Who will deliver Vision 2040?

On October 29, 2015 Kigo Thinkers launched a paper titled “Can Uganda’s education produce citizens who will deliver Vision 2040?”

The launch followed a policy dialogue in September, where thinkers, policymakers and education experts considered the question of who will deliver our vision.

As with all Kigo Thinkers’ papers, A-level students designed the front and back covers – particularly apt this time round, since delivery of Vision 2040 might be their responsibility in a few years’ time.

Just like many Ugandans, a good number of the students did not know anything about Uganda Vision 2040! So, they were invited to read the executive summary of the document from which the designs were derived. Consequently, both front and back covers are interesting!

At first glance one could be deceived that the main photograph on the front cover is blurred. There are three children seemingly working on a written assignment in class. Apart from the first child at the centre of the picture, the other two are blurred and faded. The picture is captioned but the words are cut off at the end though it is easy to figure out – Future Leaders.

Below the main photograph is another picture of a fast-train terminal and a smaller one on the left of a building that is a hospital. Both pictures show relevant signposts; one directs train passengers to Terminal 5, perhaps suggesting that this is the number of terminals at that station. The other gives direction to motorists entering a hospital and one notices that physicians have their own parking.

I think the A-level students that designed the covers are suggesting that the blurred kids, the future leaders, are unlikely to ever make it into a train terminal, let alone five! They may not even have access to a modern hospital and may never park their cars in the designated areas for physicians.

But the back cover is not subtle. The main picture presents a five-lane motorway with all the traffic going one way. Running along the motorway on the right, is a line of modern buildings that seem to go as far as the eye can see! This is not Uganda soon!

At the September thinking session, it was asserted that a national curriculum is symbolic of its people and the state. Is this true of Uganda’s that was designed in the 1960s? Who knows what will happen in 2040; are schools currently preparing children for that? I guess most Ugandans can answer this question.

Vision 2040 is ambitious: in addition to having regional hospitals, four international airports, nuclear power plants and technology parks… Uganda should be able to participate in the emerging fields of nanotechnology, biosciences and space exploration!

The challenge is that the vision has nearly nothing on teachers, the ones that should guide children who will deliver the country’s ambitions. There is recognition that there is need to professionalise and motivate teachers and this is important.

A study by John Hattie published in the book Visible Learning confirmed that teachers have up to 30% responsibility for students’ achievement. So, teachers’ thoughts, decisions and actions are important because without them, children on their own can only influence 50%.

In Uganda, we must worry about teacher quality; up to 29% of teachers are unqualified in secondary and primary schools. Teacher mastery is also in doubt; even without reference to the statistics, most parents of primary-going children regularly contest what children are told by their teachers!

This is in sharp contrast with Finnish teachers who are held in high esteem and teachers yonder ‘feel a high sense of purpose and responsibility’!

To ensure high levels of competence, a research-based degree is the minimum qualification for a primary school teacher. Indeed, the high quality of training and professionalism of Finnish teachers has been termed the Finnish Advantage and admired globally.

The Kigo Thinkers’ paper also asserts that ‘alongside the current curriculum reform, ways must be found to break the stranglehold of the current examination system. If examinations are, indeed, going to drive learning, then reform the examination process so that it measures and rewards all aspects of the learning process: doing, being, knowing and living together.’

If you wish to learn more about Vision 2040, the document can be downloaded from the Uganda National Planning Authority website (www.npa.ug) and Kigo Thinkers’ work can be found on www.kigothinkers.org.


The author is one of the founding Kigo Thinkers


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