The new school term has just started. Parents are struggling to get the kids back to school so that they can get ‘educated’. The teachers, who also are parents, have just come off a strike in which they demanded for an increment in their wages. They probably came away with some crumbs. The state of the education sector leaves a lot to be desired and this is exacerbating the class/social divide.
Today we have three distinctive classes of future citizens. First are the UPE kids, at the bottom of the rung. Many have lost out to thieving district education officers who never delivered the classrooms or teaching materials required to give them a decent class block. Add the tardiness of the teachers and the high drop out rate, and you have a generation of young kids fit for nothing except Boda Boda riding.
In the middle we have those who go to your next door neighbour’s recently built school and are paying tuition for their education. Most of our middle class people, will probably take their kids to one of these schools. Kampala Parents, City Parents, Kampala Junior Academy and of course St. Lawrence or St Michael. Whatever name caught the fancy of the founder. There was one known as Hormisdallen! Whatever that meant. The kids that go to these schools will probably end up forming the bulk of our labour system tomorrow and if you are looking for your average civil servant, look no further. But they are equally getting a bad deal. The emphasis is on passing and of course profit for the proprietors. This is the group which will most probably write there surname before their first name. They end up here at the University where I teach but they are too far gone to be taught about thrift. They want notes, dictation and photocopies. They want to pass and go!
At the top, you will find the wabenzi. They voted with their feet. They know that education is not cheap and they are not buying rubbish for their kids. That is the way of the world and how can you fault people for being wise to the ways of the world? I always say that even my own fingers are not the same length! God must have had an evolutionary plan!
And this brings me to Makerere where there are ‘new innovations’ that are causing a lot of ‘excitement’. These innovations have elicited headlines in the New Vision, the country’s most widely read newspaper. The first one was the Kiira EV car. A more recent one is the ‘bomb disposal’ robot. One of the driving forces behind these so called innovations is the encouragement of ‘science based education’. While not intending to take anything away from those ‘innovations, I am inclined to believe that they will remain just that – innovations. They will unfortunately never see the assembly line and the reason is quite simple. They have no relevance to our society and neither can they be produced cost effectively. This is because the ‘inventors’ are totally oblivious of their social context.
Education, and therefore invention is a wholesome process. It includes both pure science and social science or what our policy makers mistakenly call ‘arts’. In order to develop the Kiira EV, there must have been an artistic impression or design. If there was none, then the ‘inventors’ of this wheel must be first order geniuses! In order for the Kiira EV to experience the production line,we shall need cost accountants and human resource managers. In order for anyone to ever want to buy it, we shall need marketeers to coin up such ads of the ‘Onesmus’ order. All these are arts subjects and probably more relevant to development than the ‘invention’ of a machine that has been with man for over 150 years! These subjects have been elevated to the level of social science. We study them with rules and theory, we practice the with habit and precision. They define our anthropological context.
For our policy makers to then say that we will emphasize the teaching of science and even pay science teachers more is to be, I say with tongue in cheek, disdainful of history! Societies develop and progress because of the understanding they acquire of the behavior of their communities, because of the sum total of their philosophical ethos, and their adaptation of an understanding of their needs. Google is as much interested in hiring philosophers as it is interested in hiring programmers. In any case what use is a scientist without the backing of philosophy?
I just hope you are smarter as a parent and are not just going to feed your child to this ‘science’ education craze. If you can’t pay top shilling (I mean dollar) for your kid’s education, then spend less time schmoozing with your friends at the bar. Go home and give them a wholesome education!