By Kasirye Fred
A lot has been said and documented about education and its potential in transforming society. Indeed this has also been witnessed in many parts of the world and thus the investment people continue to make in education of masses around the globe with the hope of transforming society.
Education in itself is not merely limited to classroom experiences but, aholistic and experiential learning aimedat social transformation. The reason we partake of the challenge is to define ourselves in the wider society where we live as influential contributors to growth and social structuring for better livelihood.
It is therefore rather absurd when you ask a third world student why they enrolled on a course and their answer is “because it’s marketable”. This is not only a misconception of the need to attain education but greatly puts across the question as to whether we all know why we at one point made the decision/ or someone made the decision for us to enroll in school.
The many challenges in the 3rd world should directly respond to the creation of more opportunity. Our reason to go to school should be to end these challenges of poverty, unemployment, famine, drought, corruption and the list goes on depending on where one comes from.
Right form history, innovations, discoveries and inventions the world over largely owe their existence to education and so shall the future without doubt. However, as a community in the third world we continue to graduate engineers that cannot make innovations for social transformation, social workers that fear to engage with the community challenges in the rural areas, public administrators that breed corruption ad divert public funds and the like.
In this case we clearly notice that education indeed can cause social breakdown in some instances such as these. Its then that all of us serving in the education sector need to revisit our purpose, and more so how we conduct day to day business in and outside the classroom. Until we know we are part of the problem as educationists/ academia, and also that we are part of the solution it will not be easy to find a lasting remedy to the ills education breeds for society.
Focusing on the game changers
At the end of your primary leaving examination, your parents congratulate you upon the completion of a landmark level in your education career, aggregate four is awaited and behold if you get it right, the four is in hand a great celebration is in order. But the cycle continues as you go even higher, senior four, senior six and then University where you graduate with a bachelor’s degree.
But why is it that after this investment in the graduate, he/ she stays “unoccupied” and consider themselves jobless instead of moving out to create solutions to the challenges of the world and his/her environs. Largely people will say it’s the lack of jobs and indeed it is a good reason but it is not a satisfactory reason in a community where social problems continue to multiply and require educated brains to solve them.
Just like lifestyle responds to trends, education delivery needs to respond to trends. Today unlike in the past we are building on already existing knowledge and not creating totally knew knowledge from scratch. 20th century teaching methods are unlikely going to impact on the 21st century learner however good the facilitator / lecturer might be or even the information prepared for the class. The method of delivery will determine if learning actually takes place and therefore shall create the future expected of every learner. I shall pronounce a three level effort in the ideal direction.
- University funding.
The cream of the country’ educated cannot keep around to nature the young generations for long due to the failure of the local universities to deploy them. Low pay, poor research culture, and low motivation will drive the researchers to greener pastures. A country will need data as a basis to plan but due to the inability to undertake credible researches since the highly educated are off to greener pastures, a gap stays unserved.
While there is a lot of government and NGO funding for primary and secondary schools, for the purposes of engineering social transformation its high time the funding be put to universities to engage in more research and provide a direction. With the relevant researches done, governments will have a partner in education institutions to inform strategy and thus reduce speculative spending thereby supporting social transformation.
- Ensuring Learning
It is true that there is huge unemployment in the third world, but it is also true that the actively employed do more than one job in some cases in the same sector. In the education sector it is even worse. A primary school teacher will teach in more than five schools in order to break even. Same for the secondary school teacher they will settle for a multitude of classes, just to live at the bare minimum in their society.
This habit creeped to the universities, and now indeed scholars are in the market place. It is ethically wrong to present as a teacher and fail at your primary role of ensuring learning. In this part of the would education has further been abused to make it a traumatizing experience where learners are humiliated for poor performance, made to repeat classes and are thus embarrassed, and creating an environment of authoritative teacher / submissive student relationship.
This kind of environment builds a cram and answer the exam atmosphere. It doesn’t build a learning culture. The competition created is not healthy and in many cases has caused unnecessary examination malpractices. Why would a school cheat in an examination?
Silently I hear the answer to grow its numbers and confidence in the parents, but it’s a simple principle, trash in trash out, these seemingly small cases will bread the corrupt government officials in tomorrow’s world. Right from the ministry of education down to the education institutions, a culture of learning should be propagated through putting in place structures to ensure learning and not academic competition.
- Student / learner support
Basic education provides for laid down teacher/ student ratios for ideal classes, a library for referencing and a staff room for face to face between teachers/ lecturers and the learners. Unfortunately this support to learners is fast taking the exit route. Schools today and even universities will provide space for lecture room but none for staff, and neither for the library.
The explanation will be that the teachers/ lecturers are part time and the library can be obtained virtually. This without doubt is the epitome of neglect of duty. Students / learners would at all-time wish to consult with their trainers, practice what they are learning if they will confidently apply it when off campus. It is an open education secret that learning for transformation can only take place when the student and the teacher appreciate that each has a role to play in this calling.
The student to present themselves for the learning and the lecturer to offer the platform for this learning to take place. Any institution that will not provide for student support mechanisms will take on the comfort of an academic shop and not an education institution.
Education to date has the capacity to transform the communities in which we stay for the better, however as partners in providing education, we must rethink delivery, funding priorities and the learning environment if we are to realize the social transformation we all desire.
Kasirye Fred, is a Lecturer at Victoria University Kampala
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