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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!

Technology, Gender and Violence!! Break the Silence.

As I anxiously wait to join the rest of the world in marking the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence(GBV) from 25 November 2010 to 10 December 2010 whose regional theme is “Engaging Faith-based Communities to Prevent Violence against Women” focusing on how our faiths and faith-based communities can (and should!) get involved in preventing violence against women, I can’t help think of the millions of mothers, sisters, Aunties and nieces who have been violated yet still remain helpless and silent despite the growing opportunities and improved technology which can help them break the silence through sharing and reporting.

According to a Ugandan psychologist Paul Nyende violence ranges from Physical, Emotional, Economic and financial. In physical abuse, usually physical force against someone is used meaning that sexual abuse fits in this. A signs of this, is being viewed as a sex object or property rather than a human being. Whereas in emotional abuse, the abuser attacks the victim’s spirit by eating away their feelings of self-worth and independence making the victim feel trapped and worthless. Signs of emotional abuse are humiliation, being yelled at and teased in a hurtful way both privately and publicly, Verbal insults and calling you names against your will as well as using threats.

The financial abuse which is usually ignored by many, involves the abuser controlling their victim financially; the signs include monitoring one’s account for every penny spent, not letting you get on with your career or sabotaging you at your place of work.
MAJOR TACTICS USED BY ABUSERS.
Dominance: This is used so that the abuser is in charge of the relationship.

Humiliation: This is to make the Victim feel bad about him/herself.

Isolation: This is to increase the victim’s dependence on the abuser.

Threats: To scare the victim into staying with the abuser

Intimidation: To make the victim submit to the abuser’s will, this involved denial and placing blame to push into excusing the inexcusable.

AND WHO BREAKS THE SILENCE?
With the emergence of New Media and Technology, it is now evident that the power of the media is in the hands of the people. The only issue is how this power is being used to create positive social change in regard to combating Gender Based Violence. Web 2.0 technologies have given people the power of real time reporting, networking and receiving timely information, but how many people have the technical know-how of using them? Then the mobile phones whose subscription in Africa alone has surpassed five million http://ht.ly/37Ks7 and powerful penetration to the rural communities and can be used to combat gender based violence, How many people use up to 50% of the mobile phone application/functionality? How many are aware that it combines text, video and Audio?

Many people have mentioned to me that you get more knowledge by asking many questions. I am desperate to learn from you the readers of this article.
I conclude by quoting one man from Eastern Uganda who once said that: “For every bullet that hits a man during war kills a Woman’s Child”
Gender based violence is real and it affects all of us, some directly and others indirectly. But the good news is that it’s within our power to end it.

I Report on the First African Youth Forum on Maternal infant health and development in Africa.

Maureen, Laiton, Sean & Dr. Simon

The first ever African Youth Forum took place from 17th to 19th July 2010 at the Imperial Botanical Beach hotel  in Kampala Uganda.  This took place ahead of the African Union summit. The focus of the youth forum was to capture the voices of the youth from various African Countries and make sure that their concerns are addressed.
Sponsored by UNICEF, the theme was “maternal infant and child death: The youth call for action”, a number of questions had to be answered to find solutions to the epidemic “maternal mortality”. Majority  of the questions based on the “WHY”
·         Why do young Mothers die more than old mothers?
·         Why are young girls getting pregnant?
·         Why are the young boys/men getting them pregnant and not taking responsibility?
·         Why do so many lose their lives when pregnant of giving birth?
·         Why is the issue a young person’s issue?
·         Why do/don’t young girls abort?
·         Why don’t teachers teach about maternal death and continue to harass them?
·         Why does the community make them vulnerable?
If you cannot understand why, you cannot take the right decision
At the forum, it was noted that the patricial system affects the girl child and yet  many a times, society  doesn’t take action. The only way to reduce on maternal motality was to involve all parties; the individuals, the community and the Government .
In his speech during the official opening of the forum, Mr. Ben the Pan African Youth Union president said that the youth should have the spirit of UBUNTU to help enhance unity and development.  Mr. Alhaji who spoke on behalf of UNICEF Executive director Mr. Anthony Lake expressed his gratitude to Uganda for hosting the first African Youth Forum ahead of the African Union Summit. He acknowledged that the youth were the majority on the African continent and therefore had a big role to play in transforming the continent, he however mentioned that highest leadership as adoption of modern technology like mobile phones for rural communities are some of the factors that can enhance youth involvement.
Mr. Alhaji said that UNICEF supported the forum to mainly capture the voices of the youth from rural areas to make sure they are heard and their concerns addressed. He concluded by pledging UNICEF support to accompany youth effeort.
His excellency the president of Uganda Mr. Museveni wondered if the theme was relavant for the youth, he said that to be young , you have to not only be health but productive in a social, economic sense and not biologically. Mr. Museveni mentioned four key issues that could reduce on maternal and infant deaths in Africa; Immunization, Hygiene, Nutrition and behavior change to avoid catching HIV/AIDS. He said that Youth a lone cannot bring change, they need a conducive atmosphere like good infrastructure and electricity which are not clearly defined in Africa.
He conclude that if the youth are to get actively involved in issues that concern them, then we need a complete socio-economic transformation of the entire African continent.
On my part, I represented the Special Interest Group on Mobile health in Kampala. Together with UNICEF Kampala, Mobile Monday Kampala and the Faculty of Communication and Information technology, makerere, we were show casing some of the currently used mobile health applications for projects in rural Uganda  like Rapidsms, Find Diagnosis as well as OpenXdata.
The youth forum started on 17th and ended on 19th Jull 2010.