Vocational skill sets in schools.

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I am going as far back as 1948, to a prominent school called ‘gayaza high school’ that at thst time was run by a white man. Who was cornered by african parents to increase the school fees structure but to also change the teaching structure in the school. A school that used to charge 350 Ugandan shillings and used to train children to weave, tailor clothes, clean the environment, abit of farming etcetera – what we call ‘vocational studies or as it is called in my language luganda, ‘ebye’ mikono’. After, parents pushed for a school structure that only catered for academics not even sports, birthed the whole agenda of social clubs like women clubs which were meant to teach women how to do this activities. With time, these too phased out and a birth of technical schools. My grandmother who is about 85 or even more told me some of this while we were listening to a youth programne on prime radio. A youth had called in saying he didnt know what to do next. And frankly, I donot blame them. What next after school, after the soft bubble of you becoming a boss or employee has been shattered. Alot of people are going to come forth and say ‘youths should plan’ and honestly, if you are african specifically a Ugandan and you are throwing such statements around- you are weird. Cause much as we are equipped in all sectors of life, our country is backward. And we have an economy that isn’t at one point supporting the current working class thus it is not ready for the emerging working class. A country that isn’t even ready to improve the education, the work ethics etcetera is not in support of growing youths. Enough with my rant, back to my blog, how was the vocational skill set back then.

NB- It’s hard to have the original structures documented or out on the internet so most of the things that are going to be stated are from testimonials or rather from conversations (back to oral history) from old or former students of these schools.

For starters, my mother went to Gayaza high school in 1978 for her A-level and her conversations about the school and its entire structure is a bit different. She recalls that they used to sew the hems of their school uniform plus the badges (which is still done today), knitting, the weekends, they used to do some cooking and gardening which isn’t entirely done today. Gayaza’s student population by the time my mom attended Gayaza High school and the years before she joined was comprised of chiefs’ daughters, the daughters of high ranking royals or those close to the royals, most of their daughters used to go to Gayaza. Prestige was not the only reason as to why they attended Gayaza, the learning structure of Gayaza didn’t only have academics but also home-related training like cooking, sewing etc. And it was well known that most of the girls who came from Gayaza married the male high ranking royals or prominent people in the society, most of which were trained or groomed from Kings College Budo and other schools at the time. Now, my mother’s point was that back then, the practical skill learning was embedded in our learning system and with time it was scrapped off the syllabuses cause we Africans asked or pushed for the school leaders back then to remove this from the syllabus ( who were white )- the irony. Why? Why do you ask? Why did we push for this change! Our land was fertile with vast professional or formal related positions, all of these were blank. We had been slaves and farmers for so long for the white man and we fancied having what they had- that is: the white-collar jobs and after independence these positions were blank and the demand increased, the need for more lawyers, clerks, doctors etc. increased! So, parents or Africans thought it was a waste of time teaching children how to dig or take care of a garden ( which later is seen as a punishment and pushed out as a poor man’s job ), parents found no use in children learning all these yet they could get a white-collar job that was paying highly. We crippled our education systems. Amidst this mix, the rest of the schools that emerged built their whole school structure based on these schools including our social, economical structure.

Now let us look at the school that were also started around that time Gayaza High school was started, Nandere, Buloba high,Ndejje senior secondary school, Makerere College school etc. Schools that are 50 plus years old. These schools used to have similar structure- the arts culture thats highly applauded at Makerere college school, i remember the old wood work shop at ndejje senior secondary school but with time these have phased out. Because we applauded more of the academic structure even over the sports. And while, we are in a generation that denands us to have more and more. A masters immediately after a degree, an extra degree, a phd at 26 whereas our parents got phds at 50 plus, skills- communication, critical thinking etcetera. All are demanded from a child or from a youth that has been solely trained or raised in a one sided education system that has not nurtured their talents, nor emphasised these skills or even teaching the hand related works. It gets tricky because the generation that pushed for the elimination of these kinds of teachings in school is the one demanding it from us. The same generation that called for the expulsion of these teachings sits and deems us not worthy of the work yet they are in power to change these systems. Now, they are abandoning these schools and flocking international schools that we have been told over and over again that they produce indisciplined children. Why? Because they carry phobes to school, on speech days the kids dance to circular music. But a child from an international school is way better than I am. Whereas we have discarded even the simple sovial skills and community works that schools must have in their system, the international schools have embraced these. My niece is studying at taibah, grade 3 and she knows how to wire a simple circuit, cooking classes are a must ( she made some beautiful egg rolls and I was pleased). Now we are going back to what we had so long insulted and undermined. But is our education system ready for a diverse change?? Do our leaders even want us to have a learning system like this?

I think that proper timetables can be drawn, curriculums that can have compulsory vocational training embedded with academics( meanehile, an academics system that should be revised and researched upon ), compulsory vocational training in the long vacations and on the weekends should be enforced. We need to bring back vocational skills in our learning system. And how sha we fo this. Will I stop at just this blog? No, I hope to build an education sample system that our country can adopt. Looking into how best we can invest and enrich our education system. One hopefully that shall be well researched on and not just one sided with the literate. And yes, I hope to share it here on my blogs cause it looks like no-one is interested in saving us. We might as well start small. I hoped to tell a story , to show you what it was like back then. Maybe I was reminiscing.


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