Date: Sun, 29 Jan 1995 09:55:15 -0400
Education for rural development in Uganda
By Prof. Emmanuel K. Twesigye, Ohio Wesleyan University, 29 January 1995
Uganda has the best varied fertile land with lots of rainfall and plenty of water. Uganda has six fresh water lakes and several rivers, including the Nile, which is one of the longest rivers in the world, whereas L. Victoria is also one of the largest lakes in the world. The water can provide excellent fishing, since pollution and weeds are now being controlled.
With its fertile land, Uganda can in reality become Africa's bread basket. Uganda is so geographically varied, due to its natural physical location, mountains, rain-forests, plains, rivers swamps and dry lands, that it can grow anything. For instance, in Kabale, Bugisu and Rwenzori areas, it can grow winter, and template zone crops, whereas on the plains of Ankole, Teso, and Northern Uganda, large scale farms of wheat, or cattle, could be established. Around the wetlands near lake Kyioga, Iganga and the like, rice, can be grown. Coffee, tea, cocoa, beans, maize/corn sugar cane, tobacco, cassava, potatoes, fruits, matoke and other food-crops grow naturally in Uganda.
However, much of this land (70% according to Peter Kiggundu's posting of 24) is idol! Yet our young people are running away from this great opportunity flocking into our town and cities where there are no jobs or housing for them. As a result, many of them become unemployed and homeless who resort to illegal activities, including crime, such as prostitution, pick-pocketing, burglary, theft, armed robbery, or inventing other kinds of scams (buyaye).
We can indirectly stem off the rate of migration into the urban areas by developing the rural areas and creating opportunities and work employment in these rural areas. Knowing that more than 80% of our people live in rural areas, and pay their taxes which are currently used to develop urban areas such as Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe at the expense of the rural areas, I suggest that should do some of the following things.
1. Elect competent leaders who have vision for development and democracy.
2. Revamp the current educational system and its irrelevant curriculum. Make most of the high schools local and non- residential.
3. Abolish "higher or advanced school level." Instead, let elementary school run from primary 1-7; and High School or Secondary run from 8-12. From there, qualified students could go to university for 4 years. The first 2 years being in general broad liberal arts education and the other two years being in two major areas of specialization. The first half could offered in a non- residential setting in a local Community College/University College of Arts and Sciences (eg. in Gulu, Morroto, Mbale, Tororo, Kabale, Arua, Rukungiri, Mbarara, Hima, Masindi, Kase, Fort-Porta, Jinja, Entebbe, Mukono, Bombo, Mityana, Iganga, Bushenyi, Kambuga etc). The person would then graduate with a degree of Associate of Arts or Asociate of Sciences. More advanced degrees would be obtained at traditional Universities and new ones to be established in every region. The students would either secure loans or pay for their university and professional education, and the education designed would promote self-employment and the creation of business. The government would cease to be the employer of university graduates. It would only ensure quality education and accreditation of colleges/ universities and the licensure of professionals such as doctors, lawyers and teachers.
4. Redesign the current colonial educational curricula in order to provide appropriate and relevant education in the African context:
5. Provide mass education and adult literacy for rural development. Bring good education, schools and medical services to the people in the rural area, and they will stay there!
6. Bring light and electricity to the rural areas.
7. Create semi-rural urban areas/centers in the countryside with shopping centers and urban services.
8. Decentralize education and government offices or bureaucracies and locate some of these in these offices in the rural areas or regional centers, such as Hoima, Masindi, Mbarara. Kitigum, Gulu, Mbale and Tororo, instead of Kampala. This includes banks, hospitals, universities, and industries among other things. In turn these can put some of their branches in the real rural areas. For instance, evening university lectures and other classes could be conducted in a nearby high school.
9. Mobilize the rural masses to participate in their own development and to become consultants on government projects meant for their development.
Ask them what they need most and why and provide it! They know best what is good for them, and if you disagree, then, you have to teach them to see lasting value and necessity in your own project.
Most projects initiated outside Africa for rural Africa have failed to work because they were irrelevant or destructive to the local environment and the community. African elites should not colonize their own people, instead, they should mobile and lead their own people toward the future and real self-development.
10.The introduction of an appropriate and affordable technology in the rural areas. For instance, inexpensive bicycles and motor scooters for transportation. Solar water heater and cookers, and solar operated batteries for vehicles or other energy requirements including refrigeration, operation of t.v. and other electrical appliances.
11. Provision of TV and Radio Station reception and amplification Towers in Regional urban centers and the Rural Areas.
12. Provide appropriate and affordable farm machinery which can run on gasohol (Waragi and Tonto?) or on solar batteries.
13. Provide low interest loans to the farmers who can use land as security for loans.
14. Provide good roads to the rural areas so that they farm produce can be easily transported to the urban centers.
15. Deregulate farm commodity prices and let free market forces set prices.
16. Remove any government subsidies on imported foods, since this benefits the urban dwellers at the expense of the local farmers.
17. Provision of free government agricultural technical advisors/consultants and vets, although the farmer should pay for the drugs.
18. Spend the same amount of money on the urban areas as on the rural development.
19. Employ tax money, parents, convict labour and village voluntary labour to put up buildings for schools, construct roads and to maintain them.
20. Build factories in the rural areas. These factories can include food processing or manufacturing.
21. Build rural community recreational centers. Provide public assess to: tv, vcr, radio, stereo/record player, table tennis, football field, dance-hall, medical clinic and bank (branch).
22. Curbing corruption and theft by government officials and employees. Corruption endangers rural development, since government officials and employees steal the money and equipment meant for rural area development projects.
Corrupt government experts and professionals, such as doctors and veterinarians hinder rural development by asking for bribes and selling the government free services and medicines to poor rural people who need government free services most. This is reprehensible.
23. Churches and other NGOs should be encouraged to help in rural development projects.
24. The government should electrify rural areas and bring telephones lines to all corners of the country so as to promote true and meaningful rural development and stem migration from rural areas into the already overcrowded and burdened cities.
25. Good government economic and rural development planning and effective development strategies or implementation in full alliance with the people in the rural areas for whom the development is both intended and designed to help.
Ultimately, the rural masses must be educated, motivated, empowered and mobilized to participate in self-help and self- development cooperative and individual projects.
NOTE: THESE ARE MY OWN SUGGESTIONS FOR UGANDA'S EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT. ADDITIONS AND COMMENTS ARE WELCOME!
Emmanuel K. Twesigye, PhD
PS. Investment in education and rural development is the best option for Africa's economic recovery, global competition and greatness, especially if Africa unites into a UNited States of Africa to achieve stability and effective mobilization of Africa's great natural resources. ET