Where are you teachers, school owners as Janet gambles with our children’s futures?

A school on sale

A school on sale

The picture of over 15 teenage girls –from the same school – pregnant, some with newborns, made me furious. What are we doing to these girls and boys?

Dear reader, I am possibly one of the most educated folks in Kampala (in a sample of about 10,000 persons), but I still struggle to understand why Museveni and Janet think open markets such as Kalerwe and Owino, our very congested neighbourhoods, and trading centres are safer than schools in the spread of Covid-19. 

Are they not embarrassed by the silliness of their joke?

On the other hand, the figures of lockdown-induced calamities are staggering. Teen pregnancies, maternal mortality, school dropouts, teenage marriages, mental health crises, etc. Just to give you a glimpse, in February this year, The Observer published a story noting that there were over 100,000 pregnant teenagers returning to school. What is the figure now? We are staring at a crisis of unimaginable proportions simply because a 75-year-old couple is gambling with our children’s futures.

Sadly, 10 years from now, these girls and boys in their prime, will be knocking from pillar to post to eke out a difficult existence, but Museveni and Janet will not be here.  If around, these two individuals will be senile, trying to catch the morning sun for their jutted and tired bones. 

See, the simple fact that neither of these folks—and their contemporaries, Tumusiime-Mutebile, Matia Kasaija, Sam Kutesa, Ruhakana Rugunda, etc — understand crypto-currency, apps, is statement enough that they do not represent the future.

This is one more reason I am urging Afande Muhoozi Kainerugaba to coup his dad. Yes, let the family dynasty continue, but with younger blood. Surely, Muhoozi will see this new world better than his antiquated dad. Isn’t his Twitter account busier?

Perhaps I digress. I come here not to ridicule Museveni but, rather, challenge my friends in the teaching industry. At the end of the day, learners will look at their teachers — their immediate heroes — and wonder how the joke got lost on them.

This was their time to put all their skills and values to use. What will teachers of political education, civics, social studies, political science tell their students the next time they stand in front of them? What happened to all those topics, values and skills on being active social and political beings? What will teachers of economics or statistics say? did they see the numbers?

Learners will ask: “did you ever believe in the things you used to teach us or simply reproduced them for your earnings?” They will ask further: “Did you ever consider yourselves as Ugandans equally politically accountable beyond the classroom?”

I can imagine teachers “drying faces,” and actually regurgitating Museveni’s empty claims about schools being “super spreaders!” 

I can see teachers aggressively silencing their learners, telling them about the next tests and forthcoming exams. It will be simply drying face! If teachers do not see themselves as active political subjects, then there is no more reason for learning.

Dear teachers, if your learners become disrespectful when schools resume, please be humble in return. As heroes to these young brains, you failed to lead by example.

I know you have been emasculated for long.  The system is unfriendly and impoverishing. Most teachers in upcountry schools are simply scraping by. They cannot afford a decent meal from their salaries. They have to complement their peanut salaries with tilling the land.

The entire country has been systematically turned into a beggars’ den. For power and pittance, Museveni simply gifted the country back to former colonisers by handing them banking, telecom, extractives trade, and now returning the same colonial ordinances on coffee. These things have kept entire country poor and incapable. You are not alone.

But for teachers in Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso and Makerere University — teachers in the main region of politics and cultural production — who are also generally better resourced and informed than their counterparts in the countryside, you have let the country down.  I know teacher/lecturer’s trade unions are already conscripted to Museveni and Janet’s patronage machine.  I agree, there is no hope with them.

However, the laws of Uganda offer many avenues to hold Janet and husband accountable. [These fellows are so obsessed with their sense of right – which they consider God-given – and will not budge by simple gestures of closed-door meetings].

I fail to believe you are unable to petition Janet’s ministry in your capacities as schools. Why not petition the Speaker of Parliament? Kibuli. Mukono Bishop. Namagunga. YMCA. Petition separately.  I refuse to believe you are unable to take to the streets in peaceful protest – with signages and placards – as guaranteed by Article 29 of the Constitution.

I fail to believe head teachers and school owners are unable to seek public interest lawyers — such as Isaac Ssemakadde, Adam Ateenyi, Nicholas Opiyo, Eron Kiiza, etc.— and sue government/Janet/Muyingo for sabotaging their businesses on flimsy unconstitutional grounds.

Banks are coming for you, and surely, there should be suits in court against GoU! Why have you not intensified activism on the social media platforms? This is the stuff you are teaching our children.

I am not blind to the fact that to do this would be inviting the brutality of Museveni’s government. In its shamelessness, it will come down hard and break your bones.  But isn’t this the risk of being active political subjects?

That the continued closure of schools under the excuse of Covid-19 does not stand scientific or logical scrutiny, is enough reason to challenge this clearly dangerous and humiliating injustice.


The author is a political theorist based at Makerere University.

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