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.