Students to be allowed to have phones at schools

The government has directed secondary school head teachers to relax rules and allow students to possess mobile phones. The director of Basic and Secondary

The government has directed secondary school head teachers to relax rules and allow students to possess mobile phones. The director of Basic and Secondary Education, Dr. Yusuf Nsubuga, said there is no law barring the students from having cellular phones at school, especially now that the gadgets are a necessity of everyday life.

The teachers must appreciate that the world has changed and some rigid school rules of 1980s and 90s are no longer applicable, he said while addressing headteachers at the launch of the MasterCard Foundation Schools Scheme in Kampala.

Positive side of the rule

The world has tremendously changed and there is need for the young Ugandans to appreciate these advancements most especially in technology and adjust accordingly. Uganda’s education system is quite theoretical and with Internet, all these theories are abundantly available. I think allowing the students to carry phones to school will really support learning. Most of our schools don’t have these sophisticated laboratory equipments and fully stocked computer laboratories reason being, they are quite expensive. Allowing students most especially the ones in boarding schools to have these phones will not only help save these schools from costs of providing Internet and other related services but help ease the work of the teachers since the students will be able purchase them cheaply. This will effectively transfer the costs of providing such services to the students (parents) from the school.

Telecom companies will as well get uplifts in their sales since usually, during the school term period when students are in school, sales are low notably from advertising trends. If you critically follow advertising activities, most of these telecom companies intensify promotions and adverts when the schools are about to close for the holiday. Companies especially those dealing in data will benefit more since many students will be required to get to the internet.

Currently, when you go to a typical Ugandan boarding school and ask any student about current issues taking place, only one or two will be able to guess. This shows that, when students get to schools, they are totally blocked from the world and they remain totally uninformed of what advancements occur in the real world. Allow these students to have these phones will allow them to follow trends in the real world.

The rate of knowledge sharing will also improve as the students will be able to connect to their counterparts in other schools. Programs like group discussions using phone conferencing will make learning very interesting among the students. Students will be able to connect to their teachers if they are having discussions in the absence of their teachers to get assistance.

The unfortunate side of the rule

According to Mr. Michael Mpiima, the head teacher Ssaku SS in Luwero district says that, allowing students to have phones will make them very unruly. There will be better coordination of strikes and number of indiscipline cases will increase.

There are very critical issues I wish to put to your attention pertaining this issue. When the students are allowed to have these phones, who will for example provide them the money to buy the air time? It obvious that someone can say, if you can afford a phone and so you should be able to finance it, but these are students. Don’t you think the number of theft cases will increase in schools? If the air time fails to show up for the girls, to whom do you think they turn? This could force our girls into unpleasant relationships with those out of school.

Naturally, students usually make business calls; they usually concentrate their phone conversations school and relationships. Allowing them to have the phone could mean, having more relationships in schools. The level of concentration in education will tremendously reduce if no controls are made. Also, what will happen to the students whose parents cannot afford to provide such luxuries? You will effectively have two classes of students in one school, and that is never good for learning.

Way forward

Looking at the benefits and shortfalls of the phones in school rule, there is 50% balance meaning there can a chronological balance to harmonize the two. If the students are allowed to have the phones, there must be severe regulations on when and where to use them. Student should not be allowed to use the phones during class hours and at night if the rule is to generate any benefits intended. Students are young and need guidance, if we fail to do so, we might rather have more problems. Students with the mobile gadgets should also be willing to share.

This is an era of BYOD — Bring Your Own Device. In many companies, employees are using their own gadgets instead of those provided by the employer. There is no reason for students to be denied the opportunity to connect with the world and get used to the global marketplace they will be competing in.

All the schools should do is a policy on the kind of gadgets allowed, and rules on using them.

Stopping people to use technology is never the right thing. You must always embrace it to get ahead.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, MBA. 2014 All rights reserved. 

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