in our education system.

The government must massively invest in education technology through language Apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software. And thereby provide free internet access to all as a means to democratising education.

Finally, government must re-introduce Political Education in schools to encourage free reflection on the nature of this educational democratisation. This will give our children a full realisation of their own social and political dimensions.  This understanding would shape a democracy’s bedrock essentials to a political consciousness, ensuring the Ugandan of tomorrow no longer delegates his or her power when they can wield it towards correctly answering Uganda’s politico-educational questions. 

If we do not do this during this education crisis, we risk raising Ugandans who are schooled as opposed to being educated.

Mr Matogo is a professional copywriter 

[email protected]

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