Friday, March 3, 2017

Free #Uganda education that was not free - Uganda parents suffer

In 1996 when I flew home for Christmas holidays as I have always done, the excitement on our village (Bukirimwa) in Bududa District was unreal.

Dictator #Museveni had just announced that he would educate all children starting in 1997 under Universal Primary Education (UPE) which I think was being funded by the United Kingdom (UK) in an effort to improve the literacy level in Uganda after the wars which Museveni had ensured happened.

Mzee always slaughtered a cow for the Christmas celebrities and we would have a fire to roast muchomo, big pots cooking the inners, meat given to everyone by the size of their family ranging from 250 grams to a kilo but some people used to get more kilos depending on their family size which of course everyone knew since the village was a community.

So I hear my relatives saying "now we do not have to worry about school fees.  We can have as many kids as we want because the president is going to pay the school fees".

That is the first flag because then I was thinking about who was gonna pay for secondary school if they all went around having babies like rabbits.

Lo and behold, secondary school soon hit the families and of course we got Universal Secondary Education (USE) which I think was also funded by the Britons.  No sleep lost.

The next thing was after these kids get UPE and USE, who is gonna pay for university?  Museveni had already moved ahead and more or less gotten rid of free university education and technical school education and parents had to pay.  The trap.  Mind you that trap is reversed in Canada.  Free elementary and secondary school education but you pay for college and university.  Which is cheaper?

How cheap it is for an education in Uganda now is to only look at the high end schools which charge anywhere from $200 to $750 per term (Uganda has 3 terms for schools) and this is for elementary (primary school) and secondary.  I think universities charge $750 to $1,500 per semester (USD).

Looks like there is no more excitement.

Parents were soon selling their land and cows and still sell whatever they own to pay for that education for their children.  Their children graduate and can hardly read or write and with university degrees, they get sold to Arabs for minimum $2,500 a piece.

We have government scholarships and you are lucky to study on such a scholarship at University or Technical College.  Where some Ugandans do not see this kind of impoverishment is when they fail to realise that under dictator Amin and Obote, education was cheap.  Universities and technical colleges were free.  Scholarships were for everyone (I am a living example) and no one had to be from a certain clan to get a scholarship (not a tribe, get serious, it is meticulously clan based).

After the poor parents have sold off everything under duress, now they have to pay high end employment agencies to send their children to Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and apparently to China, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, etc..

Imagine that shocking phone call or FB message that says your daughter or son just got murdered. Now you have to sell whatever you have left and hope to get friends and well wishers to contribute so that you can return the body home and bury your child.  A parent's worst nightmare is to bury their child.

What is the way forward?  No idea. We are caught in a deadly trap out of which we need a miracle to rescue us.  Many of our children have been forced into drug trafficking without even knowing it when they got on the plane thinking they would get a good job in Hong Kong or China.  This one needs a little bit of common sense.  Chinese are coming to Uganda to roast kasooli or work illegally and you as a Ugandan is going to China for work? Nebilala nebilala. You are on your own people.

Please look at the list of the Ugandans on death row and life imprisonment in CHINA.  You might know someone on the list.

Martha Leah Nangalama
Moncton, Canada

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