Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Is Our Education Appropriate?

I was so impressed by this article by Dr. Ian Clarke that was published in The Sunday Vision. It is kind of debate I would like raise with my friends, colleagues and citizens of Uganda. Most importantly, my sons. Read on and feel free to comment...

WE are in that season when young people are frantically trying to enrol for courses at universities and it appears that a candidate chooses a university course more on the basis of availability than preference. Universities generally find it easier to set up classroom-based courses — what is known as ‘chalk and talk’, than the more difficult to run science or engineering courses, which require laboratories and practical training facilities.

Hence such arts courses are more readily available and large numbers of students choose subjects such as social sciences. Each time I interview for an administrative position, practically all the candidates seem to have social science degrees and while many of these young people are bright, there are not enough jobs to go around.

Law is another popular degree; perhaps because there is a perception that lawyers are among the cream of society. But how many lawyers does Uganda need? I understand that the Uganda Law Development Centre spits out 600 lawyers onto our streets every year. What can a developing country do with 600 young lawyers, all looking for work?

Lawyers in Uganda are like actors in Hollywood — there are many aspiring, but few who make it to the top, while the rest are left to hustle for a living. Now if all of these bright young lawyers were trained as doctors, it would be a different story. Uganda trains less than 200 doctors per year, all of whom have a clientele of 28 million people just waiting for their services.

I asked a friend from India what were the factors which had been responsible for India’s rapid development. He attributed a large part of India’s development to IT and further pointed out that a high percentage of people working in the US, in companies such as Google and Microsoft, are Indian. He felt that Indians have an advantage over their American counterparts, because of the type of maths-based education they receive in India where they were taught to use numbers, without first referring to a calculator.

Hence their minds were trained in mathematical skills from an early age, which in turn translates into excellent computing skills. So how are we training the minds of our young people in Uganda? Our education system is based on rote learning, in which the student has to cram facts into his memory. We are not training their minds in problem solving, nor are we teaching them to have enquiring minds.

Sometimes it is quite the reverse, we are simply stuffing them full of facts and since the facts are theoretical and not related to the experience of the student, they are immediately forgotten. If we were to train those students to have inquiring minds, then we would be developing brilliant minds to be employed in solving the real-life problems of business and entrepreneurship.

So is our education really appropriate to our needs as a developing country and are we training in such a way that our young people become valuable human capital? There are two ways in which education can be useful. The first is to train someone in a profession which is useful in the society, such as being a doctor, agriculturalist, or teacher.

However, when there is a glut of certain professions (such as lawyers) we can place less emphasis on training in these disciplines. The second use of education is to train people to use their mind as a tool — to train them how to think, analyse and problem-solve.

The Indians were given an education that helped them use their minds in computing, but there are many other skills that the mind can be trained in. What we should be asking ourselves is what we are training our young people for and how we are training them. I heard about a child who was rebuked for questioning the teacher and told to keep quiet, while the teacher droned on.

The principle of computing — rubbish in, rubbish out — also applies to education. If our children are made sit through school, never question anything and dutifully copy down facts from the board, then don’t expect them to show initiative, think for themselves, or show aptitude to take responsibility when they reach the workplace.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Infidelity and the Challenge of Monogamy

I have been rather silent on the "blog" for most of this month, but every time I wanted to post something I would feel that 'push' leave me. For fear of not writing inspired, I have been leaving for another time.

However, today s I was surfing the net I came this very interesting story about a seemingly perfect husband straying from the arms of his supposedly loving wife to tempting warmth of her 'best friend'! Earlier this week, a friend who spent several minutes reading my posts on the blog questioned my sanity but in his e-mail, he sent me a link to this article.

Both have the thread of yielding to temptation running through them, reflect on these and I will share a similar experience....

By the way, am I mad?

Saturday, 10 May 2008

3rd May Should Be the Day to Audit Uganda's Media

A week ago, some journalists in Uganda gathered to mark World Press Freedom Day at the offices of The Independent, a fortnightly publication owned by Andrew Muhangi Mwenda, perhaps one of the most internationally known 'scribe' from this nation of ours [the other I can think about is Charles Onyango Obbo, one of the founders of The Monitor, which is now part of the Nation Media Group].

Much as the gesture was one of solidarity with Mwenda, who had been brutally arrested a few days before by security operatives over certain articles in The Independent, it was at best just posturing and ignorance of what needs to be highlighted as regards media freedom in Uganda.

There is an attempt by Emmanuel Gyezaho, the President of Parliamentary Press Association, to present a case of the challenges of the 'scribes' [Ugandan journalists like to call themselves that] in their work. I believe that there are much wider issues that the media fraternity [another way they like to refer to themselves] needs to self-examine in their role as the fourth estate. One of them is the too-close-for-comfort "buddyness" with the corporate world as observed by this piece [just as an example]. It is so blatant that many times, I ask myself if the media is part of the PR department of these companies. My 2 cents is that this is a kiss of death that definitely comprises the fourth estate..

The other is aptly captured by this editorial by an online publication by students of Makerere University, which I have pasted verbatim below:

[Of course, there are other issues for instance, the persecution of journalists especially in areas out of the capital, the impotence of media associations like UNEPA [of media proprietors and editors], UJA, NIJU [of the journalists], I think they died a long time ago....if not, they are too ineffective that they just disappeared in the shadows of time and became irrelevant.]

Next year, we should mark 3rd May as the time we do an audit of the media against a checklist we should make this year.

World press day excitement, a mourning day in Makerere

World Press Freedom Day is marked annually by the United Nations on 3 May to celebrate the significance of press independence, wider freedom of expression through media and address challenges journalists face.

In Uganda, this day is commemorated with awarding an investigative journalist. This year, the awarding has been pushed to 24th May. An event administered by Mass Communication department of Makerere University and East African Media Institute.

In Makerere, 24th May would be a day to mourn the collapse of “University’s” Newspapers: The Campuser, The Makererean and Masscom Online. Investigations establish poor leadership and inadequate funding as catalysts to fading away of emerging newspapers. Makerere does not appreciate its own. 107 Campus FM is static with unclear signal even in some parts of the University, yet the University spends millions of shillings weekly relaying communications and adverts on external media. Campus FM depends majorly on internet in compiling its bulletins due to lack of recording equipments and the University has not considered it as its mouth piece.

In the digital world, the 85-year-old Makerere lags behind without official newspaper, yet it has quality manpower and brags to have one of the best printeries in the country. Uganda Christian University, Mukono, is proud of a newspaper it funds and manages; The Standard. Going south, University of Botswana flaunts UB Horizon and Rhodes University too, has its.

Bureaucracy and information conceal stagnate information flow. Particular information is almost impossible to get from the University systems even when it has a public relations office. The University officials do not appreciate the purpose and vitality of the public relations office. This University whines of poor publicity and ‘wrong’ things being published about it. But what happens to enticed university officials that want to make news, or, want to be esoteric sources? Some officials don’t want to face the media, or, have particular journalists they only give information.Makerere has capitalised on notice boards that are few and often badly managed. For evening students notice boards are a disservice because most of them are not lit.The university website, the events table is out of date. This is not different to the guild website that was last updated in 2005.

Focusing on the mass communication department, a huge number of her products do not feature in the local and international media. Are students nurtured and inspired?Makerere should be voracious to furnish its public relations office, 107 Campus FM and establish a daily university newspaper.