Andrew Beacock is an ICS Volunteer and Youth Reporter who is currently on his placement with Restless Development Uganda. During his placement, he spoke to different people in his community about the importance of education.
After working in a local school during my placement in Nazigo I was interested to find out more about an education that seemed to be quite different from the one I am used to in the UK. I spoke to several people from the area and began to do some research into how the school system in Uganda works and what people thought of it.
In the UK, most of us begin primary school at the age of four. It is free to attend (unless in private education) and it is the law that we must stay in some form of education until eighteen years old. In Uganda, primary school is free but there is a wider age range between students. A student could start the first year between the ages of four to ten.
I was fortunate enough to stay in the household of a headteacher who offered some insight into how my research should start. Wasswa Ronald Musoke is the CEO of World Resilience Uganda and the Headmaster at Bukeeka Charity of Uganda Primary School. Wasswa and his wife have five children and they live on a pineapple farm. I asked Wasswa his opinion on the importance of education:
My host father Wasswa, CEO of World Resilience Uganda and the Headmaster at Bukeeka Charity of Uganda Primary School
“Different routes need to be provided for students so they can perfect their knowledge and be great at many things. Music and English are likely to be chosen because they are so expressive and in Uganda, communication is powerful. Overall, there are many reasons school and education is important and I see it every day.”
“I see that students are committed, they make friendships, they make their own decisions and education helps them choose a career. School also helps them learn discipline, respect, honesty and it helps them network in the future. Most importantly, it helps them mature and they are happy.”
After my conversation with Wasswa, I spoke to a student in one of the schools I was volunteering with.
Nakibombo is fourteen years old and goes to St. Johns Apollo Secondary School. I asked what she would like to change about her school, she told me: “I like my classroom because it is big but it is quite dusty (the floor is gravel). If I didn’t come I would have nothing to do.”
I spoke to another student from a more affluent school called Yale High School. Yale has had support from China like many schools in Uganda and is now in the top twenty schools in the district (Kayunga). Abdul is nineteen years old and works in a shop when he isn’t at school. Abdul told me his opinions on education in Uganda.
“I think there are many things wrong with education here, some teachers aren’t fully certified in the subjects they teach but people have to earn a wage somehow. I would like to do practical lessons like engineering and driving but I don’t know if any school can provide this.”
The final people I spoke to are not associated with in-school education but offered a different perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of informal education. I spoke to a young man from the community named Buuma, who is now part of Senda Youth Group. His education history is short as he never went to secondary school.
Buuma told me that he liked school. He believes that it is too late for him to start secondary because he is now nineteen years old. He would rather learn practical skills to become a businessman in the future. He felt that some parents don’t see the importance of education. He said if someone has a few children, it’s not fair to just send one to school so parents might try to homeschool them.
Buuma , 19
The leader of Senda Youth Group is a man called Amisi. Amisi moved from the West of Uganda to the East of Uganda with his wife and three children in search of a better life. Amisi is great at mobilizing his community and using his resources to create a learning environment for his group. I asked him how his methods differ from an in-school format.
“I recently went to a parent-teacher meeting and I saw that the curriculum is outdated. Children are learning old information that is irrelevant to the wider world. My education was interrupted by war, I went to many different schools growing up.”
“My group is benefitting from Restless Development because they have shown us a lot of practical and financial skills. One member of my group has already started to make and sell liquid soap! I hope everyone in my group can become self-sustainable.”
“In my case, I planted trees as an investment, the community can share the fruit if they are desperate to eat. If people sell my fruit, they can share some of their profit with me. Anyone in the community can do this. It helps the wildlife thrive too, I can’t think of any negatives of planting trees and educating people correctly.”
Amisi, leader of Senda Youth Groupand his daughter
From speaking with various members of the community, I discovered that whether received in school or in a less formal setting, education is important. It is a process of achieving skills and knowledge whilst working alongside those of different ages, creeds and colours. The high fees, lack of training and unavailable resources make it difficult for everyone to access education in the community. However, with support from local community leaders and Restless Development, the community is opening their minds to a greater future.