I weep for my nation Uganda: Our Education system is failing us.

I only heard, learned and studied about them in high school back in Africa; The Atlantic Ocean, the snow, the Hudson bay, Appalachians …….. e.t.c and now  am right here seeing them with my very own eyes and having the actual picture of what I only had an opportunity, to see in text books and on Television some years ago. Yes, I am writing this from Nova Scotia Canada.
When I left Uganda on 1st January 2011 for North America, in pursuit of a Masters’ degree, all I could think about was, what lay ahead of me and how I would cope with the new education system which I believed was so different from that in Africa, specifically Uganda.

Just one week and a half into the semester at St. Mary’s University Halifax, http://www.smu.ca/ My thoughts are turning into reality. The education system, the style of lecturing and the reading culture are not only different from those in Uganda but far way advanced.  On the first day of my class, I missed two lectures because I was not up to speed. I was still figuring out how to register myself online for the courses I was supposed to take, which I did not complete in time to attend both lectures. When I finally got registered and started attending my very first class (Human and Computer interaction), I was impressed by the method of teaching, it was so inclusive, participatory and practical (though with gender issues in terms of students taking on the course). It even involved live streaming of vidoes on Youtube  about the importance of  observing human behavior when planning to design a system . See highlight of Vidoes 

Lots of interesting sessions followed.
But the only thing that came to my mind was Uganda’s education system. It’s true that it  experienced a major expansion when it started implementing the Universal Primary Education programme in 1997. Enrollment figures increased enormously and there are now about 8 million children enrolled in Primary schools but quality didn’t improve at the same speed. Current characteristics of education in Uganda include high absenteeism rates for pupils and teachers (up to 20%), low completion rate (54%) especially for girls, prevalent violence against children in schools and lack of sanitation (1 latrine for 66 pupils)-UNICEF, Kampala. I just had to lament to myself.
Until now, even as I write this short blog, I can’t help but weep for a nation full of young energetic and brilliant citizens whose energy is wasted as a result of unemployment that stems from the poor education system (FYI, I have been through the whole system) and who are being slowly but surely weakened and killed by the AIDS epidemic.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Uganda: 1.2 million HIV-positive adults, 150,000 HIV-positive children, 120,000 new infections per year, 64,000 deaths per year, 6-7% of adults HIV-positive, 350,000 in need of antiretroviral drugs and 1.2 million Orphans due to AIDS”
As a young woman, I will devote my time and energy to try and help fellow young people in my country change the future of our nation. FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY!
  • Great post!

    I do a lot of work in the Sironko area of Uganda as well as up north in Kitgum. Hopefully one day the Ugandan system will turn around.

    Malcolm

  • Thanks for the Comment Malcolm,
    Great reading from you. Would be great to know the kind of work do you in Sirinko & Kitgum. I am also optimistic that the system turns around. We still lack even the basic needs. So sad!

  • Maureen, thanks so much for sharing. You are a great change agent. Glad to have you in North America for a bit. And I hope we can meet in person soon. I will be in Kampala shortly as you know working with academic faculty as they do course design.

  • I founded an non-profit organization called Meaningful Volunteer (http://www.meaningfulvolunteer.org/).

    We run a number of programs in Sirnoko. Adult and child literacy, malaria, livelihood/fair trade, school building…

    I also founded GrassrootsUganda.com which deals mostly with people from the north and refugees (IDPs?) from the north who live in and around Jinja.

    Heading back there in May.

  • Hi Maureen, thanks for the nice post! Given that you obviously care, I will say please avoid the common pitfall of idealizing what you see in Canada and its corollary which is usually damning all there is in the Motherland. That song is too well know to need re-singing.

    Your title may be alarmist perhaps catching the audience requires such from a journalistic perspective, I guess.

    But it is worth always recalling that Africa(Uganda) is not a PROBLEM as too often presented, for seeing it like that seriously impede internal transformation, it rather disempowers. That is the perspective most of the literature on the continent particularly that from non-African strive on.

    Let say Africa is rather a FACT, a SITUATION with things going wrong as well as things going right, with problems as well as ready available solutions on the ground which we often care less to understand and explore. So busy we are attempting (most often unsuccessfully) to import the solutions, our superficial comparison and efforts to read Africa at the image of other parts of the World prescribes! A certain degree of endogeneity is a must if one seriously aspire to be prosper!

    If you check well, you will see that there are certain advantages the educational system in Uganda gave you that your Canadian university mates do not have; for the Canadian system has it flaws too just like the Ugandan's.

    Seeing the situation in Africa for what it is namely LIFE with problems and solutions cohabiting bring us closer to effecting positive transformation. For suddenly, the problems start appearing as not so insurmountable. Seeing Africa only as a problem mean we are doomed!

    Keep well in the cold weather of Nova Scotia.

  • Thanks Deb, I really want to meet you. I am sure we shall have lots of things to talk about. Am saying to myself…."Make this Happen Maureen, make it happen":)

  • Hello serge, thanks for that great and detailed comment and thanks too for appreciating the post.
    However, this is what I have to say in response to some of the issues you raised.

    I am not idealizing Canada but rather a few aspects of their education system. Truth MUST be told, it's advanced and indeed it has to be, given the fact that it's a developed country and it would be unfair or ridiculous for me to even try comparing it to Our Ugandan system.

    Of course there are several imperfections with the system too but I concentrated more on the participatory, Interactive, inclusive and practical bit of the system. And that's just an observation in a week's time. Am yet to notice other things in the next weeks and months to come.

    Africa(Uganda) has never been a problem, and that's why I had these words in my blog conclusion
    "I will devote my time and energy to try and help fellow young people in my country change the future of our nation" because I believe that it has all it takes to be a great nation with very great people.

    The problem is that the TRUTH hurts but through sharing it, we are propelled to find the solutions to our own/county's problem because no one else will. The power lies within each and every Ugandan. African is not viewed as A PROBLEM but Africa has a number of problems. It's a powerful continent with great potential but POOR systems. (That's a discussion for another day)

    Thanks Serge and I must confess that I miss that hot sunshine back in Africa:)

  • muloem

    Stop weeping, get your education done and do something when you get back to Uganda. 🙂

  • I have stopped @ Mulo. And I must excel in my education then get back and do something.

  • @Maureen, Bravo! you will do well for change to happen and hearty congratulations on your scholarship.

    @Malcolm and any other nonprofits please check out http://www.techsoupglobal.org they are a must for nonprofits for support and guidance for nonprofits to keep current with technology, no strings attached they are here for us.

    There is a growing movement to use games for social benefit, check out http://www.urgentevoke.com which trained me to be a social innovator, and Gameful which is connecting like-minded people to change people from playing games that chase monsters or the like to creating games for the social good in life. These are no strings attached as well.

    Change for the better in life for all is starting to move so @Maureen you will not be alone. The trick to staying warm is to wear layers.

  • Thanks Buffy Bye.

    Great to know that you were part of the Evoke game. So what was your project about? And did you make it to the Global giving site for donations? I guess you know Javie Ssozi too. A very brilliant young man who managed to fundraise for a farmers group through EVOKE. Also Ronald Kasendwa from Uganda. Guess you know them all.

    I just discovered the trick of staying warm recently and I am now enjoying myself:)
    Thanks @Buffy for the comment.

  • Thanks for the link Buffy!

  • Thanks Maureen, I heard you. Happy to hear we agree on the essential. Keep up the good spirit for as long the commitment to effect change is genuine, one will automatically adjust strategies and worldview as one keeps trying options. You cannot be wrong when you are genuine and persistent.

  • Adieku Raphael

    I am waiting and hoping that, one day you will come back think of starting a foundation to help the disadvantaged people especially in the rural setting. I have seen it from Uganda Technical College – Lira where you have Technical Courses being taught but when you look at the state of the college, you begin to wonder where the problem is yet you expect the graduates for the same college to get out there to make a "change". Just giving one example, you have students you are doing water engineering and are expected to do practicals to demonstrate their knowledge in what they have learnt but you hardly find any working flush toilet around the college, you find that the entire system is broken down. Oh Uganda May ….