Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Blackhole mentality of some of Uganda’s Leading Schools

They always feature among the top ten best schools in the country in terms of passing national exams. As a result they have created a brand for being schools that make students “pass exams.To them, the end justifies the means. How do they achieve this?

They cage up our children in four walled prisons called class for longer than they should be. Students or pupils arrive at school as early as 6:30 am and some leave as late as 7:00 pm. In between, they justify all sorts of activities like Morning Prep, Morning Test, Lunch Test, Afternoon Tests and finally Homework (of not less than 40 questions daily). I hope you realise I have not included the actual lessons that have to be taught.

Syllabuses are forcefully completed in a fraction of the time that they are meant to be. A Primary 7 syllabus is usually done in one and a half terms as opposed to the entire three terms. Reason advanced is to allow the students time to cram for the final National exams. Huh!!!

Others have taken it a step ahead, by identifying the national examiners (who happen to be teachers already), they are able to spot exams (an attempt at second guessing what will appear) for their students. In the process, they part with large sums of money to benefit from this privilege. Afterall, a good performance guarantees more parents bringing their children to their school hence more money earned.

However, one of the worst vices I have noticed is the tendency of some schools to jealously guard their academic content in form of notes, lectures and even internal exam papers. Without mentioning names, one of the most prominent primary schools in Kampala today will dismiss any staff member who is found sharing their exam papers with ‘outsiders.’ This is why I chose the term Black Hole Mentality.

A black hole is a place in space where the gravity pull is so strong that all matter and even light that gets into it’s vicinity is sucked in with no hope of ever getting out. As you may recall, gravity is the force that attracts one body towards another that has mass, akin to what makes us always naturally stay on the ground as opposed to floating all over the place. Due to the intense gravitational force that blackholes have, whatever criss crosses their path is always devoured, unless of course if it can travel at a speed faster than light. In other words, Blackholes are always consuming without giving anything out.

The schools that have the practices I just shared previously are basically Academic Blackholes. They specialise in cannibalising whatever academic content is out there for their own purpose and interest but fall way too short when it comes to sharing with others in the industry. This doesn’t bode well for Uganda’s education industry. As a one Meghan Blistinsky once said, Education these days is making youths suffer like mental patients, but no one has anything to say about it because there is no other option to be given.”

However, on the brighter side, earlier this week while attending the 7th IDLELO Free and Open Source Software conference that brought together participants from all over Africa to meet at Munyonyo in Kampala, Uganda, I was very impressed by what I uncovered in the area of Academic Open Content. An OB of mine Mr. Ronald Ddungu who happens to be the Deputy Head Teacher of Gayaza High School, one of the best performing schools in the country shared with me their efforts in Open Content and the vision they have for it.

Essentially, this senior of mine summarised the aim of this initiative as one that will ensure that teachers will eventually go beyond the confines of their schools and become national teachers that teach students all over the country through the use of technology. The Gayaza Open Education Portal is already populated with student and teacher generated content that is really impressive. It is this culture of sharing that shall enable the seepage of knowledge across the board leading to uniformity in academic standards nationally if encouraged. Gayaza High School may be pioneering in Uganda what the likes of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) did over a decade ago in the USA only to be followed by numerous other institutions, I believe it is just a matter of time before other schools worth their salt realise that there is always more to be achieved through sharing than hoarding.

Such content sharing can help students as far as Butaleja to access material that their ill prepared teachers are unlikely to ever avail them. Since some of it is student generated, it is presented in a manner that students understand best and who better than their very own to pass on such knowledge?

Join me in talking to your school about the need to start sharing content especially with the less fortunate (third world) schools. Only then can we guarantee uniformity in prosperity and hopefully live to see our dream of becoming a Middle Income country in the near future.

Do your part this time round.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

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