Category Archives: General

SMACK, Namilyango, Gayaza, Lubaale Mubbe

There is a Luganda saying that goes like, “Bakuuma mbugo, Lubaale mubbe.” Its nearest English equivalent is, “closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.”

This saying is purported to have been coined during the time of Kabaka Jjunju (1780 – 1797). Baganda families had gods they worshipped to suit different needs in their lives. Each family had a select member who was in charge of keeping these gods. It was a prestigious role that many envied. These gods apparently were “kept” wrapped up in bark cloth (mbugo). Due to one reason or another, these gods could be stolen or misused by a member of the family or someone else who had the ability to “steal” them. So, while the guardian of the gods thought that he had them in safe custody on behalf of the family, the opposite would be the case. The gods were already stolen and he was just keeping bark cloth. Hence the saying which is loosely translated as, “They are keeping bark cloth, the gods were stolen.

A while back, I wrote an article warning the traditional giant schools in the form of Namilyango, SMACK, Buddo, Gayaza etal that they were digging their own graves. Alot of criticism was directed at me including allegations that I was a hater among other flimsy pedestrian conclusions. Today, I came across the list of admissions for the Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery at Makerere University, government sponsored and it read as follows:

No.

School

Number of Students

1

St. Mary’s Kitende

13

2

Uganda Martyrs Namugongo

12

3

Bishop Kihangire

5

4

Kiira College

4

5

St. Mary’s Namagunga

4

6

Kings College Buddo

4

7

Seeta High Main

3

8

Naalya Main

3

9

Mengo SSS

2

10

St. Julian

2

11

Gombe SS

2

12

Nabisunsa Girls

2

13

St. Mary’s Ruhoroza

2

14

Ntare School

1

15

Mbarara High

1

16

Seroma Christian High School

1

17

Seeta High Mukono

1

18

Ndejje

1

19

Gayaza

1

Namilyango College

00

St. Mary’s College Kisubi

00

The government scholarship admission for this same degree for those that joined Makerere University in 1993 had at least Ten (10) guys from St. Mary’s College Kisubi. It was basically an extension of old students from either Namagunga, Gayaza, SMACK, Buddo, Namilyango, Mwiri and a few other schools like Makerere College.

It is shocking to find that in 2017, Gayaza was just lucky to get only One (1) candidate on state sponsorship while SMACK and Namilyango contribute zero (0) students for this course. This is an abomination and a fulfillment of what I did warn a while back.

In a scathing article that I wrote on the traditional schools, I stated thus, “… one thing I can admit is that the prioritisation of quantity over quality has put me off totally to the extent that I wouldn’t recommend anyone with a radical mindset like mine to take their child to those traditional big guns. It is time they rethought their strategy otherwise today’s perceived minnows will eclipse them tomorrow when their products excel where it matters …

If there is one thing that defines old students of the traditional high performing schools, it’s the pride we exude as having been part of an elite class as well as littering the professions that are deemed to matter in the world of employment. While I am proud of the fact that I can walk into any office in this land and find someone I know as an OB or OG of sorts, I must say, the writing is on the wall for the traditional schools. Having taken for granted this superiority, they gave room to the minnows to work their way upwards and eclipse them.

I did come across an argument on Facebook where those allied to the traditional schools were busy bashing old students from St Mary’s Kitende claiming that the best they can do is to operate photocopiers in the various city shopping arcades. The results I just shared should be a wake up call, the Kitendes you have been underlooking are annexing every inch of land that you had been taking for granted as a birth right for over a century. First they swept the arts courses, now they are on an onslaught for sciences.

Traditional schools have always given their students this aura of invincibility and entitlement making them feel like royals of sorts. Unfortunately, in reality, like the luganda saying I quoted earlier, apart from the structures and historical legacies they have, these traditional schools seem to have nothing to offer lately. Lubaale Mubbe !!!!! Wake up guys.

I consider this a critical moment for the traditional schools. Over the past twenty something years, they have digressed from working towards the set founding goals of their institutions and instead opted to play to the gallery. By abandoning the core values they represented including sticking to the recommended admission procedures, they fell into the trap of populism. Matters were worsened when bribery became the norm. I know of someone whose son was not certain of getting to Kings College Buddo for Senior One and this led him to execute plan B which was SMACK where he got a place after parting with UGX 4 Million. Today he is happy and chest thumping that he has a child at SMACK but I want to remind him that, Lubaale Mubbe.

At A-Level, these traditional schools admit star studded students who do not even need the slightest push to excel. How the hell can you tell me that they can fail to convert them into nationwide leading performers at the University entry exams? It means that either the children that are admitted have falsified results or the teachers responsible for teaching them are sleeping on duty. Lubaale Mubbe.

The traditional schools in a bid to play to the gallery have opted to compete on the same terms as the private schools that are fast rising. They forget that what they were set out to offer is more than just good grades in class. They fail to impress this need upon the aspiring students or parents and instead lure them with the promise of high grades. If it is grades that one is pursuing solely, then they can no longer compete with many private schools that seem to have mastered the art of churning out good grades. However, if they can look inwardly and come up with a revised offer which has a linkage with the vision of the founders, they will retain a lot of relevance despite not churning out high grades academically. After all, we all know that success in life is not necessarily directly proportional to the grades scored in school.

As for King’s College Buddo and St. Mary’s Namagunga, with 4 a piece heading for the Medicine class, I don’t encourage you to chest thump. It is a sign that you too are slowly descending to the place where Namilyango and SMACK have already bought plots of land, Zero (0) contribution.

Time for change. To effect this change, there is going to have to be a total overhaul of the mindsets starting right from the Board Members of the Schools, School Administrations, Old Students Associations, Students and Parents. Otherwise, Bye Bye SMACK, Namilyango, Gayaza; Welcome St. Mary’s Kitende and Uganda Martyrs Namugongo.

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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DOTT Services and the rot it represents in Uganda’s Road Sector

In 2011 and 2012, I was engaged in a number of duties that saw me traverse the Eastern region frequently from Busia all the way to Lira via Soroti. On my first trip, I used my private car to carry out the duties and to-date, I regret that decision.

mbale_kumi

Mbale – Kumi road, 2012

I journeyed to Soroti via Mbale and the road was being worked upon by DOTT Services. It had been in a dilapidated state with the company always promising to get things better. Work which should have been completed much earlier was still pending. Potholes had been amplified by the company’s work and many cursed why they had even begun working on the road in the first case. Upon return to Kampala, I had to overhaul the shock absorbers of the car including serious repairs on other related parts of the car. The money spent on these repairs meant that I had made a total loss on the job that took me there.

Since that time, I took keen interest in the various projects the company was handling and that is when I also got a chance to check out the Tororo to Mbale Road, Kamuli, Tirinyi roads among others. For civility’s sake, all I can say, DOTT Services is a &%^*&^%$#@)(*&@!$%&* company and can at best be defined as a ČąóɎɮɸɶɱώϑЖЂ service provider (excuse the incomprehensible text, it saves me from falling victim of the cyber harassment clause in the law).

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DOTT Services Head office in Naguru, Kampala. (I was threatened by the guards for taking this photograph)

I understand when our fountain of honour (President Museveni) visited Pallisa district recently, he got a first hand taste of the rot on our roads. I am glad he did taste the experience.

The president has always wondered why there is a lot of vitriol poured upon him by those that get a chance to talk about service delivery in his Government. So much is rotten that today I want to restrict my discussion to the road sector. With all your good intentions Mr President, even a Primary School graduate could tell as far back as 2011 the incompetence that DOTT Services represented. It was so obvious that when I later traversed Western Uganda by road, driving to Fort Portal via Mubende and later going all the way to Kasese, Ibanda back to Mbarara, I was in awe with the great work done there by SBI International. Why, if indeed these guys were doing a good job in Western Uganda should the Eastern part be subjected to pedestrian contractors like DOTT Services? It is observations like these that make people complain about sectarianism in your Government.

How is it possible that the rubbish that this company has been engaged in all along has kept rewarding them with more business? What message is being sent across to the general public? Each time I interact with other Ugandans, I get the message form them loud and clear that in this country, only thieves and crooks prosper. Is this really what we want our children and grand children to believe?

I thank you for coming out and reprimanding DOTT Services through the executive order you issued. You have done #WhatMagufuliWouldDo and I am very happy. However, as someone who thinks longterm, I believe that these knee jerk reactions, while serving the purpose of waking up the service providers from the slumber also need to be followed up by proper processes and procedures to guarantee continuity.

Mr President, you are not in position to visit all places in the country where road construction is taking place, hence making this act appear to be a one off. You need to reduce on the over centralisation of decision making that has become characteristic of your leadership style. Many civil servants fear to make decisions (even when they are in the interest of the nation) until they know what you think about the matter. This has bred a scenario where quacks pretending to be sent by you are breeding corruption and poor service delivery. I have experienced such loose talk in my home district of Butaleja where the LCV Chairman at one time wanted to sell off the Doho irrigation Scheme to an investor claiming you had sent emissaries indicating that he does so.

You have the power Mr President to break up these cocoons of thugs that are undermining your good intentions of prosperity for all. Behind DOTT Services is a cabal of termites that you need to expose and do away with otherwise you will only be treating wounds on the skin without handling the underlying infection.

I hope you now realise why the general populace seems not to appreciate most of what you are doing. The answer is simple, service delivery is rotten, not only in the road sector but across the board. So rotten that even the well intentioned civil servants can’t do much to make right what they clearly see is wrong.

For God and My Country”

James Wire is a Small Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda

Follow @wirejames on Twitter.

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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Advice to my son joining boarding Secondary School

It has been a journey getting thus far. From the time you were born, the joy you brought to us your parents was unfathomable. We proudly took it upon ourselves to ensure that we were always there to raise you. When you started Primary School, we made it clear that you would have to leave home for boarding school upon joining Secondary School.

Now that the time has come, as you read this, you are already at your new school, enjoying your new found life. We have talked about many things over and over again as I drove you to and from school each morning and evening over the past ten years. However, as a departure from my forefathers, I prefer to pen down what we’ve been sharing for posterity’s sake. Listen to me.

You’ve gone to grow. Secondary school is a very interesting phase in life in that you leave the innocence of childhood behind and get initiated into the world. You find all sorts of characters, get introduced to all sorts of habits, hobbies and pass times. It is the time when you get awakened to the good and filth that society has to offer. This helps you to grow since in the process, you get a great opportunity to exercise your human sieve. Now that you’re out of the protective eye of Mom and Dad, the values we’ve shared over the past 12 years are going to be tested to the limit.

Learn all you can but don’t partake of it all. Learning is a good thing. It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning the bad or good things people do around you. However, as you learn, it doesn’t mean you have to engage in what you have learnt. When I joined Senior One, I was shocked when I got wind of the fact that homosexuals, alcohol and drug users were existent in my school. However, over time, I realised that such people will always be there, I just didn’t have to succumb to their advances. I must say that while I steered clear of homosexuality and drug use, as I was concluding my Senior 4, I succumbed to alcohol and cigarette smoking (you know this already). My advice to you? Never try it out, however romantically they may present it to you. Always recall what the Bible says about these things.

Leviticus 20:13 – If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.

Proverbs 20:1 – Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.

However, there are also many good things, if you for example come across sports lovers, Bible reading believers among others, I urge you to partake of such activities without haste.

Romans 12:2 – “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Be careful who you make friends with. Your friends define you. If you team up with lazy people, you become lazy, if you team up with focused chaps, you will without doubt be focused. It’s very hard for one to do the opposite of what his gang of friends are doing. You and I have time and again discussed the priorities, I urge you to base on these priorities to determine who you bring into your inner circle of friends.

Go slow on intimacy with women. You’ve not gone to school on a dating spree. I know yours is a mixed school (a fact I really like) but let the presence of the fairer sex as well as your testosterone levels not supercede your mental judgement of what is good for you at your current stage of development. Sex, you will always have with your marriage partner when you’re an adult, so, go slow.

Do not abuse your freedom. I am definitely sure that you are celebrating your new found freedom. Freedom to do what you want without Mom or Dad giving you instructions. Congratulations!!! However, with freedom, comes responsibility. The decisions you make are definitely going to affect others around you either positively or negatively. So, exercise caution.

Remember your humble background. You know too well that you haven’t been born into a superstar family. We are a simple down to earth family. Always remember that while at school. I know you might get gripped by the star studded lineup of some of the students at school who might be coming from big name families BUT always remember your humble background.

Not all fingers are equal. Just like the fingers on our hands aren’t equal in size so are people. You will come across students gifted in different aspects. For some it is swimming, football, badminton, chess etc while others may be gifted academically. You also have those who by virtue of their privileged backgrounds can afford to dangle all sorts of toys around that you probably only see on Tv. Yes, such is life, do not get distraught. Instead, use these observations to work yourself hard enough to close that gap and become a long finger in future too.

Live within your means. While I was at school, I used to see some students leading lives that made me quickly conclude that they were from very rich families. Fortunately or unfortunately, as time went by, I learnt that some of them were choking on debts in order to lead those lifestyles. You do not have to spend your life living a lie. Be yourself, and let people love or hate you for who you are.

Books first, the rest follow. Remember, books are the reason you have gone to that school. Academic knowledge is key because it complements the other abilities we have in us. I for example love farming but the fact that I studied Agriculture even makes me execute this passion more than I could have. As your parents we want you to receive an education not merely to pass exams but to learn and solve problems in society.

As you get a good grip on your academics, you’re free to engage in any extra curricula activity. The school you’ve joined has such a diversity of activities that I am confident you’ll come out a much better and rounded individual by the time you’re done. So, do not let down opportunities to engage in drama, music, swimming, football, farming, work internships and all the other stuff that the rich menu at that school provides.

Self Education. In our days (30 years ago), self education was in the form of going to the library and reading books written twenty years earlier. Today, you have the internet as a massive library. Use it to accumulate as much knowledge as possible. If the syllabus introduces you to Compost Manure and only expects you to be able to define it, get onto the internet and arm yourself with more information (even when it may not be examinable) like; How compost is made, types of compost bins, Good and Bad materials for composting, etc. That is the learning that will make me genuinely proud of you. The average parent in Uganda may be purely keen on how many points their child scores in the national exams but I extend my expectations beyond that. Of what use is a student who scores distinctions yet he cannot repair a spoilt power plug?

Respect for Others. Always, Always Always take it upon yourself to respect others in your community. It does not matter what vice you know about them. You’ll most likely have the sickly, alcoholics, smokers, sexual deviants among others in your community but do not demonise them. Deal with them in a manner that shows respect and pray for them to change for the better (that is what a true christian does).

Avoid Alcohol and Drugs. Those two pass times are some of the leading causes of instability among students in school. There are many tales of young lives that have either been lost or gone to ruin as a result of engaging in these vices. Steer clear of them my son. I did share with you how I drank alcohol for many years and eventually quit. I am speaking from experience and whenever you feel the temptation is rising, call me and we’ll talk about it. Please do not take that first beer or smoke that first cigarette before talking to me.

Set a Vision. I know this is something even adults struggle with, but as a young man, I want you to start early. Set a vision for your life or if that is too much to fathom, set one for your school life. A vision will help you have a yardstick for measuring progress in your life. Each day you wake up, you will be able to gauge yourself and tell whether you’re going forward or not.

Be a problem solver. Many youths are being raised to be great employees but I have always told you that I’m not raising paper pushing employees in my family. I am raising problem solvers. The future is not going to be favourable to those that are merely waiting for instructions from above. It will favour those that can steer the ship even amidst a lot of uncertainty.

Take time to engage in critical thinking, problem solving, leadership, debate, conflict resolution among others. By the time you’re done, you will be an amazing product ready to steer this country to the next level.

I wish you the best in your new setup. I am excited as a parent to begin your teenage journey with you.

I’ll always Love you. Dad.

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

Sala Puleesa – Your Child isn’t a Failure

While talking to a friend on phone, she narrated to me how someone she knew wept in her presence because her daughter had scored ten (10) aggregates in the Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). She was all too furious and preparing to launch an assault of ISIS proportions upon her daughter. To her, the young girl had failed. She had let her down despite all the money that was spent giving her extra studies as well as taking her to a top school.

I keep hearing such stories on a daily and they depress me so much. As a parent of a 2016 PLE candidate, I too went through a lot especially in the last term as documented in this article. Uganda’s national examination system has become one that favours techniques as opposed to knowledgeability. Many of the candidates left the examinations clearly convinced that they were easier than the ones they had been accustomed to. However, they too had a problem reconciling the grades they got when the results came out. My son spent some time kinda depressed, his classmate spent an entire day crying out to his mother wondering how he got the marks he got, while an Old Boy of mine narrated the same about his daughter.

For as long as you are educating your child in the local Ugandan Curriculum, you need to ready yourself to appreciate two things;

  1. The examination of the students encourages more of cram work as well as toeing a pre-set line of thinking as opposed to giving candidates adequate breadth to contribute unique ideas and ways of thinking to the global knowledge bank. Why for example would you mark a child wrong for stating that Light bends when it is widely known today that under intense gravity, indeed light bends? The notion that light travels in a straight line has been surpassed by the studies in Astronomy that prove otherwise.

  2. You can never use the exam results of UNEB to gauge your child’s abilities especially when it comes to soft/survival skills. Some of the parents wailing and showing a lot of grief about the failure of their children are the very ones who have in the past praised them for being outspoken, go-getters, critical thinkers etc. Show me which UNEB exam tests such attributes?

Let us analyse my son’s results for example. He got Ten (10) aggregates and the points were spread out as follows;

  • Mathematics – D2

  • English – D2

  • Social Studies – C3

  • Science – C3

Under normal circumstances, a pedestrian parent will rush to shed a tear and wonder why he never got Aggregate 4. However, let us look at the results in detail. It is very clear that the grading was way up there.

Basing on the information I have from some UNEB examiners, I learnt that a Distinction 1 in Social Studies (which was the best done subject) started at 96%. This clearly means that with a Credit 3, my boy scored in the region of 85% to 90%.

A look at English implies that with his Distinction 2, he definitely scored more than 89%, same with Mathematics. The Credit 3 in Science could very easily have translated to marks between 83% and 89%.

After analysing this, I looked around at the pass marks for most of the professional qualifications that we pursue and this is when I realised that even the much revered CPA exams that professional accountants sit to become chartered accountants have their pass mark as 50%. One of the parents that was so disappointed with their child has sat these exams on two occasions and failed to pass. What moral authority do they have to declare that their child is a failure? Are they trying to imply that they too are failures?

It is an established fact that the level of scrutiny, marking and grading for urban schools especially in Central Uganda is so stringent that pupils who would readily have earned Aggregate 4 are condemned to twice that.

Another issue disturbing parents too is the desire for their children to go to the traditional Giant schools. Most of these are religio-centered schools with over forty years of existence. They are ready to bribe even the gatemen to ensure that their children get slotted into those schools. This is sapping a lot of their energy and lowering the chances for legitimately qualified pupils to access those schools. Imagine a school having to cater for the following interest groups; The Founding Church, State House, Ministry of Education, Old Students, Cultural Affiliation …. the list goes on and on. After those interest groups have taken up more than 75% of the slots available, then the legitimately qualified candidates are considered. Huh!!!!

My son out of peer influence had chosen one of those traditional religio-centered schools and I chose to let him have his way. However, despite being told that he could still get there using other channels, I bailed out when I learnt that it has class streams with upto 100 students, the dormitory setting is no different from sardines in a can, there is no more effort put into extra curricula activities among other things.

I woke up upon this realisation and decided that I will not allow him to kill his sports talent as well as other life skills all in the name of having the privilege to join a top name school. I am glad we are in agreement on this (Mom, Dad and Son) and have already made a decision to take him to a school we regard as offering a holistic package of education under the local curriculum. You want to know the school?

Anyway, back to my point, YOUR CHILD IS NOT A FAILURE !!!!!!!

Follow @wirejames on Twitter

Innovating for Survival, Uganda’s young Teargas Expert

The year was 1992, a young lady in Rukungiri had met the man of her dreams and decided to have him as a life mate. She quickly conceived and they both were too happy and expectant. Unfortunately, three months into her pregnancy, the lady’s dreams were shattered when her husband died. Seeing herself through this pregnancy was just the start of a long and grinding journey that saw her struggle to raise the son she eventually gave birth to.

The hardships this boy went through while growing taught him to always fight for his right of passage to the next level in life. His mother wanted him to take on Arts studies with the belief that they gave him a higher chance of passing and entering the University but he had a different view. From his Senior One, he had been fascinated by sciences and Chemistry in particular. He always loved the experiments and read a lot about chemicals and how they can be used formulate various products. This led him to pursue Science Studies at his Advanced Level (Senior Five and Six) where he was able to pass and get admitted for a degree in Botany.

The futuristic thinker that he is, this young man realised that a degree in Botany would not easily guarantee him a job. So he begun thinking about what next after leaving the university. Since childhood, he’s always admired the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) and always dreams of working for them. He pictures himself adorned in those army fatigues with the Uganda Flag and emblem as well as a corresponding cap on the head. The day this happens, he believes he’ll have arrived.

Being the go getter that he is, he appreciated that his major weaknesses were having a background from a no-name family and lacking the relevant connections to navigate his way into the armed forces (any Ugandan mature enough knows what I am talking about here). So, he decides to create value such that based on that value proposition, the Army will not resist taking him on.

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Mr. Mugarura Samuel

Ladies and Gentlemen, the young man am talking about is Mr. Samuel Mugarura, a 23 year old university student who has lately hit the limelight for his skills in making tear gas and bombs. One day, while strolling in the city, he came across a tear gas canister and the scientist in him got curious. He studied the ingredients on the package and decided to reverse engineer it using Secondary School knowledge of chemistry. That is how he got this idea. He is self taught in this area and believes a lot more can be done if only he is given an opportunity by the Government of Uganda to further his abilities.

I see Mugarura as an innovative individual whose values are a league above his peers. While the average youth today believes being given a job is their birth right, he believes that creating value should be the basis for getting a job.

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The rudimentary Smoke Bomb being demonstrated

In an interview I had with him, he boasts of his ability to make explosives of all kinds with his ultimate ambition being an atomic bomb. When asked about where he gets the components to make these explosives, he is quick to share that most of these ingredients are locally available and all that one needs is to know the formulas to mix them. He uses readily available ingredients like Sucrose, Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, Potassium Nitrate among others.

 

Having read his story in this article by the Daily Monitor, I was immediately disturbed by the attitude the University dons quoted exhibited when interviewed by the reporter. It is this antagonistic and negative attitude that tends to turn the would be centres of academic excellence into white elephants. Priding in rolling out PHDs that do nothing to address issues in society is akin to manufacturing toys for hapless refugees that lack food to eat. The mismatch in expectations is what has made many shun these academic institutions and only go there to get papers that will allow them get into a job.

To Quote:

Mugarura is a student of botany, and not chemistry. He cannot claim to be making bombs,” Dr John Wasswa the head of the Chemistry department, a unit under the College of Natural Science (CONAS) said.

Is this a medieval mindset that Dr. Wasswa is exhibiting? In which century is he living in? Gone are the days when innovations were confined to professionals. How many youths today are developing Mobile Applications yet they hardly stepped in a Computer Science class? Are you going to trash them using the same pedestrian argument? With all due respect, this don needs to wake up from his slumber. The young man indicated that making tear gas is as simple as utilising Secondary School chemistry knowledge and with the internet, identifying formulas is the easiest of things. A quick google search gave me much more than I bargained for right from videos to tutorials on how to make tear gas.

Prof Muhammad Ntale, a former head of the Chemistry department at Makerere University, said although teargas is easy to make, the university is not into such business and “Mugarura could be out for cheap publicity” or “doing such things on his own”.

Time has taught me that sometimes there is no correlation between academic accomplishments and the right attitude. To find a highly acclaimed professor with such a demeaning attitude regarding an effort that a youth is trying to make without even taking time to understand his mindset makes me fear for this nation. I even ask myself, how many students during his career, has he pulled down from dreaming big?

As for the Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson’s comments, those didn’t surprise me and they aren’t worth quoting on this page. You guessed right, the key words are; confiscate, interrogate and arrest. They unfortunately reflect what we have come to know as our police lately.

Observations

What do we pick out of this effort though?

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Local materials have been largely used

Mugarura laments, “I have studied Chemistry for many years. These are normal things that can be done by anyone. You don’t have to be an Industrial Chemist to make a bomb. A Senior Four student can easily make tear gas. Formulas are readily available. I understand the fear some people in Makerere may have… If I am funded, the country stands to save foreign exchange on the importation of some of these products. I am apolitical and only look forward to working for this nation.

This young man has read the times and seen how hopeless his peers feel when after graduating with honors from the university, they are subjected to endless months and years of joblessness. The University could consider harnessing his ambition and skills by including him in any of the various research projects that they already have. He is likely to bring on board a new wave of research that can lead to interesting breakthroughs.

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A futuristic UPDF needs such innovators.

As for the UPDF, you have a factory (probably factories) that is into weapons manufacture. Can this young man be taken on as a cadet attached to one of the research facilities? He could save us the pain of having to perpetually spend on buying explosives that we badly need for our military voyeurism. The young man is simply looking for survival and has impressively expressed what he’s got up-stairs.

On the flip-side, I did ask him if there is anything else apart from Explosives that he can do and his response was; Fireworks, Tissue Culture and Plant Research among others. Let us stop the politicking, it is time to help this young man realise his dream of inventing for the benefit of society.

Life is hard, can government come out and work with me?” he concluded.

Follow Mugarura @mugarurasamuel on Twitter

Follow me @wirejames on Twitter

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.

KCCA, Stop the Sugar Coated Incompetence

A visit to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Website led me to read about the Directorate of Physical Planning and I saw these opening lines, “To plan the development of the functional urban design, infrastructure and administer land management of Kampala city. To ensure that the development in the city is organized and does not exert stress on the existing functioning infrastructures, the planning takes care of the overall planning of Kampala city.”

I was led to review this online information after the heart breaking loss of lives and property in the collapse of the Kyaseka Towers, an under construction Six Storeyed building as reported in the media. I also took time off to pass by the site and it wasn’t a good scene at all.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 13.27.47What I read on the website was in total contrast with the exchange I had earlier on Twitter with the same institution.

As if that wasn’t enough, the media has released all sorts of press messages from KCCA consistently putting blame on either the owner or the contracted engineer of the structure. Some of the stories that turned out into the media are;

In all this, the message from White Hall (KCCA Headquarters) is clear, “It’s not us. We are clean good guys and blame free. The problem is with the building owner.” This impression is insinuated in statements from some of the institution’s staff like;

For KCCA to give you a permit, your engineer must be registered with an institute of professional engineers because some people pretend to be engineers yet they don’t have skills. We advised Mr Kyeseka to first get our approval but he couldn’t understand,” Engineer Kitaka Andrew, Director Engineering at KCCA.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 14.02.38This building was not yet complete. As you can see, there were still poles going up meaning that it was still going up. However he [Moses Kyaseka] built for a certain period even before we came into existence as KCCA and then the building stopped for some time. And he was resuming but in a clandestine manner not in an open manner. We had summoned them to come to KCCA to resubmit their plans. And actually even recently as recent as last week, our engineers came to this building, they inspected it quickly and we were supposed to start doing the structural integrity assessment of the building. Unfortunately it collapsed before an assessment was done,” Engineer Kitaka Andrew, Director Engineering at KCCA.

We urge all developers to always observe building regulations in place.” Ms. Jennifer Musisi, Executive Director at KCCA.

I have always and will continue being a vocal, unrepentant supporter of this institution but being the objective type, when nonsense is done, I should never be expected to tolerate it and I won’t. The collapse of poorly constructed structures isn’t a new story in Kampala but what amazes me is to see that the officials supposed to work on turning around the status-quo retreating to pathetic excuses.

It is well known that successful corporate professionals are those who are skillful enough to steer clear of blame when something goes wrong and yet position themselves to get all the accolades when all is right. KCCA staff seem to have perfected that art and as long as you can ensure that you are in the good books of a superior, even such public embarrassments like this one need not faze you at all.

While the average government employee would claim that they are poorly paid to be able to carry out their duties effectively, the KCCA staff are wise enough to realise that such an excuse can’t count and hence the response they made in a tweet that “like Police KCCA can’t be present on all sites 24/7 developers public & professionals all have a role to curb this.” So, they prefer to give the impression that they are over whelmed.

Overwhelmed? My foot. You have the audacity to organise a very efficient Carnivore costing Millions of Dollars and still can’t plan for the lives of the people you are maintaining the city for? By concentrating on cosmetic activities, KCCA is appealing to lower level instincts of humanity and the time has come for them to start addressing issues that will touch the marrow of Kampala’s dwellers.

How can a developer defy the mighty KCCA and they keep quiet? Yet the same KCCA is on record for being super efficient when it comes to chasing, whipping and confiscating property from hundreds if not thousands of street hawkers? One developer? Really? If it grunts like a pig, then it must be a pig. All the hallmarks of conveniently bribed officials at the White Hall are visible in this blame throwing statement issued by the Director of Engineering. He’s essentially condoning the “Hear no Evil, See no Evil” attitude of his staff.

How could the developer have reached the stage of even letting tenants into the structure without the knowledge of KCCA? Are there no staff of the institution that ply that route daily to and from work? It is this ‘leave work at work’ or ‘it’s not my duty’ attitude that needs to be changed. Remember, a junior secretary in that institution earns more than a doctor yet they are all government workers. With such serious perks, I would expect staff who eat and breathe KCCA everywhere they go.

I still have some unanswered questions for KCCA;

  • I know you’re overwhelmed by the size of the city, can you at least show us one inspection report per year for that structure ever since the authority was set up?

  • You claim the contractor defied your directives, isn’t there an ordinance at KCCA that clearly stipulates the consequences of defiance?

  • It is claimed that you had requested that he first gets his plan approved including complying with the need for a professional engineer. How did he get to build a whooping Six storeys without your knowledge?

  • You claim he built in a road reserve. Is this the time to make such information public? Can you please publish all structures built in the road reserves and the corresponding action to be taken against them? Does it mean if he hadn’t infringed on the road reserve you would be ok with a poor structure?

For once I side with my fellow Lumumbist the Lord Mayor Elect who is quoted as saying, “Many city buildings don’t meet the standards and this problem is particularly caused by the Directorate of Engineering at KCCA, who don’t take time to study the plans presented to them. These are the things I have always been complaining about and now that my office is still locked, I can’t do anything to rectify such problems.

To be honest, Madam Jennifer Musisi, as the ED of KCCA, the buck starts and stops with you. You need to carry out an internal investigation and find out your staff who are conveniently colluding with illicit developers in the city. Uproot them even if they are your favourites. We need a city that is going to be structured around proper planning. Genuine developers complain of their plans taking for ever to be approved ( I have a doctor friend who is in this quagmire and has been waiting for over two years) yet quacks go about their business unhindered. With the level of IT deployments you are making as an institution, can’t you have a simple monitoring tool that can give your Engineering team reminders on which areas to follow up when and how? Some of these things to get done only require people who are willing to appreciate that they are paid above average salaries and hence must go the extra mile to produce results.

Get out of that shell guys at White House because we can’t stand tolerating such gross levels of incompetence being massaged by a well oiled Public Relations machinery.

If this isn’t hallucination, then what is it?

Rest In Peace to those who died in this tragedy including that University Student who had celebrated his birthday the night before.

@wirejames on Twitter.

Are we Pursuing Education or Schooling?

We all eavesdrop once in a while and the same happened to me a week ago. I tapped a conversation my children were having with their cousins and by the time they were done, I was shell shocked about where our schools in Uganda are heading.

For us at our school, our teacher said that if you don’t score 95% and above you can never become a doctor,” said one of the boys.

At our School, when you reach Primary Seven, you must be in the boarding section and you don’t get holidays. You study throughout the year and do tests every two days,” said another.

When you get 70% and below, the teachers cain you because they want us to score 93% and above only,” he continued.

Later, I witnessed them play a motor racing game on the iPad and one of these nephews of mine (who happens to be an A Grade student at his school) complained midway his game upon realising that he wasn’t going to win. “I am not going to win this game, can I start again?” he lamented.

Schooling is derived from the term School which is defined as “an organisation that provides instruction” according to the Merriam Webster dictionary. The same dictionary goes ahead to define Schooling as, “teaching that is done in a school.

On the other hand, I found this definition of education quite befitting; The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”

We spend alot to school our children and this is verified by how much pride many of us parents take in ensuring that our children are in ‘Big Name’ schools. We tend to get trapped by the false belief that their presence in such schools is a guarantee of success.

Darrow Miller in this article states “My reflections led me to a number of conclusions. First, although as a child I had insatiable questions, as I grew older I stopped asking. My schooling did not encourage an inquisitive mind, critical thinking, and creativity; it trained me to memorize and regurgitate what the teacher taught me. My schooling was about facts and figures, rather than understanding and moral formation.” Without doubt, the A Grade students in most Ugandan Schools are definitely those who are good at memorizing facts and figures and regurgitating them. This is reinforced by one of the statements above where the child talks of their school’s Primary Seven candidates doing tests every two days and not going for holiday throughout their candidate year. Essentially the school is manufacturing excellence the way it knows best, cram work.

Miller further shares that, “I realized I did not know how to think. I had never had an original thought! I grew up on comic books (Images with few words). Today many children grow up with video games and TV (even more images and fewer words).Guilty as charged. I am one of those parents that for long used to let the TV and Game Consoles provide entertainment for my children. I know many of you still do so. However, the truth of the matter is that while we may think that we are exposing our kids to modernity, we are also killing their creativity, big time. A few weeks back, we moved house from a beautiful complete self contained residence to our own that still lacks in terms of water and electricity connectivity. One of the worries my children had was with how they would be entertained during this long holiday. Over two weeks into our new home, with no main grid electricity and piped water in the house, the kids have found lots of alternative activities like hiking up the hill, identifying plants and insects in the garden, construction (yes, they did construct a small house using left over bricks and sand. Though it later crumbled, they were quick to realise why and now are demanding cement from me so they can make it more permanent), among others. This has proved to me that creativity in children is real and we need to just give them the right kind of environment. Now, this is Education NOT Schooling.

The conclusion Miller draws is very compelling,The words schooling and education have very different meanings. The former is rooted in a place – a building, a place of leisure both separated from work itself and from the preparation of a person for work. The latter is a process of instruction that prepares the mind with knowledge and understanding, the heart with virtue, and the will with wisdom so that people may be prepared for life and work.”

Are you one of those parents who are all over yourself trying to ensure that your child only gets Distinctions in his exams as a reward for the efforts you put in to educate or school them? Emphasising test scores to tell if a child is attaining a great education misses the point. This is further exacerbated by teachers who impart it into the minds of the children that they need to score above certain marks in order to be looked at as competent.

Without going very far, in Uganda today, we have numerous examples of highly schooled people who have miserably run the nation’s affairs in various dockets. You keep reading of a Doctor so and so with a PHD from Harvard, London School of Economics and the likes messing up national institutions like they never comprehended anything all their years of study. They seem to lack basic wisdom and creativity, something never emphasised in our formal academics today.

When a school like the one these nephews of mine attend emphasises test formats and skills as well as exam drilling you then begin to understand why our nation is where it is today. Many entrepreneurs are usually at a loss when they hire fresh graduates with first class degrees who seem more clueless than a sheep in the middle of a road.

The occasional high stake exams like Primary Leaving Examinations, Uganda Certificate of Education, Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education tend to lure schools into teaching students the “Game of Schooling” as George A Goens the author of Soft Leadership for Hard Times terms it. Students are then led into prioritising passing and not learning; getting short term high grades and not in-depth understanding; building resumes (CVs) and not following their passion. A friend of mine once made a touching presentation to an audience of elderly people and she shared with them how they kill their children’s futures by not allowing them to be. One lady walked up to her after the presentation and confessed that while all her children had taken up ‘respectable’ professions as Engineers, Doctors and Lawyers, they were not making much progress in their careers.

Mark Twain once said, “Don’t let your children’s schooling get in the way of their education.” While taking on a consulting job with an international company a few years back, I was given a test from one of the leading global corporate testing companies. However, by the time I was done with it, I had a lot more to criticise and promptly relayed my sentiments to the recruiter without fear. What business do you have asking a candidate who has grown up in Uganda all their life questions that are ideal for a Wisconsin bred kid?

Schools are emphasising competition more than team spirit yet the latter matters more when it comes to getting work done collectively. Excellence is always equated to how far you separate yourself from the others. This is the mentality the young nephew who was playing the video game has sadly adapted so early in life. Because he is used to being graded Number One in the class, he can’t envisage coming Number Two and always wants to be ahead of the pack. This attitude is likely to affect his ability to be a team player in future. Stories abound of people who were always ahead of the pack during their scholarly days and have failed to make their mark in the professional realm failing to gel or even take leadership at their work places.

Education transcends beyond positioning one to get a good job or achieve that elusive career goal. By appreciating other philosophical perspectives of life like truth, beauty, justice, liberty, equality, honesty among others, we can have educated people with an ‘Ubuntu’ mindset thereby being responsible citizens. An educated person should not only have strong academic skills but also accompany that with the right values and principles.

In Goen’s own words, “Cleverness, cunning and cutting ethical corners are not standards of an educated person. Well-educated people revere knowledge and apply values and principles to guide them as they seek a meaningful life of purpose. They try to make “wise” decisions premised on strong ethical and moral ideals and broad academic understanding. Education is a lifelong process of continuous learning and examination. Being well educated means having a sense of stewardship and a concern for the common good, not simply tending to self-interest and ego needs.”

We want the best for ourselves and our children but do we know how best to enable them or ourselves get there? By using pedestrian approaches like ‘how many first grade students a school produces‘ to judge the quality of a school we are putting the bar too low and playing into the hands of crafty architects of academic results. These skewed demands we make on schools that are forming the foundation for our children are the reason we have less creative thinkers being churned out today and instead we keep seeing more cunning and outrightly self centered individuals coming out of our academic system. Others have sought solace in opting to enrol their children in international schools but they forget that like Ostriches, they are simply burying their heads in the sand.

As we enter 2016, it is my prayer that we critically think though this and come up with corrective measures starting with out core families. As an eternal optimist, I am certain that the situation isn’t beyond salvage. Once again, Don’t Let your Children’s Schooling get in the way of their Education.

Additional content got from:

Forget Suicide, Jesus Christ is the Answer

I was a naive 18 year old pursuing my High School studies at Makerere College School when I met him. He happened to be the flamboyant Chairman of Lumumba Hall at Makerere University. He lived the high life that any juvenile would admire. A chance to have him as my friend was a good dream come true. When I was suspended by the school for a week, he offered to host me in his room at the University. I loved the opportunity to smoke and drink alcohol freely while there. I also admired his talk about the Engineering course he was doing. This encouraged me to also read harder and ensure that I got that chance to join Makerere University on Government sponsorship (to the young, there was a time when tertiary education in Uganda was strictly Government funded and you either got the government support or experienced a halt in your studies).

The following year I happened to join the University and I was given Lumumba Hall as my residence. This even made me happier because I now had a chance to rub shoulders with someone who had inspired me to read hard and pass my exams (I know he didn’t know this and is probably learning about it now if it isn’t too late). Life in the fast lane saw him collide with the law and I was one of those that shed quite some tears when he was incarcerated for some time at Luzira Prison. That was the last time I heard of him and it took me close to 14 years to rediscover him. When I joined Facebook, he was all over the place and as usual had never lost his darling of the crowd character. I tried a number of times to touch base with him on my visits to South Africa but somehow failed. We however continued communicating online.

I always knew him as this bravado, cow boy never die kind of guy. Fearless yet loving, Intelligent and a go getter, A doer and challenger of the status-quo. Two years ago, in an emotional outburst on Facebook about his family, I noticed that beneath that bravado outlook lay a normal man, vulnerable like anyone else, yearning for something that never was in his past. I had been all along wrong to assume he was a ‘kyuma kya steel” (a steel rod). 

Life can have turbulences but there is always hope in Jesus Christ

Life can have turbulences but there is always hope in Jesus Christ

I woke up today only to find some disturbing posts on his Facebook timeline and hence the reason to pen down my advice. He says;

“OK let me say the truth from my heart. The only reason I’ve been living up to now is my children. They love me so much and I love them double. However I feel whatever I’m doing is for them and then I’d like to go and rest. I would like to go and rest but I want my children to be taken care of. If you are my friend or family, take care of my children. They are the only reason I’m living.”

Brother, you are right to be honest with your innerself and this gives others a chance to share with you. You didn’t come to this world merely because of your children. We are all sent by God for a certain purpose and true fulfilment is in pursuit of that purpose.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” God definitely has a good and great plan for your life. You just have to trust Him and avoid taking control. Without Him, all you do will come to nought. 

Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps” We may plan things our way and do them based on our will but God is the perfect one at establishing what is best for us. He governs over all that we can imagine and attempt to do. So it is important to seek His counsel. It’s God that enables you to do what you do for your children. Even the love you have for them is God given. 

Have you taken time to discover that mandate God gave you?

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  There is work God prepared for you and if you choose to ‘rest’ now you’ll have interrupted His plan for you and for mother earth. Remember there are many people you already inspire, yours truly inclusive. Any decision you make will have far reaching implications beyond your immediate family. We may not be with you physically but we mind when we hear that something bad has happened to you and rejoice when something good also happens. Such coverage makes us proud of you.

You continue to say;

“… But Anne is also the lady who kept quiet when I made all the mistakes I made and caused much pain to her. Anne was the quiet woman. I bear the responsibility for that much pain.”

You definitely are carrying a heavy burden that is sinking you. It seems to be eating you from the inside and you don’t seem to know what to do. There is a way out brother. This is why Jesus Christ dies for us. His word says,

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Christ calls upon you to reach out to him and exchange your heavy burden for his light one. He’ll sort you out if you only have a contrite heart. God’s word says in Psalms 34:18-20 “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.” Turn to the Lord and you’ll be safe from all these demons tormenting your spirit. You have tried it all on your own and now it’s time to give God a chance.

In another post you say;

“… I always tell God that “look here. I’ve done my part in the world. Why don’t you take me away and I go and rest? But He doesn’t.” I want to go and rest. I feel I’ve done my best, the others can continue. I really want to rest.”

According to you, you’ve done your part but have you done God’s part? Have you fulfilled his plan for your life? This reminds me of the parable of the young rich man in the Bible that came to Jesus and wanted eternal life. Apparently he said he had done everything and fulfilled all the commandments. Jesus then answered him, If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” In your case this means that you may have seen it all, done it all and no longer see what else there is to achieve in Life but this is the time for you to put aside all your achievements and follow Christ. Believe you me, you’ll get the fulfilment you are yearning for. God needs you alive for now and the fact that you haven’t yet been called to rest, there is still some incomplete work.

“I tell God that ‘I love you. I’ve done what you want me to do. Why don’t you now take me away?’. I don’t now have to prove anything else.”

I am not here to judge you but use these yardsticks to assess your love for God:

  • You first and foremost have to know Him. How do you know Him? By reading His Word (The Bible)
  • To love God is to put him first. Mark 12:30, Psalm 73:25
  • To love God is to desire Him and yearn for his righteousness. Psalm 42:1, Psalm 19:8-10
  • To Love God is to Obey Him. This isn’t an issue of merely following rules and doing good deeds. It’s about having God’s love written indelibly on our hearts. John 14:15, John 14:23, John 15:10

“Whatever God asked me to do, I’ve done. I’m simply tired.”

Brother, I don’t really think so. If you had done ALL that God told you to do, you wouldn’t be weary. You’d be basking in joy with the accomplishments. In Christ is Peace and Love, No strife. I believe that you need to take a closer look at your relationship with God and see how you can know the unfinished business He has for you.

 Its also not upto you to decide when to ‘rest’ like you state in your posts. The giver of Life will also be the best person to decide when to take it away.

So, for starters, I request that you consider inviting Jesus Christ into your life and allowing Him to take charge of all you do because the word says;

John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well…”

John 3:16-19 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”

Romans 10:9 says If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

And Jesus further assured Nicodemus that, “… Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

Now if you haven’t yet embraced Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, just speak out these words;

“God, I recognise that I have not lived my life for You up until now. I have been living for myself and that is wrong. I need You in my life; I want You in my life. I acknowledge the completed work of Your Son Jesus Christ in giving His life for me on the cross at Calvary, and I long to receive the forgiveness you have made freely available to me through this sacrifice. Come into my life now, Lord. Take up residence in my heart and be my king, my Lord, and my Savior and my Guide. From this day forward, I will no longer be controlled by sin, or the desire to please myself, but I will follow You all the days of my life. Those days are in Your hands. I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. Amen.”
Congratulations brother for taking this step forward in your life. I believe you have begun treading the path that will give you peace, joy and ultimate satisfaction. Its no longer about you from today onwards. Its all about HIM (God). You’ve earned a ticket to eternal life.

Guatemala Confronts the threat of Patented GM Crops – Uganda beware

Located in Central America, Guatemala is a country half the size of Uganda. It is known for its abundance of biologically significant and unique ecosystems that contribute to mesoamerica’s designation as a biodiversity hotspot.

This country draws many similarities with Uganda. It underwent many years of civil war during which it lost most of its productive population leading to the displacement and death of many peasant farmers as a result and the departure of the educated few in search of greener pastures.

It has the highest population growth rate in Latin America, an honour Uganda is vying for in Africa too. Like Uganda, it has one of the youngest populations in Latin America and is still dogged by a high birth rate. Economically, both countries have a significant Agricultural industry.

During the last decade, Guatemala begun flirting with Genetically Modified Crops with the USA playing an active role in pushing for their introduction. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with the support of the local Agribusiness sector was able to lobby against Guatemala’s restricitive biosafety rules as far back as 2005 with transgenic agriculture advocates strategising to ensure that subsequent government administrations are GM friendly.

Companies like Monsanto known as ‘breeders’ after carrying out modifications on naturally existing crops are turning around to patent those crops and expecting any one that grows them to pay royalties. Imagine a rural farmer having to contend with purchasing seed each season, paying a royalty fee and not being allowed to re-plant from the previous stock. Essentially, the future of the Agriculture sector is being sold to corporates who want to control what you grow and how you grow it. These companies are driven by profit and care less about the potential environmental side effects of their grand plans. Argentina a country that took on mass adoption of GM Crops is already paying the price with numerous rural dwellers abandoning the countrysides due to a myriad of problems that have evolved as a result of this drive.

On 10 June 2014, the Congress of Guatemala approved the “Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties” that among others stipulated punishments of upto 4 years imprisonment and fines in the range of US$ 1300 for any infringer. One could argue that only those who choose to plant GM Crops will suffer the brunt. This isn’t the case. When natural crop varieties are grown within the environs of GM crops, there is cross breeding that takes place thereby modifying the natural varieties. The farmer whose natural variety has been contaminated will now be liable to pay GM companies like Monsanto if they want to continue replanting their contaminated crop. Monsanto is on record in this regard in the case of Monsanto Canada Inc Vs Schmeiser. By virtue of being patent holders, these companies will determine what you can or can’t do with ‘their’ seeds and like software, they basically rent you their seeds.

The Public Citizen in one of its reports noted that Plant Variety Protection using Intellectual Property Rights is likely to achieve the following;

  • Increased harm to small scale farmers in developing nations. Worldwide at least 1.5 billion individuals depend on small scale farming for their livelihoods of which most are in developing countries. Saving, selling and exchanging seed is essential to the viability of their farming practices. Any system designed to stop this will create a catastrophy in future.

  • More harm to genetic diversity and other implications to Developing countries. Plant Variety Protection discourages breeding minor crops that don’t have a wide enough market. This is likely to have a significant knock on the bio-diversity currently being enjoyed. Traditional diverse agro-ecosystems containing a wide range of traditional crop varieties are likely to be replaced with monocultures of single agro-chemical dependent varieties.

  • The current domination of the GM Crop breeding by rich multinationals in developed countries is likely to skew development for farms in rich economies thereby ignoring crops like sorghum, millet, cassava among others. The spin off effect of this is a threat on food security especially in nations where there is heavy dependence on small scale farming like Uganda.

Following the passing of the “Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties” in Guatemala, there was a lot of uproar in the country and protests followed. Subsequently, the same Congress that passed the law repealed it on the 4th of September 2014 to the joy of many, following a Constitutional Court ruling.

How did Guatemala get here? In 2005 Guatemala signed the CAFTA-DR Free Trade Agreement between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the USA. In this agreement, under Chapter 15 on Intellectual Property Rights, 15.1, 5(a) states; “Each Party shall ratify or accede to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (1991) (UPOV Convention 1991). Nicaragua shall do so by January 1, 2010. Costa Rica shall do so by June 1, 2007. All other Parties shall do so by January 1, 2006.

Further clarity is provided on UPOV in the footer “The Parties recognize that the UPOV Convention 1991 contains exceptions to the breeder’s right, including for acts done privately and for non-commercial purposes, such as private and non-commercial acts of farmers. Further, the Parties recognize that the UPOV Convention 1991 provides for restrictions to the exercise of a breeder’s right for reasons of public interest, provided that the Parties take all measures necessary to ensure that the breeder receives equitable remuneration. The Parties also understand that each Party may avail itself of these exceptions and restrictions. Finally, the Parties understand that there is no conflict between the UPOV Convention 1991 and a Party’s ability to protect and conserve its genetic resources.”

On patents, the same agreement further states in 15.9, 2; “Notwithstanding the foregoing, any Party that does not provide patent protection for plants by the date of entry into force of this Agreement shall undertake all reasonable efforts to make such patent protection available. Any Party that provides patent protection for plants or animals on or after the date of entry into force of this Agreement shall maintain such protection.” This is the noose around the neck that could have led the Congress in Guatemala to proceed with the enactment of that harmful Act. Their desire to comply with the trade agreement meant going against their very people’s desires.

It is very clear here that the Government of Guatemala went into this agreement without thinking through whatever commitments were being made. Had they taken time to rummage through the paperwork, this scenario would have been avoided. At this juncture I realise that Uganda tends to be a victim of such gaffes and as the protagonists for GM crops mark their territory in this East African Country, the decision makers should take time to orient themselves with the implications of their decisions to the survival of humanity and natural life in this well endowed Agricultural country.