By Morris DC Komakech
Private schools, as the fast foods of education, have put intellectually poorly fed characters in charge of the nation
The allure of the liberalisation movement of the 90s forced governments to renege on their responsibility of providing quality social services to their citizens. In Uganda, liberalisation caused a decline of quality in the education sector leading to growing concerns over intellectual obesity and problems of societal deficits.
Before liberalisation, the traditional education system in Uganda was rigorous, as schools across the country competed to deliver well-nurtured intellectuals.
Although the colonial education system remained stagnant and too out-dated to compete in the globalisation milieu, the most special thing about it was that it provided a stable structure for foundational learning. The sector prepared learners comprehensively for the tasks ahead, such that its Ordinary and Advanced level graduates could contribute substantially in the workforce. Not now!
The structure of schools changed with the emergence of private schools and subsequent collapse of public institutions. Emerging private schools’ main objectives were to absorb the new generation kids who were not fitting or accommodated in traditional schools. These kids were surging in numbers, and yet multiple media, which transmitted foreign cultures into their living rooms, had impaired their attention span and compromised their levels of engagement. The private schools therefore provided a more liberal environment and an agenda more focused on passing national exams. Private schools did shape the contours of education in Uganda with their stunning success.
In that sense, private schools became the fast foods of education. They admitted every child who could afford the high tuition, trained them through short cuts and, at the end; the kids who would not succeed in traditional schools were able to excel to dominate institutions of high learning, and social domain. The products of this fast food type education are now fully in charge of the country.
Over the years, this channel of education produced more generation of intellectually obese characters into the workforce. They have little value for due diligence, professional ethics, professional codes of conduct, or the concept of accountability. Because they were trained to pass exams, they have transitioned to the workforce as clueless, unskilled, uninformed, unsophisticated, and uncritical professionals where there are no exams to pass. The path to their qualifications have been equally treacherous; exchanging marks for sex, paying for assignments, hiring exam mercenaries, and when it comes to research, numbers and figures are botched at will.
The problem of intellectual obesity is evident in the widespread mediocrity in public discourses; the deficits in public accountability and the mindset that working smart means doing little of quality for inflated costs to the public. In essence, the quality of human resource has significantly declined and yet the façade – delusional consumerism, and clamour for materialism, have peaked. In this country, literacy levels and socio-economic regression have an indirect correlation.
The intellectual obesity has generated narcissistic tendencies among the elites at the expense of social capital – the fundamental social values of reciprocity and trustworthiness. Under their wings, the illusion for materialism and self-aggrandizement shapes the contestation over social spaces. Here and there, we hear in songs, how one artist is wealthy, and another is barely scratching the surface, then the nudity and auto-tune!
Then there is the menacing problem of the “Abasama” – the young diasporans who return home to showcase their accomplishments – a form of social class assault on the psyche of impoverished locals.
It does not get any superficial and problematic than this since most of Ugandans abroad are actually not wealthy anyway. Wealthy people hold themselves with humility and are not fascinated with pomp and lavish parties.
The liberalisation of education created a bellicose of an intellectually obese generation. Their insatiable desire for spontaneous gratification has supported the assault on traditional values and destruction of social institutions. The inevitable outcomes are the deficits we experience in trustworthiness, reciprocation, philanthropy, public debate, innovation, accountability, commitment, responsibility. The unconscionable aggrandisement of social status makes us appear a nation the indisposed.
Morris Komakech is a social critic and political analyst from Pajule, Pader, Uganda. Can contact via firstname.lastname@example.org