One day, a gentleman came to my office and demanded for a teaching time table and details of the lecturers for Semester I.
I hesitated to respond because he looked older than our fresh students. When I asked for his academic documents, he said the student was outside.
I requested him to invite the student and to my surprise, the entire family walked in; the student, mother, elder brother and the father. It dawned on me that it was because they were used to doing everything for her. Even after assuring them of my help, they remained around in hiding till late. This was a government-sponsored student who missed joining a Medical School with a point but not able to stand alone and fight for her future!
It is not by preaching, giving good examples, caning or imposing heavy punishments, heavy academic inputs that make a learner grow, but the value of being responsible. This kind of training produces young boys and girls who comply but lack commitment in life. It is advisable in homes and schools to exercise authority through communal discussion based on facts and reason, rather than indisputable brutality. Our children fear to approach situations with courage and this makes the technical skills of little value. Even a husband or wife at home is waiting for someone to ‘wake’ them up to do their tasks. This is typical of rote training. On the whole, families and schools should not concentrate on forming specialists but instead keep in mind the goal of forming an outstanding person who has a touch with the creator and purpose in society.
This coupled with the right attitude to work is important for continuous personal growth and development of the community. How one works and the quality of his/ her output depends largely on the attitude they place in the task before them. It is common to meet young people who cannot do basic activities because of a negative attitude. In a healthy community or institution, all work is necessary. All work at home, church/ community, places of work should be respected. Manual work, clean and dirty work or brainwork are all needed in our society to develop. There should be no job at home, school, a workplace that is not worth doing. And this is the most neglected area of training by teachers and parents. Few schools have farms, workshops, cookery labs, tailoring rooms, computer labs and the like required for career development. The hands-on aspects should be an integral part of our education. It is unpopular in most schools because they demand ample time. The right attitude towards work is very vital in our training at home and school.
Life is changing quickly and time is coming (and almost here or already here) when in Uganda only those who can clean their offices, type personal work, and the like will be employed. Are you able to multi-task are the common interview questions? What makes you different from others with the same qualification? Every work is important. A bad job is that which does not have value in a community or does not provide a living; like playing cards, etc. It is not uncommon to find high school students who are not able to prepare a simple meal. These students even when they become first-class Engineers may not be able to solve complex societal problems in the field of Engineering. Life is all about solving problems. It is almost impossible to solve complex life problems without having skills in handling basic/ simple day to day problems. Learning for 12 hours per day is not enough. Teachers must do more than preparing lessons and setting periodical examinations. At the end of it all, it is the quality of the product that counts.
Notably, the training required to form an excellent engineer, computer technician, gynecologist, business expert, etc is not a one-time event. It is one thing to train professionals driven by demand (for example high demand for scientists in Uganda at the moment) but another thing to get an inspired engineer who will bring transformation in the society. Self-discovery, based on the natural endowment, is instrumental in societal reforms. This journey requires support from the teachers at school, training colleges, universities, and parents. Teachers need time and inspiration to identify the talents in the learner. Most of us teachers and to greater extent parents are driven by the desire to get good grades without paying attention to the young person’s ability or inclination. For instance, at A-level, why should a learner who wishes to go for Medicine be allowed to do BCM-Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics instead of PCB-Physics, Chemistry, and Biology? Is it a marketable course? Are the common questions presented by parents. The aim is always to have learners complete studies with attractive grades regardless of what they become later in life.
As teachers, we should not prefer keeping our institutions’ image or brand at the expense of the learners’ future. It is a person that matters not the papers they possess. My student spent four years studying Food Science after completion enrolled for Law at Makerere University because his parents and teachers forced him to do it. He is a lawyer, not a Food Technologist. Also, the famous story in the country is that of a student who spent 5 years in the Medical School and on completion registered for Business Administration because Medicine was his father’s choice. He gave the MBChB Degree to the dad during the graduation party who happens to be a medical doctor. Teachers should help young people discover their talents. We do best what we love or what is part of us. We love what we value. Most of our time we spend on what we value most. A young man at home who is in love with his radio or computer will dismantle it, clean it, fine-tune and assemble the parts without thinking about lunch. We should guide learners to do what they value. Our children should develop a sense of self-worth; have self-discipline and a positive attitude to work carefully. This should be designed by responsible parents and teachers who don’t sacrifice them for their image but provide freedom for a child to grow.
To educate the young should go beyond the walls of the classroom. Parents and teachers should go beyond attending to the cognitive domain (thinking) of the learners to attending to their affective (social/emotional/feeling) domain, their work ethics- psychomotor (physical/kinesthetic) but most importantly, to their thinking and problem-solving skills. However, with an examination-oriented curriculum, teachers heavily concentrate on academic content at the expense of other values or skills like; empathy, honesty, creative and critical thinking, integrity, among others. Therefore, our critical role as teachers is to support a learner to consciously reflect and comprehend events in their lives, develop technical skills and appreciate the beauty of life through work.
As Bill Gates, one of the successful people in the world once said, I failed in some subjects in exam, but my friend passed in all. Now he is an engineer in Microsoft and I am the owner of Microsoft, learners should cling on the idea that it’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of pursuing your best. It is in getting up several times that we can overcome our challenges meaningfully in life.
Written by Prof. Patrick Ogwok, edited by Mustapha B Mugisa.
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, All rights reserved