“Overhaul the Education System” Minister Monica Musenero tells Uganda Education Policy Review Commission

By STI Communications Team

Is our Education System fulfilling Africa’s dreams? Is it helping to solve our challenges? At a November 23, 2022 meeting with the Education Policy Review Commission, Dr. Monica Musenero Masanza, minister for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI)—Office of The President, nearly caused an uproar when, rooting for an education that is well relevant to Uganda’s development needs especially using STI, firmly unconventionally but also benevolently noted, “We must have the courage to re-invent the wheel of education. We must be willing to go down to the gutters and do the hard and undesirable work. We need to overhaul the education system.

Hon. Dr. Monica Musenero (centre, in white) with Commissioners after the Education Policy Review meeting.

Did she say, “Overhaul the Education System”?! Does she know what it means to bring down a system that has existed for many years to which we are not only products, but have also superintended in one way or the other? Does she not recognize the efforts made over the years? So, where does she want the products of this system to go? Doesn’t she care that her proposal will render Uganda’s adults irrelevant? Although not explicitly stated, by simple implication, nothing could be closer to the truth of the imagination thereof than the grim on the faces and murmurs from some participants!

If these reaction imaginations are anything to go by, we can postulate that Dr. Musenero had successfully caused positive disruption—a shift in thinking. You are perhaps familiar with the statement that there is no growth in the comfort zone; and no comfort in the growth zone. The fear of the unknown coupled with being in one’s comfort zone have never been good starting points for valuable revolutions. But with honest explanation akin to confronting brutal facts, the Minister ably won the Commission’s buy-in pointing to worthwhile engagement with clear prospects for meaningful synergy. But, how, exactly did she do it?

She stated helpful facts and reflections. As a disclaimer, thoughts stated herein are not wholly verbatim, but the essence as was meant by the minister remains unaltered. STI and national development are inextricably inseparable: science acts as a foundation and is a key driver for socio-economic growth at personal and societal levels. In fact, at least, fifty percent of any nation’s development is attributed to how much it has put to use STI be it consumptive or innovation development. The value of an education system is rooted in the purpose for which it was created. And this should be our point of reflection as Uganda: “Who created the education system we have had for all these years, and for what purpose?” Do we as a nation and by extension, African Continent, gain meaningful value thereof? If, yes, why are we still left behind in development indices compared to Europe which handed down the same education system to us nearly seventy years now past?

Students in class by This image is a work of a United States Agency for International Development employee, taken or made as part of that person’s official duties. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain in the United States.

Prior to missionary and later, colonialists’ descent on Africa with impositions that demonized or rendered or rather conditioned Africans to consider anything indigenous inferior to anything European, Africa, of which Uganda is part, had her own societal development systems including in education running on similar principles as Europe but in the African context. The Indigenous African Education System (IAES) imparted holistic human nurturing skills. It took the free-interaction folklore approach rather than school / classroom-confined rote conditioning that made learning easy and enjoyable. Youngsters were taught values, including work: production; value addition; metal works; etc., for posterity through totems and storytelling as opposed to foreign alphabet.

Europeans, then, came and disrupted our education system and strategically imposed upon us one of their own craft and interest to churn out clerks and assistants to help them achieve their interests in Africa at her expense. This education thwarted Africans’ curiosity, killed their creativity and innovation. Conditioning bred alienation and myopism that Africans could not see or, at least, took long to realize how irrelevant European designed education was for Africa!

Many years later, we are still grappling with the consequences of such education. How do you, otherwise, explain the ugly reality of poverty, disease, and underdevelopment amidst countless elites, some even professors, needless to mention insurmountable untapped natural resources or simply ‘donated’ to foreigners who add value to it only to return it and sell it exorbitantly to unbothered Africans? As it is now, there is no mentality for using education as a catalyst for industrialization and development. Instead, it focuses on content and passing of examinations, producing job-seekers that do not gainfully contribute to economic development. Consequently, the vicious foreign-dependence cycle continues, even for such essential supplies as pharmaceuticals! However, with COVID-19, we seem to have woken up, but do not yet know where the door is! But it is a good wake-up call to shift from focusing on treatment to prevention! We must build robust internal capacity.

Therefore, the aforesaid Education Policy Review Commission is a timely and right step in the right direction. We can as well argue that was prophetically for it comes at a time when Uganda desperately needs reforms in education. Hence, we must seize the opportunity before the gate closes for once the cycle passes, it might not re-open soon. Only Uganda can best design its education models distinctly proper to her development needs! Partners may come in, but to escape their often-concealed crippling selfish agenda, Uganda must break the ground herself.