We are all a product of our personal and cultural histories and our education.
The education system contributes to the problem, effectively stifling any initiative shown by pupils. Class sizes are huge, often over 100. Textbooks and materials are scarce so lessons are taught by rote. The teacher will as a question and the class will answer together. Jack and Jill went up the what? Jack and Jill went up the hill. To fetch a pail of what? To fetch a pail of water. And so on. This phrasing is almost universal in Ugandan language, with people asking and then answering their own questions. And then I went to the what? I went to the hospital. To have a what? To have a blood test….Confusing for the newcomer to the country and very stunting for the developing mind. A teacher friend here was sitting in on a class recently when a teacher asked a question. A child put his hand up to answer and started his answer with “I think…”. The teacher stopped him, saying “I don’t want to know what you think; I want you to repeat what I just told you.”
Last week at my clinic I requested a blood slide to see if the child had malaria. The lab technician is a bright, graduate lab technologist who seems full of ideas and enthusiasm. He told me he couldn’t do the test as the power was off so his microscope wouldn’t work. The clinic has an inverter and batteries to store electricity when it’s on for use when it’s off. I asked about the inverter. He said it didn’t seem to be working. I asked why not. He said he didn’t know, but the battery was flat. I asked if he’d called someone to fix it. He said he didn’t have their number. I asked him if he could get it. He said OK. I asked him if he’d moved the reagents into the gas fridge so they wouldn’t get spoilt. He said no.
I can’t see any of this changing here until there is genuine democracy, food security and an education system that values and rewards initiative and creativity….