Wednesday, March 1, 2017

#Uganda rural schools need reading material and readers

By Denis Wabuyi

#Issue 15

I know that the devil will never be good sometimes but in Uganda there are times when insanity rules and it is a reality that we have a huge number of "illiterate" graduates.

While reading an article yesterday which was agitating for access to reading materials in villages, it brought back memories of my childhood; the time when I was growing up, days in a typical rural setting.

Back then accessing a newspaper was a valorous moment and whenever I landed on one, I would read from cover to cover. It opened my eyes to the world at a tender age that by the time I made 9, I knew a little more about the world than my peers. Things like the "Hillsborough incident", "Watergate scandal and the rough riders" were things I got to know about before I joined secondary. I then realised that these are some of the things you never get to learn in class but they helped shape the world; the water hoses in Birmingham, the buses in Montgomery, Selma bridge are some of the important events that many of my fellow Ugandans will never get to know about.

It is that very love that drove me into reading the Bible from cover to cover. But because we only had New Testament at home I vividly remember that old King James Bible that my aunt, Naomi gave to me. I read that book from Genesis chapter 8* to Malachi only skipping the book of "Ezra"

Well I read the Bible, old newspapers, magazines, and story books from the "school library" but I never got enough of it. At that time Mr Wandwasi David whose late wife (RIP) had left with him a number of books came to our rescue and this introduced me to Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Bronte sisters and other British writers. I now look back grateful that at the time there was not much material, I had the yearning, the love to seek for knowledge between the lines, it is just unfortunate that I never got to discover the cure to AIDs but the most important science lesson I learnt was that all humans are equal. That combined with Biblical truth of being created in the image of God, I believe that even NRM MPs who are called "Pigs" or rather called themselves so are human.

But what am I trying to say? The gentleman who wrote the article about upcountry access to reading materials had a valid concern. When he said that children reach P.7 when they have never seen a computer, I thought that he was referring to me because before joining Lords Meade Vocational College, I took a computer to be something huge, equivalent to the Clock Tower of Mbale. Or else how could it store all that information and do all the things that it does?

But as the worry drifts to the village kids who can't access reading materials, what shall we do to the big boys who can access all the reading materials but never read?

In this age where all the information has been brought to our smartphones, laptops and desktop computers many people especially the youth have surprisingly gone back to the days of supper illiteracy.

A young man going to school in rural Nabweye village cannot even come across an old Newspaper or a tattered Bible to improve his reading skills. But there is a graduate who has all the access but can't read. They only read the headline and have the guts to respond with an insult or delirious comment devoid of truth. Just because they never read beyond the first five lines. The ones am talking about are those that have not read this article to this point. The only problem is that they have loose mouths. Before reading through anything and comprehending it they are quick to reply, comment or critique; they claim they don't have the time to read long posts ironically they also claim to be unemployed. They even tell you that social media is not for long posts, they condemn use of full correct words even when I have never seen Mark Zuckerberg use words like "tsup, wat, gud, dat" in his posts on Facebook.

But what shall we do for this generation? How shall we make people read what is before them? When shall the governments stop misleading us that the literacy levels have gone up?

When shall we change illiterates not to mean necessarily those who can't read but also those who don't read? Because when you can't read and write, no matter your level of education, how will you convince me that you're not illiterate and that there are no "illiterate graduates"? I know that you will not even mind if you're one of them because you have not read this article to the end!

Poor rural schools could find treasure in old newspapers

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