Tag Archives: education

Welcome to Education 4.0

All great changes are preceded by Chaos – Deepak Chopra.

When Covid-19 set foot into this world, little did we know the kind of impact it would have on our countries, governments, lives and families. More than a year later, so much has changed in the way we lead our lives. Much of what was being resisted initially has now been embraced.

For years, employees tried to convince their employers about the need to be allowed to work from home but very few could tolerate that. The belief in clocking in and out of an office building was so high but now, with Covid amidst us, many are comfortably working from home.

Numerous employees always thought that their jobs were their lives and restricted themselves to measly earnings without realising the full potential they had. The threat to their livelihoods brought about by Covid-19 changed everything. Today, some are wondering whether they will ever really go back to seek employment.

In this article though I want to focus on Education. As I write this, one of my children has been out of school for 22 months and will clock a year by the time the Government allows them back at school. Am I sad? Not really.

The absence of brick and mortar classroom instruction as well as the health scare has led parents and schools to seek alternatives for the education of their children. Online learning has taken root and has been embraced even by the most conservative of schools.

A classroom that used to hold 30 pupils now contains only two teachers

Parents who thought phones are there for gossiping on WhatsApp and Facebook have had to surrender their gadgets to allow their children study. It has dawned upon us that students do not need to be confined at school endlessly under the guise of learning. The excuse schools used to always justify very high school fees charges has been severely watered down. Alot of learning can go on without the over investment in infrastructure that could be outsourced. Why should every school have laboratories in place

Instruction has gone electronic, classrooms have gone electronic, exams have gone electronic. Apart from practicals in the science field, I do not see what cannot be done electronically with ease currently. By the way, as Virtual Reality takes off and becomes a common resource, even the practicals in sciences will no longer be an issue.

Education is going digital and it is a fact we can’t run away from. Even day schools in my view need to stop demanding that children study the entire week from school. They should allow for a flexible learning approach that gives the students only one or two contact days at school during the week.

Parents are definitely likely to spend less on day schooling children if you consider the hustle of dropping and picking them up daily coupled by giving them endless supplies of snacks. Yours truly has been down this road for 15 years. However, it calls for us the parents to cease outsourcing our children’s study 100% to the schools. We have to start getting involved. I have enjoyed the unorthodox chance I had to instruct my children not only on classroom matters but other social and practical life skills too that I have always wanted to embed in them. As I write this article, they have constructed two mobile chick protection shelters that have enabled our newly hatched chicks feed in a semi free range arrangement. They designed them from scratch utilising their mathematical and design knowledge and only asked me for materials to purchase materials which they used to install the frame. Which school would have given them the space to exude such skills in today’s Uganda apart from Mengo Secondary School?

The frame of the chick shelter designed and constructed by children

I have not left out boarding schools. They have some importance too that we parents like but with the ever advancing technology, they have less justification for the high charges they currently impose upon us parents also. Those reams of paper they request us to supply religiously should be explained going forward. Classrooms no longer need that much chalk, markers and flip charts since electronic instruction alternatives like smart boards, smart TVs are readily available. School libraries can now go electronic. Why make each student buy textbooks destined to deliver the same content? Online registration should ease such and the charge per student is usually measly. When I see the brilliant content by Ugandan teachers freely available on YouTube, it implies that the number of teachers in schools need to be dropped because through online instruction, a class that had 4 instruction teachers for Physics could do with one only. Every school doesn’t need to have its own science laboratories. This could become an outsourced service with an investor setting up the laboratory infrastructure and schools hiring it out on a need basis.

Then comes the concern for the lay man out there, commonly known as “Omuntu wa wansi,” whose child goes to a school wholly supported by the Government under the Universal Education scheme. Ain’t I being mean by not considering their plight regarding these seemingly futuristic changes I am talking about? Many families can hardly afford to pay school fees and here I am telling them to invest in electronic infrastructure? How insensitive of me.

For once I have chosen to be selectively insensitive and tell anyone that cares to listen that change is never bothered by the economic situation one is in. When it’s time is due, it’s due. It is only politicians that tend to love massaging the past. When the government chose to transition from the use of scratch cards to load airtime in preference for an electronic approach, many populist politicians spelt doom for the lay man claiming they would be left out. Today, every Ugandan with a phone is comfortably loading airtime electronically irrespective of location and economic ability.

The Government now has to make up its mind whether going forward it wants an educated populace or not. The pretense of valuing education that we keep seeing being perpetuated can no longer hold. With all the money stolen regularly from the coffers and that spent on classified expenditures in Defense, on the overrated Covid-19 pandemic to mention but a few, we cannot claim not to be able to turn around our education delivery approach.

Every Ugandan should be able to benefit from the emerging approach to education. Learners in Nakapiripirit, Butaleja, Luuka, Nakasongola, Ruhiira and all over should be able to use electronic gadgets to study. It is not as expensive as it is made to seem. What is lacking in my view is commitment.

Welcome to Education 4.0 where even UNEB will need to go paperless and deliver examinations online.

James Wire
Business and Technology Consultant
Twitter: @wirejames
YouTube: With Wire

Old Students, let us restore the glory of historical schools

The issue of schools is on most people’s lips following the release of exam results by the Uganda National Examinations Board. As students report back to school, the school fees expectations of most private schools have left parents agape. Matters are made worse by the non-school fees requirements that in some cases amount to nearly 50% of the school fees charges.

Back in my home village located in Naweyo sub-county, Butaleja district lies the once great Bukedi College Kachongha. This school was known for its academic exploits in the same vein as others like Tororo College, Nabumali High School, Teso College, Ombaci College, Jinja College, Busoga College Mwiri, Nyakasura School, St Leo’s College Kyegobe, Sebei College, Comboni College, Manjasi High, Tororo Girls School, among others. All this happened during their golden years of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Bukedi College disintegrated due to a multiplicity of factors only to become a shadow of itself. A few years ago, some old students started pushing for the revival of this school and I happened to be a well-wisher/observer of these efforts. I saw how they battled all odds to restore sanity at the school as well as get it streamlined. Small efforts created small achievements that built up one day at a time. It is therefore no wonder that after so many years in the doldrums, the school has registered its best performance over the last decade.

Some of the old giants that are still on top of their game like St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Kings College Buddo, Namilyango College, Gayaza High School, Mt. St Mary’s College Namagunga, Ntare High School all have strong and functional Old Students’ networks that play an active role in the school’s affairs. Seeing what Bukedi College Old students have been able to achieve in just two years lends further credence to this school of thought.

I then ask myself, what if those of us complaining about the failure of schools that we studied in decades ago chose to be more proactive and worked towards reviving them? Couldn’t this be an opening towards better performance hence increasing the school options that today’s parent has? Why should a parent from Kumi send their child to a school in Mukono district yet well functioning Teso College lies within their environs?


BCK Students lining up for lunch in the dining hall

The massive drop in performance of most government aided schools fostered the growth of private led secondary schools that took on the mantle of giving parents hope in good grades for their children. These schools then begun pegging their school fees on performance. Since they churn out numerous distinctions, they use that as a right of passage to have their fees increased year in, year out. Parents seem not to have any fall back position and hence have become victims of this plot by the private schools. If something isn’t done to arrest this, future generations shall have an even bigger problem on their hands.

Some of the benefits of reviving these historical schools include among others:

Lower School Fees. The capacity of these government aided schools is averagely 1,000 students and if only their standards can be improved, it means that close to 20,000 places can be availed nationwide in just 20 historical schools for students to study in a competitive environment and have a chance of passing well. The biggest losers if this happens are private schools whose fees structure hardly matches that of these government schools. This should push them to lower their fees or even close shop. For the uninitiated, there was a time when the likes of Tororo College would send over 100 students to Makerere University in a single year.

Less Congestion. The congestion in schools within Central Uganda i.e Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso, Lugazi, Mpigi is likely to decrease. Parents in Kampala for whatever reason could choose to take their children to a well performing upcountry school and less countryside parents would struggle to get their children into schools around greater Kampala.

Increased Nationalism. The existence of decent schools across the country could help us relive the days when it was not strange for an Easterner to send their child to study from Kabale. This has the effect of opening us up to the entire country as citizens thereby fostering greater understanding and appreciation of one another. Today, it is not surprising to find a person that has never travelled beyond 50Km from their home.

Cultural Understanding. Since most of these historical schools are located in places with distinct ethnic backgrounds, they offer parents a chance to expose their children to their culture. I may choose to take my son to Bukedi College Kachongha so that he can get a chance to master the Lunyole language as well as understand the people better. The same would apply to a parent from West Nile where Ombaci College and Mvara SS are.

The continued survival of that historical school is highly dependent on you the Old Boy/Girl. Remember, ours is the last generation that saw the greatness of some of these schools. If we do not act now to restore them, our children are very likely never going to know their importance in Uganda’s education space. Let us learn from the demise of Namasagali College.

Adapting from Bukedi College, below are some highlights on how the OB network is transforming it.

  • Commenced engaging the school in 2015.

  • Student population had dwindled from 1,200 to 130 only.

  • The school was a dumping ground for indisciplined teachers.

  • It had been turned into a mixed school as well as a day section introduced.

  • There was no Board of Governors in place.

  • In 2017, student population dropped to 54. The school nearly lost its centre numbers.

  • There were no first grades for the last five years.

The OBs then decided to take action in liaison with other stakeholders;

  • Lobbied for a new Head Master and Deputy.

  • Took on a new bursar

  • Got a laboratory attendant

  • Instituted a Board of Governors

  • Relieved non performing teachers of their duties

  • Hired temporary teachers

  • Introduced incentives for teachers and students

  • Repaired student dormitories

Results? The UCE 2018 has shown a significant improvement with the school registering 6 first grades, 11 second grade and 11 third grade. Considering the fact that for the last five years there had been no single first grade, what appears like a simple performance to others is a very big step in the right direction. I can only predict a brighter future for this school.

This is my parting shot, take time to think about the wretched nature of your old school, do not give up, mobilise your network of old students and start changing things for the better. One day, you too shall be proud of that school the way SMACK, Namilyango, Gayaza, Buddo, Namagunga old students are of their own.

Take charge.

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

Follow him @wirejames on Twitter

Email lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com