A few weeks ago during #ugblogweek I asked my academic icon Joel to tell write for me a blog about his experience with school or generally his thoughts on education.
He was doing his final bar exams at the Law Development Center at the time and so this post comes weeks later.
He is my academic icon because, he is the only person I know who has excelled at everything in school and has the audacity to make it look easy.
Speaking of academia, today I started my 9 day mission with the World Bank education team, so I am posting this from my lunch break.
I spent the greater part of the day touring schools in rural Mityana district being both grateful and challenged all in one breathe.
I will be telling all soon, but in the meantime, this is what Joel wrote.
Like most of you, that are reading this blog post I have been educated in Uganda for “almost” all my life.
So, you should not expect any novel story of a supporting teacher who kept track of me all the way from nursery till I graduated from the University.
Our teachers in Uganda (or at least those that taught me) are so detached from their pupils yet pupils spend more time in school than at home. As students, we generally looked at them as our mentors. This admiration often came to an end when the teachers would “cane” us much more than they would teach.
I attended three primary schools and two secondary schools. You shouldn’t rush to conclusions, I wasn’t stubborn and neither was I expelled. I had no say in which school I went to, this was reserved for my parents who made decisions that were presumed to be in my best interest.
In most of the schools I went to, I was regarded as one of the “darker” people, even in my class. I still don’t know why this was such a “thing,” because I never saw any “white” person in our class, save for the Arab and Indian we studied with.
This “color consciousness was extreme. For example one day I walked in class and someone had drawn an incomplete face with only eyes on the black board. My name was written just below the face. I don’t know if you get the joke, but it meant that I was as dark as the black board and only my eyes were the distinguishing feature.
The most memorable ones was whenever electricity went off during “night preps.” Students would then shout my name and ask, “guys where is Joel, we can’t see him.” I got used to it and I realized that bullying was an integral part of studying in Uganda. This isn’t something that you would go and report to the administration lest you risked being branded all sorts of names.
Besides such bullying, I failed to appreciate why we spend so much time in school. You will find that someone at university aged approximately 21 years, has spent a minimum of 15 years at school. What have we been studying for 15 years that still doesn’t guarantee a job? Most often than not we become a statistic on youth unemployment. I therefore have a problem with what and how we are taught in Uganda. Emphasis has always been placed on memorizing and regurgitating what was given in class during exams. As opposed to understanding “why?” everything is that way.
It is only when I joined law school that I started to appreciate how rewarding it was to question everything. For example one could not study the current text of the Constitution without understanding what happened before the constitution was enacted. I believe that is what education should be truly about. It should reward originality of thought and encourage constant questioning, which are lacks in our education system as it is.
I believe that if we are to progress we need to challenge the status quo and ponder about how we can make it better. I honestly ask myself what I really studied in my “o’ levels,” for most of the time I was just going through the motions and studying to finish.
We need to change how we are taught.
Ps:Happy New Month.
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