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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!

MY FIRST AWARD EVER: EAST AFRICA REGIONAL WINNER.

Having been the very first of its kind; The ARDYIS Youth essay Contest focused on Youth, ICT in Agriculture and Rural Development aimed at identifying innovative solutions to challenges faced by youth in agriculture and rural areas using Information and Communication Technologies.
The essay contest which was open to young people, aged 18 – 25 years old, from urban or rural areas of Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific countries attracted 184 youth applications and only 12 finalists from the six regions were shortlisted. I was among the Young women/professionals who applied and I answered the question on “How young people are using ICTs innovetatively in Agriculture” with a case of a young fruit grower Mr. Gilbert Egwel from Northern Uganda in Apac district.

On 13th October 2010, 12 Finalists with two from each of the six regions of the African, Caribean and Pacific regions (ACP) were announced. After the evaluation of oral presentations of the selected essay took place in South Africa on 22 and 23 November 2010, as part of the CTA/NPCA Week events organized by CTA and the NPCA (NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency) from 22 to 26 November 2010. The 6 winners of the contest were to be announced on 24 November 2010. One winner per ACP region, and an overall winner. However, 7 winners emerged with 2 coming from East Africa as opposed to one. And the winners were:

West Africa:
– Itodo Samuel Anthony (Nigeria)
Central Africa :
– Gabriel Dacko Goudjo (Cameroon)
East Africa
– Maureen Agena (Uganda)
– Chris Ngige Mwangi (Kenya)
Southern Africa
– Gerald Musakaruka Mangena (Zimbabwe)
Caribbean
– Tyrone Christopher Hall (Jamaica)
Pacific
– Riten Gosai Chand (Fiji)
With Caribbean regional winner Tyrone Christopher Hall from Jamaica emerging as the overall Eassy Contest winners.

To all the winners and finalists, WELL DONE and WELL WON and to The centre for Agriculture and Technical rural development(CTA) thanks for looking at the youth as potential players in bridging the Agricultural divide through the use and application of ICTs.

WATER IS EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS. WE ALL NEED IT TO SURVIVE!!

Putting a price on Water will make us aware of its scarcity and make us take better care of it” Agnel Gurria, Secretray –general of the OECD,quoted in The Guardian.’Experts call for hike in global water prices’. April 27th,2010.’”
Water is being referred to as a new oil, says Edith Van Walsum the Director ileai.  The UN declared that access to water and sanitation is a fundamental human right but millions around the world still lack even the most basic access.
With over 88% of Uganda’s population of 32 million being rural based and depending almost entirely on agriculture at various levels of livelihoods. It is widely held that access to clean water for both domestic and agricultural purposes by rural communities can not only increase agricultural productivity; it can also result into improved health which in turn would enhance economic and social development.
Millions of people in Uganda do not have access to clean water for both domestic and agricultural purposes and due to the high costs of conventional piped water, Rain water harvesting, a low cost technique is a valuable alternative to overcome the growing water shortage. People collect and store rain water in buckets, tanks and ponds which they use for multiple purposes ranging from irrigating crops, washing, cooking, bathing and drinking. This collected rain water can supplement other water sources when they become scarce or are of low quality.  
The Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural Cooperations ACP EU(CTA) through her CTA2010annual seminar has dedicated this year’s theme is ‘Closing the Knowledge Gap: Integrated Water Management for Sustainable Agriculture’ to make the world aware of the importance of water  also, this year’s BlogActionDay them is WATER  and all bloggers world over are invited to have their say.

The Third East African Internet Governance Forum takes place in Uganda

Strengthening East Africa’s critical Internet Resources ”Thinking globally; Acting locally” is the theme for the Third East African Internet governance forum (EAIGF) which is currently taking place at imperial royal in Kampala Uganda. The forum started on 11th August and ends on 13th August.
The forum was opened by Eriya Kategaya, the first Deputy Prime minister and minister of East African Community Affairs in Uganda who represented the prime minister Apollo Nsibambi.
The Opening Session of the 3rd EAIGF in Kampala
Hon. Kategaya emphasized the need to create awareness on Internet Governance issues within the East Africa region and to enact enabling laws for Internet growth and cyber security.
The Ag. Executive Director, Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) Mr. Patrick Mwesigwa said that the Internet is a critical resource whose governance is mandatory. He added that The Commission has been involved in the Internet Governance process since the World Summits on Information Society of Geneva in 2003 and that of Tunis in 2005, which resulted in the creation of the Internet Governance Forum. It is gratifying to note that the Uganda National Internet Governance Forum has continued to play an active role throughout the entire process. Mr. Chengetai Masango, from UN Internet Governance secretariat said there is need to look at lowering of Internet prices in East Africa after the landing of cables at the Mombasa cost.
The East African Internet Governace forum is an annual conference within Eastern Africa that takes place to mainly discuss issues that have come up at National level form all the the East Africa Community (EAC) countries Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda which have IGF chapters
Min. of EA Affairs Mr. Kategaya
Critical issues discussed included discussed IPV6 migration, de-regulation of ccTLD, cyber security, rootservers and exchange points among others.
Alice Muyua from Kenya who is also the East African Internet Governace Forum convener mentioned that Kenya would host the next global IGF in September 2011 if the UN Assembly gives the mandate.

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.