The negative impact of “African school” education

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By: Eric Abal,

AKampala based Business Strategist

An interview that I conducted with Mr. Vincent O. Kulika, a student at International University of East Africa led us to a defining question. ” Would you rather have a first-class in school or a first-class in life?” Kulika asked. This was in 2018 while  Kulika was a guest at my home. We need both. But the unfortunately, many a young person only get to have a first-class in school, and zero training in dealing with life!

Many will wonder why this is unfortunate! The simple answer is that the first-class obtained in school today cannot be more disconnected from the harsh realities that await the youths in their futures. A few decades a go, going to school guaranteed one an automatic white collar job with high pay and pension. But that era ended a whilefew back, and a good education alone is nolonger sufficient.

But parents who enjoyed that past era, still have the illusion that the situation is still the same as it was in their time! So they still blindly believe that sending their child to a good school alone is enough to make them succeed. But before I talk about the bad side of our current school system, let me appreciate it first. School today, especially in the early stages of nursery and primary gives children some bit of structure in their lives. As for the part of learning, it is still extremely wanting. So for all the time the current generation of Ugandans spend in the school, I’d estimate that only about 5% of what they learn is useful. The other 95% is gotten from outside the school syllabus. And that 95% represents the life skills.

Our current education system, especially the African one almost completely ignores the importance of life skills and significantly sticks to outdated theoretical knowledge handed down by the colonialists way back in the day!

It’s easy to criticise me for saying this because it might not seem that obvious, but let me put this in perspective for you with some questions for thought!

  • How many graduates leave school and still have to be be freshly trained by their new employers.  Were they wasting time in school “pretending” to gain experience in their profession all along?
  • By the age of 18, one is supposed to be independent. But the school system is designed to keep someone as a student up to at least the age of 22, assuming that one started nursery school at the age of three and never had any interruptions whatsoever. This is not a school system that supports financial independence and development, but rather extra dependency on parents. Why is it that someone in a United States or British system of education can have some semblance of financial independence by age 18 and one in Uganda cannot take care of his airtime needs by the same age?
  • How many “schooled” children of elites criticise those who didn’t go to school at all without realising that the ones they criticise have been feeding themselves independently all along and they who are elite, cannot even feed themselves without their parent’s assistance. I won’t say much about this!
  • I don’t know about other African countries, but I know about Uganda. Now as Ugandans, how many of the things we studied in primary school or secondary school are we still using in lives today? And how many of youthe get satisfaction from their job because they are following their truest passion?

Is it the school system that’s unfair or is it life outside that is? Well, life will always be hard and unfair. That’s pretty much a constant.  But we can adapt our education system to tackle the current and future issues that plague Africa. We can borrow a leaf from the Singaporean education system, one of the most reformist systems in the world. And the solution to this problem is simply that, a reform to ourthe own education systems, which for Uganda is predominantly, UNEB based. We’ll continue to suffer from the negative impact of an outdated school system lest we start teaching kids in school their uitlise their natural talents/ passions, not forcing them learn irrelevant things, and reforming other aspects of the education system as well for example how long it takes to finsish school.

The education Africa needs is one that teaches the skills necessary to handle the realities we face today! For the wealthy however, they have the option of international schools when the children are still young.

Though a few international schools of higher education have also started setting up in Africa. I don’t mean to sound biased, but these international curricula are better suited to teaching our children the skills necessary to succeed in this current global village! But the bottom line is that as a parent, you need your kids to learn both life and professional skills.

I just want you to realise that a bad education system which treasures only substandard professional training and ignores life skills has negative consequences on families and the nation as a whole. Thank you for reading my thoughts!

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