All In The Quest For Knowledge

 

Somewhere in King Solomon’s Book of Proverbs,he advises us that our education is our life and that we should guard it well.

Nelson Mandela, the statesman and global icon of the 20th century said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’’

Education opens your mind and changes your way of life. It gives you enlightenment and skills to thrive in a changing world. They say: Knowledge is power but it can be power only if you use the acquired knowledge to improve your way of life and make a difference in your community.

First borns and last borns in families tend to be given a catalogue of names in memory of  their ancestors. Surprisingly , I had no problem with choosing the name of my Blog: Munaku- my paternal grandfather. I wanted to honour him for having paved the way for his children and grandchildren to acquire a great education. He lived about fifteen kilometer from the main town Mityana. Mityana is itself seventy six kilometres along the Kampala -Fort Portal Road. You turn off this road to go a further ten kilometer inland. By the mid 1920’s there was an Anglican Church primary school at Mityana. My grandfather wanted a great education for his son so badly that he took him to stay with a relative in Mityana during the term. From here he made sure he joined another Church Missionary founded school : Mengo High School in Kampala.  This lined him up to join the most prestigious boys’ school in Uganda: Kings College Buddo, founded by the Church Missionary Society of Britain. It was founded in 1906 to educate the royals and the sons of the chiefs.

It is located 14 kilometres from the capital city Kampala off Masaka Road leading to Ankole in Western Uganda.By then , there was no public transport so the only way to get to that school was by walking. At the beginning of each term;  my grandfather, my grandmother and my father would sit down together to plan meticulously for this walk of about fifty-five kilometres in total.

Thankfully, some relatives lived along the route so my grandparents  would plan for where my father would stay for the two nights. My grandmother would roast and pack him sweet plantains to eat as a snack along the way.

While growing up, my father would tell  us this fascinating story. He undertook the 3 days journey with excitement  and intention knowing very well that  if he got to the school in time and worked hard and smart, the experience would change his future for good. He walked at his pace and would arrive at the school in the evening of the third day.

When he first narrated the story to me, I was about eight years old and was attending  a girls’ residential missionary  school  being driven there and collected by a driver in the family car. That is how it was for the fourteen years of my formal education at that school. I now feel ashamed for having complained when the driver happened to come late.

In my wide reading, later I discovered that those students from Kigezi in western Uganda,430 kilometres  southwest of Kampala city, the capital of Uganda, took a minimum of two weeks to walk to Kings’ College Buddo!  Their stories made my father’s  three days trek look like a walk in the park! Many other students followed in their footsteps in their quest for knowledge and they went on to become architects and managers of service delivery in Uganda’s expanding civil service. They developed themselves, and made a difference in their communities and the world at large. They sent their sons and daughters to the same school to acquire what they themselves had had and much more.

The parents of the first students like today’s parents wanted the best for their children and they were fully aware that it all started with a great education.

My father did not disappoint his parents; he was so determined to change his life that he worked diligently and left the school as an all- round top student of his year. This immediately earned him his first job as an interpreter in the Resident’s office of the British Protectorate of  Kampala.He soon made the typewriter an indispensable tool of his office work and during his twilight years it came in handy as he engaged in the Bush war to save his country from authoritarian rule.

In 1922, Makerere College opened as the first technical school of Uganda to train artisans and carpenters, then in 1932  courses leading to the award of Diplomas in Education, Agriculture Veterinary and Human medicine were added.My father was among those offered to join  and take up a diploma in education. He turned the offer down merely because he did not want to teach. He had earlier on been requested to stay on and teach at Kings College Buddo but turned down the offer for the same reason. Within a few years, he was appointed by the Kabaka (King) as a County chief of Buruli then Kyaggwe and by December 1950 , the Kabaka had appointed him the Katikkiro( Prime Minister) of the kingdom of Buganda.

The children of these students who walked bare-footed to school ,have gone on to become lawyers, teachers, lecturers, doctors, agriculturalists , engineers and many other things and their own children are stretching the limits further.

Augustine Hippo’s quotation is very timely: “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.’’

Each generation has its unique opportunities which come with challenges and demand for locally appropriate solutions.

For today’s parents, the cost of giving their children a great education is very high and yet the chances of getting employed are low.  Available statistics show that 400,000 students graduate in Uganda each year but only 90,000 of these get employed. Today’s educational Institutions need to give the students both knowledge and practical skills that the job market needs. It demands that the education systems should produce job creators other than job seekers. Practical skills should give them the ability to think for themselves and create solutions to the common problems in our communities like youth unemployment, drought and deforestation. All students are required to apply the available technology to support, improve research and innovation. It is the only way they can develop themselves and the economy of Uganda.

Time does not stand still so parents will continue to strive to give their children the best education they can afford. Today, the majority of students come from economically disadvantaged families and require support through scholarships and loans. It is only a small minority that can support themselves or even  join universities outside Uganda. In this digital era , E-Learning –offering online courses from recognised and registered universities is likely to pick up and increase the access to quality education to many.

The quest for knowledge is as old as man himself and is set to continue relentlessly in today’s fast-paced world. It is incredibly exciting to be alive during  the third Industrial Revolution simply known as the Information Revolution and considered the most innovative age of all time.

Mahatima Ghandi’s advice is as relevant today as it was during his time: “ Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.’’

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Learning is a lifetime job.

 

SOMEONE TO LOOK UP TO

Some years back,I attended a wedding of a young couple  where the groom’s speech left his father a humbled and incredibly happy and fulfilled man.

The groom had said with great appreciation , “ As far as  I can remember, I ‘ve always wanted to grow up and be like my father. He loves, respects my mother and always consults her about almost everything. He regards her as the most important person in his life and is always ready and willing to do things for her. That’s what I want to be to my dear wife.”

Six years and two sons down the line, he has loved his wife and children and they are all as happy as they can be. Becoming what you want to be is a lifetime process that requires focus and intention. Every single day that dawns, you are becoming that person.

To this young man, his father was his role model: he had values, principles and practices that the son admired and motivated him to be like him.  The psychologists tell us that our parents especially the same-sex parent has the biggest influence on a child’s development and the influence lasts for a lifetime. The groom’s journey to becoming a loving, caring and generous husband had started in his childhood.

Humans actively learn from each other and one Bible proverb tells us that:Iron sharpens iron.

The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines a role model as : a person you admire and try to copy.

Parents are the child’s primary role models. When you start school, then the teachers are added on this list followed by any other person in your community whom you consider competent, an achiever and carries herself/himself with respect. The most visible in our environment like athletes and actors tend to drive many people to become the best they can be. The role models  teach us to identify out true potentials and how to strive to make use of them fully.

Among the many are:

Stephen Kiprotich, the winner of the Men’s Marathon during the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Phiona Mutesi , known as the Queen of Katwe, the young international Chess player from the slums of Katwe in Kampala.

The late Rotarian Sam Owori whose passion to serve others helped him leave Uganda a better place than he found it.

Usain Bolt, the 9-time Olympic gold medalist.

Lenin Moreno, the 44th President of Ecuador  who is also known as the “the President in a wheelchair.”

The other side of the coin is that there are also negative role models who demonstrate harmful and disruptive behavior in our communities.

Positive role models are badly needed by all young people as they struggle to develop their own identities. The psychologists tell us that each one of us has the responsibility to act in ways that make the world a better place. We cannot contribute to making the world a better place unless we know who we really are: our strengths and weaknesses and embrace them fully.

There are two ways in which one can find her/his true identity:

  • By finding and following what you love- in this respect one is guided by the positive role models in the world around us. In them we see what we want in our lives and they demonstrate, motivate and inspire us to become what we want to be.
  • By being totally different- These take pride in their uniqueness and their indomitable spirits turns them into Trail Blazers. These include people like Emeritus Professor Josephine Nambooze, Engineer Proscovia Njuki.

Role models help us to find our own identity and strength, open up possibilities for getting what we want in life. They empower us to chart our own career paths. We learn from them and take responsibility for our own lives.

Since childhood I had wanted to care and help people and somehow I felt I could achieve this by becoming a medical doctor. In the late 60’s , when Dr. Alex Sempa  who happened to be an old girl of my school , became the second woman medical doctor after Dr. Josephine Nambooze, my future was more less sealed. I just wanted to be like Dr Sempa. From that time, I trusted myself that if I worked hard and smart, I would become a doctor. Later, when I met her in person, she became my idol. She offered me an insight into the realities of being a doctor. In today’s jargon I would say from that day, I started faking it until I made it.

When I joined the Makerere University Faculty of Medicine, and Dr. Josephine Nambooze was one of our senior lecturers in Public Health, I felt I wanted to live my dream so badly that I worked extremely hard and smart to achieve it.

I grew up in a different world where a child was brought up by the local village. Today’s children operate in their own world where the internet has shrunk the world into a global village. In this Global Village, things  are changing all the time and fast too and the environment is generally harsh. The students have many options and sometimes they are spoilt for choice so they need more guidance than our generation; they need more role models.

We are all ‘Works in Progress’ needing modeling and reshaping.

Adults also need role models to push them from mediocrity and develop into greats. Positive role models are human just like any of us; facing problems and obstacles in life but they strive to overcome them. Observing them and sharing their experiences ignites the same passion towards life.

Whenever we receive motivation, inspiration and mentorship from these role models it gives us the responsibility to become positive role models for the young generation. This is what keeps the conversation going.

By the lives we live and how we behave and carry ourselves in our communities we are influencing many people around us especially the young ones. May we all strive to be positive role models who will leave the world better than we found it.

One last quote: “ One man with courage makes a majority.’’ By Andrew Jackson

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GOING OUT ON A HIGH NOTE

30-year-old Usain Bolt, the Jamaican sprinter, is a 9-time Olympic gold medalist since the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He became an Olympic legend after winning 3 gold medals at the Olympics in Beijing, 2008. He is arguably the fastest man in the world. From the age of 15, his nick name has been: Lightning Bolt.

I for one have always been fascinated by the Olympics and World championships since my teenage years. Since Ben Johnson of Canada left the Seoul Olympics (1988) in disgrace-after winning the 100m and then tested positive for use of anabolic steroids and Lance Armstrong’s domination of the Tour de France from 1999 through to 2005, it has been great joy and fun to watch Usain Bolt reinvent himself every year and keep challenging himself without using Performance Enhancing Drugs. Lance Armstrong, one time admired by many of us, is currently considered the cycling’s biggest fraud.

From the onset, Bolt identified his strengths and defined his image and statement that he projected to the world. He committed fully to his authentic image and made the statement as the greatest athlete of all time. He worked hard to refine and sustain this image and statement. Every time he stepped on the field to compete, he carried this image. He carried himself with dignity and respect thus teaching us how to treat him. He owned his image, loved it and lived it. Who can forget how he worked up the London crowd during the 2012 Olympics after winning the 100metre race? He covered himself with the Jamaican flag and ran around the stadium greeting his fans! No wonder the people of Jamaica adore him and consider him among the best representatives of their country.

On the track, he demonstrated incredible skills, traits, abilities and capability and strived to play by the rules. He set himself apart from every other athlete and could never be confused with any of them. His image endeared him to us and he earned himself power and played to us. He declared to us that he was the fastest man in the world, proved it and we believed him. He had become such an essential part of the Olympics and World championships that when he retires completely, we shall miss him terribly until someone steps up to follow in his footsteps.

He was bold enough to say : “I’m the best.  I’m the fastest man alive. I’m now a legend.’’

I was inspired to write this post mainly out of my admiration of him as the great among greats of all time but at the same time for his humility that allowed him to know when to quit the game. According to the Institute of Biomedical Research and Sports Epidemiology; the peak age performance for athletes in track field events is 26.1. For the 100metre race, it is 25.4 for men and 26.6 for women. In such a high-powered activity, no one gets better with age. Bolt has always projected himself as authentic and consistent so he chose to give himself the ongoing IAAF World Championships in London as his final challenge. He had hoped to go out on a high note. He holds both the 100 metre (9.58secs of 2009) and 200 metre(19.19 secs of 2009) World records ; he had wanted to go out by breaking his own 200 metre record.

Last Saturday – 5th August, I was not anywhere near a television set but I was able to follow the 100metre race in London on radio.  In a highly charged atmosphere, the unexpected happened: Usain Bolt followed behind Christian Coleman (USA) and Justin Gatlin(USA), the only person who had beaten him twice before. Justin Gatlin had been banned twice for doping and now has come back with a big bang. The irony is that as Bolt bows out, Gatlin stages a comeback.

Like all his fans worldwide, I very much wanted Bolt to win one more time. He goes out with a bronze but without breaking his character. I am still watching out for the 4 by 100 metres relays later in the week. After all,we are always being advised to leave the stage when the audience is still applauding.

Some inspiring quotes by Usain Bolt:

“ Stop waiting for things to happen. Go out and make them happen.’’

“To all my doubters, thank you very much because you also pushed me.’’

“The difference between the impossible and possible lies in determination.’’

Yes, Usain Bolt, you took the games to another level; you made them exciting and made people want to watch them . Most importantly, you have inspired and demonstrated to the young that each one has something great inside her or him and has the responsibility to develop it fully for her/his own good and for the good of others. You set out to be recognized among the greats like Mohammed Ali and Pele and you achieved it brilliantly.  I cannot wait to see you channel that deep passion, energy and determination into something else.

For the young and old reading this post; may it inspire you to become the best person you can be while doing what you love and enjoy.

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