When the Union Jack was lowered on the October 9, 1962, the new Uganda flag went up and has stayed since then. And on that auspicious occasion, several speakers lauded the Queen’s government for its efforts in combating the triad of evils, namely: Poverty, Ignorance and Disease.
Milton Obote then pledged to stay the course. Yes, under colonial rule households by law had a commercial farm and a subsistence farm; this solved poverty and malnutrition problems. Folks who had university degrees or college diplomas were not only perfect in English and their mother tongue but also superb in using their acquired knowledge practically. And if by any chance you fell ill, a government hospital was the best to run to.
Well, times have changed now. A lot of agricultural land has either been sold off by its original owners, or it simply lies idle. Then for those who labour to till their land, poverty has pushed them to sell their food crops, leaving their young ones to malnourish. And you might say; of course we have more graduates per household than in 1962. But of what value are their degrees to them or their households? Are they more honest, less corrupt, more hardworking, proactive, and innovative or the exact opposite? Yes, the last place you will go to if you fell ill today is a government hospital. So, what happened along the way? The country became complacent.
We got contented with what we had and failed to build on the strong foundation that was laid. We let the cooperatives die and the incentive for commercial farming was dealt a fatal blow. The education system that is clearly outdated, training job seekers instead of job creators has remained. Yes, you will pass with flying colours if you can cram or memorize your teacher’s notes and reproduce them in an exam. And these notes are not about how to manufacture something of value that you can sell and earn money; not at all.
You are required to know more about Napoleon Bonaparte of France, the Tennessee Valley Authority of U.S.A and of course Christopher Columbus. Why not! Wait a minute. Did I mention the glaciers of the Antarctica, the Monsoon winds and the volcanic mountains? Well, am not saying these are not important topics; not at all. But they can be clamped together into one subject called: General Knowledge. We don’t need each as a subject examinable by the highest examination body. What we need is the education system adopted by the Japanese and Koreans.
These people are more than willing to offer their advice free of charge to independent Uganda. If a student is studying engineering, he doesn’t have to be examined on written notes; he needs to be tested on the beauty and strength of a model house or bridge he constructs. A student of Agriculture should be examined on the quality of the crops or animals he breeds. If he is a student of Business Studies, he needs to be examined in managing a real business or selling real products. And who needs Bachelor of Arts in Arts degrees; Or Bachelor of Development Studies? What do these folks do; honestly? Without a Master’s degree to major in something, they are all toast! Yes, we need our cooperatives back.
Farmers out there cannot market or even export their crops on their own without an organised, structured body. That’s why a bunch of matooke sells for Shs6,000 on a plantation in Masaka and Shs18,000 in Nakasero market. The same applies to coffee, cotton, tobacco etcetera… These farmers never realise the actual fruits of their labour. Middlemen do instead. We need a better health care system. The best hospitals we now see are mainly private establishments. These are too expensive for most folks. Yet the Health Centres that have been put up have a huge deficit in terms of personnel, equipment and drugs. It’s incumbent upon us, therefore, to return to the basics; address the three evils that our forefathers fought; that way we shall celebrate the 100th independence in better fashion.