Why Uganda is failing in education sector

Students study during class time at Kakungulu Memorial Secondary School in Kibuli, Kampala on February 25,2021.PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • One sector severely hampered is education.  For more than two weeks,  learners in public primary and secondary schools are all at home due to teachers’strike for better pay.

True leadership is like a relay race. One person passes the baton to another, one generation to another. But woe to that nation where one egocentric person claims to be its saviour, knows it all and turns a five-year relay race into a 40-year marathon! It will lag behind in all aspects.

With transport, railways, airlines, banks, industries, healthcare, cooperatives et al in a limbo. The national debt is nearly twice the national budget due to excessive unrestrained borrowing. Why despise governments that left minimal debt or none at all (like Amin’s) with the presumption that oil money will square that all?

One sector severely hampered is education.  For more than two weeks,  learners in public primary and secondary schools are all at home due to teachers’strike for better pay.

The debate about Sciences versus Arts has been ongoing with no tangible policy derived to resolve the impasse. The difference between Science, humanities arts and skill related arts is that whereas the former is governed by principles that can be learnt by anybody through teaching experiments certain skills are inborn as specific individuals and can only be polished through learning.

A music artiste, comedian, athlete or administrator who is educated gets exposed through learning and performs better.

In countries like Nigeria and Ivory Coast, footballers (Kanu, Drogba) who played in European leagues contributed a lot in terms of community and national development.

Gospel preachers Benson Idahosa and  David Oyedepo built schools and universities. Prophet TB Joshua turned Lagos into an international religious tourism destination and offered many bursaries for learners in international universities like Harvard and Oxford.  Besides teaching scientists to obey the ethics of their respective professionals, these non-scientists employ them instead! Nigerians who left their country as preachers are scattered all over the nations not as mere migrant workers but key stakeholders in psychosocial welfare.

The Ministry of Education publishes views of ‘science experts’, part of the plethora of presidential advisers who exhibit no knowledge about children, especially their attention span.

Children learn in phases because they have a shorter attention span and better through practical activities like games. As children we had longer times of play in lower primary than those in upper.

Games such as the traditional Omweso, which involved counting and monitoring the steps of your opponent, made mathematics very easy for us.

Our generation never used calculators throughout primary and secondary and to date we treasure our brains except for tedious tasks involving large digits. Yet now Senior Two learners are confined to calculators, being taught by teachers who struggle with mathematically oriented subjects.

It is ironic that these very teachers are counted worthy of the highest pay in comparison to their arts counterparts who teach English, the language of instruction and other subjects that build memory capacity.

Teaching is all about learning, understanding and communicating what is learnt whether it is a Science or Arts subject. While it is healthy to encourage science education by motivating science teachers, such monetary enhancements shouldn’t be disproportionate.

We are in dire need of a national policy that leaves science learners vulnerable to working as unskilled maids in other once third world nations like ourselves.

In the Philippines and Cuba, for example , many science learners graduate as nurses and doctors to get lucrative jobs in America and Europe. Additionally scientists must prove their worth by carrying out extensive research in our rich equatorial/tropical environment like China has done and prospered. Otherwise learning science subjects using imported language, chemicals and instruments makes no difference at all with learning European history.

Charles Okecha, ICT Practitioner/Gospel Preacher, Mbale-Uganda.


Teachers are not scientists

Referring to primary and secondary school teachers, medical practitioners, engineers, technicians, technologists; mathematicians and former scientists working in public and private sectors as scientists is wrong.

Scientists must be full time engaged in research work to generate new knowledge which is then used by all those people listed above.

There is a difference between reading or attempting to learn something and being involved in doing it. Primary and secondary school teachers study to understand different sciences but they do not do research to add new knowledge to their respective sciences.

In other words, they are not scientists. The same applies to all those categories listed above.

What may be of interest to the government  is to  look at  countries like Japan, China, South Korea, India that have not  economically advanced by only learning about science( which Uganda mostly does) but promoting technologies that enable them to make products for export. In Uganda, National Agricultural Research Organisations ( NARO) is where scientific knowledge generated by our scientists  is used to improve (technology) crop varieties.

The same should apply to other areas like machine and equipment building. Copying technology is more important than reading about science and teaching it, whether in school or universities.

Therefore, the government should develop a new approach to promote technology not science. Let the rich nations do science (science is shared globally) and we use scientific discoveries to develop our technologies (these are not shared).

Balla Turyahumura, Former Scientist/Technologist