What you need to know:
- A similar trend is also noticed at a slightly lower level.
Quite recently, I had the opportunity to mentor two teenagers aged 13 and 17 years at my workplace. They had joined as interns for two weeks and four months, respectively, as part of their school curriculum.
I was literally amazed by two things, children interning at such an early age, and most importantly, by the fact that they were able to programme several digital devices.
This kind of head-start will go far ahead in presenting opportunities to forge successful careers in whatever fields they choose. In Uganda, we can draw some parallels - particularly with the Asian and Muslim communities, which tend to introduce their children to businesses quite early in life, and perhaps this could be a reason why many of their businesses are multi-generational.
Schools will reopen in January 2022 following President Museveni’s address to the nation on Covid-19 and security on October 28. This promise comes as a big relief to many parents who have had to endure the pain of seeing their children at home while schools in many countries remain re-open.
As millions return to school across the country, we shouldn’t lose sight of some of the gains we have achieved in education during the lockdown. Well, the pandemic has wreaked havoc through disruption of lives and livelihoods. However, some gains have been made, especially in the digital space with online or digital education finally taking shape. Schools and universities have had to resort to some form of digital classes using platforms not limited to, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and YouTube.
The government responded to this digital education movement by somewhat providing classes mainly to rural students, through TV and radio – its challenges notwithstanding.
Without the Covid-19 pandemic, digital education, especially at the lower levels would have perhaps taken decades to be realised. Right now, several children are acquainted with digital tools and technologies such as smartphones, computers, and the Internet, among others, for schooling purposes in a way that has not been done in the past. In fact, statistics from Uganda Communications Commission show that soon after the first lockdown was announced, total Internet subscriptions in the country crossed the 20 million mark, a first in Uganda’s history.
This broadband usage and consumption was largely driven by both digital education and work from home demand. Clearly, this is good progress as it presents a great opportunity to prepare our children to compete for opportunities on the world stage. As Uganda’s population grows at an annual rate of about 3.5 per cent, there is already pressure to start looking abroad for opportunities to curb the high levels of unemployment, underemployment, and household poverty.
However, to achieve this feat, there should be a tremendous effort towards promoting high- quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education. The President has hinted at it in his message of embracing science and technology to empower our people. Critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, analytic reasoning, and communication, which are the hallmarks of 21st century classrooms, are fostered through STEM.
Moreover, this would enable the country to not only benefit from an increment in remittance flows, which as of 2020 were $1 billion, but also stand out for being an innovation achiever or even better an innovation leader. Achieving a high-quality STEM enterprise would require strategic deployment and a pro-active policy like India’s.
The training, right from childhood, especially within STEM prepares their students for higher education and success outside India and as such they have become world beaters. Look at some of the world’s biggest companies and you’ll notice CEOs of Indian-origin heading them. For instance, Krishna at IBM Group, Pichai at Google & Alphabet, Nadella at Microsoft, Narayen at Adobe, Banga at Mastercard, and the list keeps growing.
A similar trend is also noticed at a slightly lower level such as the top professors at Ivy league universities, at Silicon Valley, not to mention several who are in Europe and rest of the world. Clearly, there is something they have got right. If they can do it, their history notwithstanding, why can’t we?
Timothy Otim, PhD Ugandan working at the German Aerospace Centre in Munich