Besigye, Muntu debate missed the real issues

After a hectic Wednesday night last week, it is official that Colonel Kizza Besigye is the FDC flag bearer for the 2016 presidential elections!

The election was held two days after a televised FDC presidential aspirants’ debate, a first-ever for Uganda, which was fantastically moderated by my good friend, Charles Mwanguhya Mpagi.

The best thing about that late night Sunday debate was that both contestants, Kizza Besigye and Gen Mugisha Muntu, were rightly entitled to believe that they had won it. Besigye was jovial, combative and challenging in a way that pleased his supporters. Muntu was, as ever, serious and his composure, reason and well-constructed arguments won him more support.

It has been a gruelling campaign for the FDC candidates. Without a doubt, the party has emerged a winner! Both were cordial toward each other and mainly focused on de-campaigning President Museveni. Nothing like it was in the US during Barack Obama’s first campaign in 2008 when then candidate Hillary Clinton accused his competitor of being a liar and worse!

Problem is that by focusing on Museveni’s removal, the FDC campaign has got away with an agenda that does not give consideration to (the lack of) essential public services. Yet everyone believes that the campaign was successful because both candidates traversed the country and addressed crowds in many areas.

Therefore, we shall never know Mugisha Muntu’s thoughts on Mulago hospital or its emergency ward 2B. We do not know how he would have gone about fixing the UPE challenge and so on.

Well last week Kigo Thinkers hosted a thinking session on whether Uganda’s education can produce citizens who will deliver our Vision 2040 authored by the National Planning Authority.

Vision 2040 spells out the country’s dreams and asserts that we shall be on our way to

becoming a first-world country by then, with five regional cities, four international airports, nuclear power and hydro power plants, science and technology parks in each regional city, international and national referral hospitals in each regional city plus many other dream-list aspirations.

Vision 2040, too, has nothing on teachers! It is an accepted given that the quality of teachers makes a school. Dr Connie Nshemereirwe argues, in an East African newspaper article posted on August 8, 2015: “The single most important ingredient in creating an effective school system is the quality of teachers, and this is something that Uganda has to think seriously about if we are to realise Vision 2040.”

Some comments and arguments that caught my interest at the session were on our school curriculum. A participant said he had read somewhere that a country’s national curriculum is symbolic of its people and the state. Seeing that ours is mainly unchanged since independence, 50 years ago, how can it deliver modernity in 25 years as desired in Vision 2040?

Now are schools preparing children for the unknowns of 2040 and beyond? That seemed like an easy question for most at the thinking session who expressed consensus that perhaps we need a new curriculum with better assessment systems than what Uneb offers.

Of course if the teachers’ lot is not given attention in terms of welfare and improvement in quality, we will remain stuck at the 1960s educational level. Nshemerierwe further argues: “Most urgent is to improve the conditions of the current teachers, after which we can have a shot at attracting top talent into the profession.”

There was a participant who wondered about the authors of such fancy documents as Vision 2040 and whether they are Ugandans. Her argument was that if Nusaf is describing overwhelming success rates in northern Uganda as income-generation ventures enable women to become chapatti vendors plus access to water programmes that have delivered 600 boreholes, where is the connection with Vision 2040?

The circumstances of my nephew who has graduated with an Upper Second degree in statistics provide an apt conclusion here. He went to university on a government sponsorship programme having attained high scores at A-level – 23 points out of a possible 25.

He has attended two interviews since leaving school, one at Ubos and the other for a voluntary internship at the local government ministry. No luck at both! In his own opinion, he failed because he lacked sufficient knowledge of current affairs! Quite right; he was a top scholar and never had time for such trivialities!

The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers.

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