Friday, October 20, 2017

Museveni's Kids Can't Read or Do Sums

Are our children getting the best education? Weeks ago, I was invited by former students of Kitante Primary School to read to the children. “P4 students” so Kenneth Kayondo, an old boy of the school and one of the organisers informed.

I'm In Charge
But hold up a minute, WTF do I TB, know about P4 students! Back at home I went through my book collection trying to find something suitable and void of profanity. First book I picked up - Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James. So NOT a good idea! How about Jackie Collins - Confessions of a Wild Child that The Ex left behind when she moved out? Never to have read any of her books so I quickly flipped through it and there on page 68 I think it was, were paragraphs of steamy and raunchy content which, Father Lokodo and his Porn Committee would have wasted no time demanding Aristoc remove from the shelves.

Ten books later and with nothing appropriate I evoked Plan B. Magazines. First magazine that fell out of the dusty box was err, Playboy which featured the model Naomi Campbell. Nuff said. So to Kitante I went empty handed, but I need not have worried because appropriate books were provided.

One thing about standing at the front of the class and looking down at 30+ kids staring back at me, is that within two minutes, I had spotted that boy who was going to drop out and end up as a taxi tout near Radio One and the girl destined to be a salon assistant.

As the reading got underway with the book – Greedy Monkey Loses a Best Friend, there was something troubling about it - nothing to do with content or the illustrations, but with the grammar. Yes, we writers make mistakes and on occasion, I have spotted minor errors in this column when reading it in Sunday Vision, but by then it’s too late to do anything about it.

Full of Errors
In the book, the mistakes were not minor but unforgivably colossal – almost from page one through to the end. Imagine the word ‘father’ was spelt as ‘farther’. In a number of paragraphs some words suddenly sprung up in upper casing. Full stops were omitted and commas put in the wrong places.

Now how are we supposed to get our children to read and write to a level that is above par from books that are littered with spelling errors and grammatical gaffes? Did the author of the book not read through it before it was sent to the printers? And frankly speaking, whoever did the proof reading should be banished to the furthest corner of Uganda to re-read the book – How To Learn Your Alphabet.

Kitante aside, last month Daily Monitor ran a story that made for the most disconcerting reading. It said: “Uganda is second in the world with pupils who can’t count.” At school I was poor at maths, but thankfully when I was in P4, I could easily count past 5 unlike kids today.

The Damming Report
Days ago, a friend of a friend asks if I could “lift him to the main road”. I sat rooted to my seat while my brain tried to decipher what he had said. Brain drew a blank so there was a need to ask that he repeat himself. And again he said: “Can you lift me to the main road?” After going back and forth for an eternity, I eventually grasped he was asking for a lift in the car to the main road. And he’s a Makerere University graduate!    

Suffice to say Uganda is not alone in giving children a substandard education. Recently in Nigeria, 75% of the 21,780 teachers in Kaduna State failed to pass exams set for six-year-olds. Ouch, ouch!            
Oh Dear!
Pictures: Daily Monitor, New Vision, Kitante School Reading Club 

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