Transforming Education in Uganda

African School Children

Of course I am going to start with the famous Nelson Mandela quote, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” because I have always believed in that statement. For context, I am currently a law student in the oldest university in the East African region, Makerere university (est: 1922), and I went to the oldest school in my country, Mengo Senior School (est: 1895) I have also studied in Uganda all my life, so I am an expert witness by experience if you believe in that sort of thing (that’s a joke). I am writing this in order to add my voice to the United Nations’ Transforming Education discussion.

In the conversation about transforming education many usually talk about grand innovations or relentlessly lament about the shortfalls in our education system, and there are a lot of those. However, my perspective seeks to be a bit different, I want to focus more on the good practices in our education system that I really think should be highlighted and emphasised in order to build stronger communities and maybe change the world.

For starters, affordable and subsidized education is very important, I am not one to advocate for religion in schools, but the religious institutions in Uganda have done an amazing job in funding education in this country, they are either providing the land, constructing the school or providing the teachers, all that from their own pockets, and I speak from experience having received subsidized quality education in Christian schools my entire pre-university education despite my being Moslem. Uganda is a predominantly religious community and the truth is that people give these churches and mosques a lot of money, luckily some of them use it to fund education activities and that is a beautiful thing. Thank you Church of Uganda.

Love me or hate me, school can be a bit boring, and I honestly believe that the greatest education I ever received in my entire life was provided by a non-government organisation through the opportunity to play, I was very lucky to get free access to ballet, acting, salsa, dance and debate classes, clearly being in law school now means I was terrible at everything but debate, but still, getting the opportunity to explore so many different things that almost no school in my country could ever afford me to do made learning much more worthwhile and decisions on my career path more informed . Thank you Action in Africa.

I am really putting my neck out on this one, you know how everyone tells you to get mentors, people to look up to and stuff? That is very important, plus I don’t think anyone can dream any further than they have had the opportunity to see. Now some of us looked up to Harvey in the TV series Suits and ended up in law school, and there is nothing wrong with that (Until you look up to the bad guys in the movie) I am not saying we need to sit kids down and make them watch movies, of course not, but I really think it is so important that kids are given an opportunity to dream by showing them the endless possibilities that they can achieve, we will worry about the means to get to those dreams later, let’s first get the ball rolling on the dreams, and you will be amazed how far ambition can drive anyone. Thank you TV

I hate to say this, okay I don’t hate to say it but people will have me for saying it. The government’s policy on free primary and secondary education and government sponsorships at the university to which I am particularly privy too are a huge step in ensuring access to education. Honestly a lot of people cannot afford to take their children to school, and it is really commendable that the State is doing the little that it has done to ensure that at least anyone who is willing to endure the poor quality education provided, has the opportunity to go ahead and access it. Thank you State.

Okay, so first is access, then opportunity, then innovations. Transforming education for us means that we get the chance to access the education, the opportunity to dream and explore different frontiers of learning and then the opportunity to dream beyond our small towns without electricity. Collectively, that can make the long barefooted journeys to school more bearable.