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The 2021 Education Review Commission Should Redeem Uganda’s Education!

Ugandans will soon see another round of policy recommendations by another Education Policy Review Commission (EPRC) appointed in 2021, headed by Hon Amanya Mushega one of the country’s education architects’ in the 1990s when the monumental Government White Paper on Education (GWE) unleashed fundamental ideals and principles to democratise education in all its forms. Many individuals and organisations should have submitted pertinent views to the EPRC by close of the deadline on 28 Feb 2022, and I trust that those views and opinions will receive due consideration. I implore the Commission to redeem Uganda’s education. Make bold recommendations to democratise and broaden the vision of education. I request the Commission not to repeat the history of shrinking our education to ‘schooling’. The lessons from the processes and outcomes of your predecessor commissions (eg. Phelps Stokes Commission, Castle Education Commission and Prof Senteza Education Policy Review Commission) should haunt you enough to do a job that befits the demands and aspirations of 21st century Ugandans and their children’s children

‘Decolonizing and Africanizing’ Education: Get beyond the Slogans

Sloganeering is one tool that has not been used for a good purpose by education policy decision makers at different levels. The rhetoric of decolonizing and Africanizing Uganda’s education is, for example, often used to make a point about ‘how bad colonialism’ was and is to our ‘independence and integrity’ as African people. Not many times, do such sloganeering tendencies get deeper into the drivers and root causes of endemic exclusion of millions of Ugandans from accessing good quality education and training opportunities. Often one hears public rhetoric about vocationalisation of education, education with production, teaching in mother tongue and so many many such slogans. I argue the EPRC to identify and use the right tools of analysis to make rational policy recommendations that are free from emotions and political gimmicks. Systems thinking would be a great paradigm if I could be allowed to make a suggestion for some good ways of understanding wicked social problems such as Uganda’s deteriorating education.

Redeem Uganda’s Education System

From an adult and lifelong learning perspective, I implore the EPRC to diligently exercise its mandate to ensure that its suggestions and recommendations aim to broaden and widen the scope, structure, system and practice of education to meet the education and learning needs of all children, youths and adults in Uganda.

While local, regional and global trends in education, cultural, scientific, technology, political and economic fields are compelling all nations to expand and widen flexible initial and further education opportunities and facilities for youths and adults to constantly learn at their own pace for personal and societal development, our education system is predominantly a ‘schooling machine’ designed to serve ‘full-time learners’ who are assumed to be either children or dependent individuals with no other social, political or economic roles in our society. Yet we are all aware that our country has thousands and millions of prospective and enrolled learners with multiple identities such as parents, wives, husbands, traders, farmers, musicians, artists, church leaders, civil servants, parliamentarians and councillors.

Many of the learners in the categories mentioned above and more are constantly struggling to navigate the restrictive ‘schooling culture’ of our education system as they juggle their social roles including the fundamental ‘tax paying’ citizenry obligations. Besides the financial burden of paying unregulated and randomly determined fees, they endure poor teaching-learning environments which do not match their needs, interests and characteristics as independent and self-directing individuals. 

While thousands are struggling to cope with the poor learning environments in countless registered and unregistered institutions across the country, it is evident that there is a significant section of Ugandans who are excluded from either enrolling for quality initial education services or pursuing further education and training on account of their age and / or past schooling performance. In this category are non-literate adult Ugandans (18 years & above) who missed out on formal schooling in their childhood and those who did not successfully complete primary and secondary education.

The available education options for such  Ugandans include adult basic education (ABE) programmes by NGOs, the Ministry of Gender and other state and non-state actors. The good intentions of these ABE programmes notwithstanding, their effectiveness and outcomes in relation to access and quality as well as their configuration in the context of lifelong learning have been questioned by several evaluations and reviews (see MGLSD,2007; Okech et al, 1999; Okech et al, 2001; Oxenham, et al 2002;  Rogers, et al, 2008).  The media stories of senior citizens and other older Ugandans who brave the humiliation to sit PLE and O level examinations under conditions that are designed for children illustrate the structural obstacles that they face in their crave to pursue desired further education and training.

It is evident that the state of education and training for youths and adults in Uganda is deficient and far below the expectations of not only the Education 2030 Framework for Action, UNESCO Recommendations on the development of adult education in 1975 /2015, the Belem Framework for Action 2010 but also Uganda’s constitution of 1995, National Development Plan III and the NRM’s manifesto.

For years, several writers and commentators have delineated the issues and concerns calling for public policy action but in vain (see Bananuka, et al 2019; MGLSD, 2012; MGLSD, 2015; MoE, 1992; Jjuuko, 2021;  Jjuuko, 2012; Jjuuko, 2007;  Jjuuko et al, 2007; Openjuru 2016). There is no pragmatic inclusive policy framework to guide and regulate the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ALE services in Uganda. The political, technical and administrative responsibilities for different components are fragmented across various ministries and departments without clear coordination, partnership and collaboration mandates. Overall, the operating environment is not enabling enough to facilitate access to quality education and training services by the majority of those who urgently need knowledge and skills to improve their livelihoods and to live a dignified life.

Renew the 1992 GWE policy positions to democratise education

I appeal to the EPRC to critically consider the 1992 Government White Paper on Education policy positions under chapter nine on Democratisation of Education  with a focus to review and renew the following (direct extract): 

  • Making extraordinary efforts in the following areas namely (i) Education for Women, (ii) Special Education for PWDs, (iii) Education for Gifted Children, (iv) Education for Disadvantaged groups, (v) Education for Karamoja, (vi) Non-formal and Adult Education, (vii) Post-Literacy Adult Education, (viii) Basic Education for National Development, (ix). Eradication of Illiteracy,(x). Apprenticeship Education for the Youth, (xi) Continuing and Lifelong Education, (xiii). Distance Education and the Mass Media;
  • Addressing the limited scope of Non-formal and Adult Education by encompassing the following objectives namely (i) Attainment of permanent and development functional literacy and numeracy, (ii) Acquisition of functional skills relevant to life in the community, (iii) Development of national awareness of the individuals; and (iv) Continued learning while-at-work and at home;
  • Consolidation of present infrastructure and expansion of responsibilities of the Ministry of Education and Sports to cover formal as well as non-formal and adult education leading to increased access to education by all citizen;
  • Creation of a directorate for Adult and Lifelong learning.

Finally, I state my proposal to the EPRC to Recognise and Streamline Adult Education & Learning (ALE) in the Structure, System and Practice of Education in Uganda.

About the Author

Robert Jjuuko is a Uganda Researcher, Educationist & Consultant | robert@adultslearnuganda.org | WhatsApp + 256 787 66 70 43

References

  • Bananuka, T. H., & Katahoire, A. R. (2019). The struggle for Adult learning and Education policy: a Ugandan experience. Commonwealth of Learning (COL).
  • Jjuuko, R. (2021). Uganda’s Integrated Community Learning for Wealth Creation (ICOLEW) architecture: triggering public financing of popular adult learning and education. DVV International
  • Jjuuko, R. (2012). Youth and adult learning in Uganda: Key policy issues and concerns. Conference proceedings. Uganda Adult Education Network. Kampala
  • Jjuuko, R. (2007). Reflection on adult education priorities in Uganda: if there was enough money for adult education, what would be priorities. Journal of Adult Education and Development, 68.
  • Jjuuko, R., Bugembe, R., Nyakato, J., & Kasozi, M. (2007). A desk study of public policy frameworks related to adult learning. Uganda Adult Education Network
  • MGLSD. (2015). Third global report on adult learning and education: monitoring survey results for Uganda. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. Retrieved 11 6, 2020, from https://uil.unesco.org/i/doc/adult-education/grale-3/national-reports/uganda.pdf
  • MGLSD. (2012). Follow-up of CONFINTEA VI: national progress report submitted by the Government of Uganda. UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning. Retrieved 11 6, 2020, from Confintea report 2012 https://uil.unesco.org/fileadmin/download/en/nationalreports/africa/Uganda.pdf
  • MGLSD. (2007). Process review of the functional adult literacy programme in Uganda 2002-Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
  • MoES. (1992). Government white paper on education review commission report. Ministry of Education and Sports.
  • NPA. (2020). Third national development plan (NDP III) 2020/21-2024/25. National Planning Authority. Retrieved 11 12, 2020, from www.npa.go.ug/wpcontent/uploads/2020/08/NDPIIIFinale_Compressed.pdf
  • Okech, A., Carr-Hill, R. A., Katahoire, A. R., Kakooza, T., & Ndidde, A. N. (1999). Report of evaluation on the functional adult literacy programme in Uganda 1999. Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
  • Okech, A., Carr-Hill, R. A., Katahoire, A. R., Kakooza, T., Ndidde, A. N., & Oxenham, J. (2001). Adult literacy programs in Uganda. World Bank.
  • Openjuru, G. L. (2016). Older adult education in Uganda. In B. Findsen & M. Formosa (Eds.), International perspectives on older adult education: lifelong learning book series 22. Springer International Publishing.
  • Oxenham, J., Diallo, A. H., Katahoire, A. R., Mwangi, A. P., & Sall, O. (2002). Skills and literacy training for better livelihoods: a review of approaches and experiences. Washington. The World Bank.
  • Rogers, A., Openjuru, G., Busingye, J., & Nampijja, D. (2008). Report of consultancy on functional adult literacy programme in Kalangala and Buvuma Islands provided by the Government of Uganda Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and supported by ICEIDA.

Living a DREAM and learning to LEARN

Living a DREAM and learning to LEARN: Perspectives from the 7th INTALL Winter School

Author with colleagues in the same comparative group

Dreams! Everybody has them, I am not talking about the ‘sensations that occur in our mind during sleep,’ I am talking about aspirations, the ambitions that we cherish when we are growing as people and as career developers.

Well, I have been living my dreams – from studying abroad to traveling around the world. But, perhaps the most exciting of the dreams I have so far lived was being part of the 7th INTALL Winter School 2020 at the University of Würzburg in Germany at the beginning of February. For two weeks, I did not only live my dream, a dream I missed in 2017, but have also acquired lots of experience that I believe will enhance my career and personal life.

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Lifelong Learning, Youth and Work

Lifelong learning; my learning journey with UNESCO Chair on Lifelong Learning, Youth, and Work, Gulu University.

Ever since I decided to go back to school after a ‘forced’ break for 3 years, I have become an ardent fun of learning. Some of my colleagues have given me titles to this effect (not mentioning them here). Truth is, we should embrace learning all the time because the world we live in is changing now and then. So, what is the purpose of this blog post? Whereas I have a lot to share about my learning experiences, in this article, I want to narrate my journey with UNESCO Chair.

Before the UNESCO Chair

While at Kyambogo University for my bachelor’s degree in Adult and Community Education, I was a student leader on many fronts. One of my accomplished activities was engaging in current debates about social issues and development agenda for our country. One of the lecturers in my department then saw my ‘curiosity’ and hard work especially in mobilizing and organizing people for a cause. Long story short, he has since become my mentor and colleague. Fast forward, August 2016, while I was working as his research associate, he invited me to assist him in covering a min workshop for the YEW network.  Before the workshop, he had linked a network member with me to help him coordinate a group of young people for a skit about social problems in our society. This workshop and the preceding dinners introduced me to key stakeholders of the UNESCO Chair. Subsequently, as we continued with the research project, I met more of the YEW members some of whom were supervising the research project. It was in one of the research meetings, that the announcement of the UNESCO Chair was mentioned.

My involvement with the UNESCO Chair

Again, while at Makerere University for my master’s degree, one of the YEW members was my professor. She was coordinating the UNESCO Chair secretariat (if I am not mistaken). Through her, my application to attend the UNESCO Chair stakeholders start conference in November 2017 was accepted. I was offered the privilege to be on the rapporteur team. The two days of the conference were especially important for incredible other opportunities. There was a lot of interaction with stakeholders from NGOs and Universities. In April 2018, the UNESCO Chair and partners had a week-long residential training seminar in my neighbourhood. My dean at Makerere University was among those in attendance. Something needed to be picked urgently from Makerere University to the training Hotel and he sought my quick assistance. On my return, he asked me to represent him for the remaining days for he had some urgent matters to attend to. He is such a humorous person that I thought he was pranking me for delivering the item in time, but no… he was dead serious. So, for three or so days I was jokingly referred to as the ‘dean’. You might ask why he delegated me, well, he had seen me working at the conference back in November of 2017 and I was in his face early morning when he was needed urgently somewhere. The privilege of attending this training seminar was immense. Lots of learning from partner organizations and more connections.

Other opportunities

As mentioned earlier, I am a very curious person and I like ‘going there’. In 2019 (I had moved to Europe for an exchange program in Norway) my mentor was presenting at a congress in Switzerland and asked if I could join him (of course I said yes) and that was another experience that I can write another time. How is it connected to UNESCO Chair on lifelong Learning, Youth and Work? Well, firstly, the conference was about vocational education and training which is an area the UNESCO Chair has a keen interest. Secondly, the European partner university (the University of Groningen in the Netherlands) where my mentor was doing his PhD had a team of scholars attending the congress. The same University had scheduled a seminar for network scholars after the congress. It was my time to visit this university that many of the UNESCO Chair notables finished their masters and PhDs. I asked the UNESCO Chairholder to attend the planned seminar. It was an amazing experience in the Northern part of the Netherlands.

The COVID-19 and its implication.

The CORONA crisis left most people stranded. I was supposed to travel for data collection for my second master degree, but flights were grounded, borders closed, and jobs lost. In that whole confusion and stress, I was always looking out for webinars and free courses. That is when the UNESCO Chair announced an online qualitative data analysis course to which I applied and was accepted. This course introduced me to data analysis software ATLAS.ti. I have had the chance to learn about other software provided by my University, but I have been reluctant. I took the course with the seriousness it deserved. With incredible support from the facilitators and participants, I found the course remarkably interesting and motivating. I can boast of this added skill and knowledge of qualitative data analysis approaches that I had limited knowledge about. Thanks to the UNESCO Chair for the continued capacity-building support for masters and PhD students.  I want to applaud the team that organized and ran the course. It was the best call. The COVID-19 pandemic or any other crisis should not stop the world from continuing. Organizations and Institutions should be creative enough to embrace the available technologies to carry out their mandate.

Benefits and Lessons so far

My engagement with the UNESCO Chair and/or people associated with it has yielded several benefits and I have learnt many lessons. I highlight a few:

  1. I have acquired knowledge and skills from the many seminars, conferences, and courses I have attended that have been organized or sponsored by the chair.
  2. I have made connections and enriched my social network
  3. I have travelled to new places both within Uganda and in Europe. As a person who loves travelling, this experience is self-satisfying and builds self-confidence  
  4. My perspective about certain research fields and career pathways have changed (in a good way of course)
  5. I have learnt that it is important to put yourself there even when you have no idea what is there. There is a lot we can learn when we accept new challenges
  6. I have easy access to resources, research published by the chair and people in its circles
  7. I now follow a network of scholars and their works for example VET Africa 4.0

I end this article by calling upon young educators and students to embrace volunteerism, collaboration, and curiosity. Yearn to learn more, always be on the lookout, there are opportunities for learning in every circumstance. Enhance those competencies you have or better yet, learn new skills. The dynamic nature of life requires lifelong learning to fit in the available work opportunities. Once again, I extend my sincere gratitude to the Chairholder and the team of facilitators for the interesting presentations and constructive feedback. I am happy to have taken the course and I look forward to future opportunities from the chair and its consortium partners.

About the author:

Saul is a Ugandan currently pursuing a master’s degree in Global Development and Planning with a specialization in Development Management from the University of Agder, Kristiansand campus, Norway. Prior to joining Agder as an Erasmus + Global Mobility exchange student, he had undertaken full courses in the master’s degree in Adult and Community Education of Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. His background in the field of Education informs his passion for understanding the role of education [formal or otherwise] in transforming communities. His research interests are in the areas of community education, community development, vocational education & training, socio-economic transformation, social protection, and sustainable futures.

Saul is a professional grade five teacher and a graduate of the Bachelor of Adult and Community Education of Kyambogo University. He has also done part-time teaching in the Department of Adult and Community Education, Kyambogo University, Uganda. He has taken courses in European Integration Studies at the University of Agder, Kristiansand, and recently participated in a winter school 2020 on International and comparative studies in adult education and lifelong learning at the Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Germany.

Youth & societal perceptions

Conceptualizing youth as resource, social problem!

Youth Learning Festival 2018 (YLF5) Scholars

The implications of conceptualizing youth as resource or social problem can be too hard to comprehend in the daily routine of parents, teachers and other social actors as they guide and support young people. Yesterday, the 27 September 2019 at the fellowship of Rotary Groningen Oost, I had a very rewarding exchange on the same with a club of distinguished Dutch men and women. We undertook an impromptu perception check on the common understandings of youth. We also reflected on the common phenomenon of youth resistance. We debated a little about the manifestations of the perceptions in the two contexts – what society in Uganda and the Netherlands, think. The slides below guided our conversation. What do you think about this conversation?

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YOUTH & AGRIC RESEARCH UGANDA

Animal science

The Ugandan youth labour market transition and agriculture productivity research project is being undertaken within the framework of a postgraduate study programme at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands.

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