At least 1000 students from universities and institutions of higher learning are camped in Gaddafi military barracks in Jinja, attending a month long training in patriotism, The Observer has learnt.
Sources familiar with the course, say the training started at the weekend (Saturday) and is being organised by the National Patriotism Corps-Uganda. It will focus largely on encouraging students to become a better breed of enlightened citizens, committed to national service, among other objectives.
“We received messages last month and on Friday we travelled to Jinja where the training is taking place,” said one of the students attending the training.
The students will learn positive attributes about their country through acquainting themselves with Uganda’s political history, milestones that have been achieved so far in the country, the country’s economic status and its challenges. The students will also be taught to appreciate how they can help transform the country.
“Based on the agenda that we were given, we expect to learn how to become good Ugandans who can live independently and help our communities and the country at large through the education we are acquiring at universities,” a student from Kampala International University, who declined to be named, told The Observer.
When contacted on Saturday, Marlon Manzi, an Engineering student at Makerere University and also head of the Patriotism Club at the same university, told The Observer that he mobilised the students to attend the training so that they can become better citizens. “I have attended these trainings since my secondary school days and I have found out that the training is good for ideological orientation for whoever wants to become a better citizen,” he said.
The National Patriotism Corps-Uganda is a programme which was established under the office of the president as an initiative to teach Ugandans how to love their country and become patriotic.
The programme, which is currently headed by Col Henry Matsiko, was launched by President Museveni in 2009 as a new strategic national programme to “Inculcate norms and values of patriotism in students and youth in all secondary schools, universities as well as institutions of higher learning. Since its launch, different patriotism clubs have been established in secondary schools and universities all over the country. According to the available records, the campaign’s operations derive its funding from the State House budget.
However, some critics of the programme claim it is a waste of taxpayers’ money since it is aimed at indoctrinating youthful Ugandans with NRM political propaganda instead of national interests.
“The lessons taught by these people are not genuine. They are only teaching young students how past leaders were bad and how Museveni is a good leader. All this combined, shows that they have a hidden political agenda,” said the Masaka Municipality MP, Mathias Mpuuga.
Mpuuga adds that by targeting the youth, the president is focused on getting their votes since they make the biggest percentage of voters. “He is shaping their political culture and perception so that if they are to make choices, they look at Museveni as the only alternative, which is a lie,” he said.
According to Mpuuga who also coordinates a civil society movement dubbed; For God and my Country, patriotism cannot be taught by those who have made people lose the love for this country. “Those in power should first take the blame for having looted the country’s resources, failed to bring social services to the people and bad governance which have primarily been responsible for the waning patriotism among the citizenry,” Mpuuga said.