Monday, March 12, 2007

Jack and Jill went up the what?

We are all a product of our personal and cultural histories and our education. Uganda has had a very troubled history and is still in considerable difficulty politically, (the judges are currently on strike after outrageous judicial interference by the President). A large chunk of the population has no access to clean water, education or health care and don’t know where the food or fuel to cook it will come from for today’s meal. So it’s really not surprising that it seems hard for Ugandans to think further than today.

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….


The 27th Comrade said...

Umm .. I can't seem to see the link between democracy and development. I have ranted about this elsewhere before, so I won't go into the details.

The Chinese have no democracy (well, not what you're thinking of), and they are developing. At the time when America rose to where she is falling from, there were institutionalised abuses and denials of basic human rights to some people (think Blacks here) to a scale that no African country can archieve (in terms of human rights violations). The Brits conquered the world as an absolute monarchy.

Forget the link between democracy and development - it doesn't exist.

Also, the Americans only recently started learning the way they did. All along, back in the days when America was built, they learnt in a similar fashion, maybe, and often by apprenticeship. And you should notice that Cuba and North Korea have better education systems than most countries around the world, yet they are not democratic/developed. The education thing is not linked to development, either.

Good education systems (and methods) and Democracy (the way you define it) follow development, they don't bring it. Yet they seem to be stiffled by the lack of development. Catch-22.

Until the Americans stop plundering Africa, they are the devil. Kill them all, and development can start.

Oh, by the way, that's tongue-in-cheek. :o)

People of Penzance said...

27th comrade- it all depends on what your idea of development is i guess...