By Dr. Josue O. Okoth
Mission schools were established in Uganda in the 1890s, and in 1924, the Government established the first secondary school for Africans. By 1950, however, the Government operated only three of the 53 secondary schools for Africans.
Three others were privately funded and 47 were operated by religious organisations. Education was eagerly sought by rural farmers as well as urban elites and after independence, many villages, especially in the south, built schools, hired teachers, and appealed for and received government assistance to operate their own village schools (internet sources). By 1960s many more schools had been built by Christian Missions throughout the country.
Religious Based Schools and Properties of cultural institutions were taken over by Dr. Milton Obote’s Government in the 1960s. The properties of the cultural institutions are being returned to the cultural leaders and it is right and fitting that those religious properties, the schools be returned to the religious founding bodies. It is their property. Recently there have been some calls to that effect.
Rev. Isaiah Kijjuambu of the Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) told a stakeholders meeting in Masaka that the Government has taken over the control of some Church founded schools and interfered in the management of such schools.
He noted that the role of the Church, as the founding body, has been limited to working in conjunction with the district’s education officials to monitor the schools’ operation, to mediate school – community problems and to seek additional funding for the schools under the Dioceses.
Rev. Isaiah Kijjuambu was supported by Canon Mugerwa who said that the Church was working with the Uganda Muslim Education Association (UMEA), to ask Government to reduce its excessive interference in the management of religious founded schools.
The Bishop of Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese and Vice Chairman of Episcopal Conference, Joseph Anthony Zziwa in June 2013, said that in order to regain morals among the young generation, schools must go back to the basics and teach religion.
He said, “If all schools go back to the religious foundation and teach religion to the children at all levels, it would help minimise immoral and evil behaviours, such as corruption, murder, rape, defilement, jealous and others among the current and future generations, which will help the country.”
He continued to say that, “If the young children are taught religion from the grassroots, no doubt it will help not only the homes but also the Government and the whole country to have people of good behaviour.”
Rev. Dr. Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa, in his PhD thesis, University of Leeds, entitled “Religious pluralism and conflict as issues in religious education in Uganda”, questioned the Government’s proposed exclusion of religious education from the education curriculum and its replacement with moral education.
He suggests that while moral education could be a subject on its own, religious education needs to be maintained but re-designed to address the multi-religious context. In Uganda, where religion is manifest in public places and where it is still a very powerful force in galvanising society, teaching of religion in schools has not been accorded the importance is deserves.
Families would have offered ideal environment for religious instructions but it has limitations: First of all they have limited capacity in terms of knowledge. Secondly families have become weak. Previously it has been the work of mothers to look after the children.
Today the situation on the ground is different. With the advent of women emancipation, the women have left their previous role of nurturing the children and are now busy in businesses. The children are being brought by house girls/boys or aunties and grandees.
Children are full time with caretakers watching television programmes of their choice and playing with other children in the neighborhood where they pick all types of habits. Many times these children fall victims of harassment when these caretakers seduce them into sex.
Many children have been stolen under this kind of environment and either offered for sacrifices or sold to human traffickers.
The schools that would help to bridge the gap in religious education are left to the whims of School Administration or Board of Governors. Sometimes the schools have proved worse than homes; we have seen incidences where teachers, who should protect the children, are the ones who lure and defile them.
The teaching of religion is inadequate which results in indiscipline and chaos. Even a religious (missionary) environment alone can make the difference. What we see today in society is the product of that mediocre inadequate religious education in schools.
Our schools are surrounded by demons as it is often reported in the news media. Open any newspaper and you find the products of our educational system. It was recently reported in the New Vision of September 8, 2013 that “A recent research reveals that almost 30% of men in Kampala could be raising other men’s children” Six out of 10 men who go for paternal tests discover they have been caring for another man’s child. HIV is rising again from 6.5% to 7.2%.
Abortion rate is up and it is not taken as murder. The teenagers have grown wild and most of them believe they know what they are doing and they do not need supervision from parents or elders. They have destroyed school properties in riots without any compensation from the Government.
Because of inadequate religious education in schools, many Christians think they are ‘saved’ when in fact they are ‘doomed’. Pastors have more than one wife, savedees are not married in Church (matrimony) and generally Christianity made easier. Corruption and dishonesty are the orders of the day.
People want to get rich at any cost even if it means selling a child or wife. In summary, most Ugandans are sick and it is not easy for a man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance.
Many Christians will stumble over truth (i.e. if their conscious are not dead) and walk away as if nothing has happened.
Unfortunately, those in authority try to put out fire with fire which is not a Christian approach. The authority has failed to discipline the youth. They want to control sexual immorality by providing condoms to the youth.
Because the youth cannot be tamed to stop promiscuous behaviours to get pregnant, they are told they can abort because as some one in authority said, ‘we cannot bury our heads in the sand’. This is accepting defeat. Let us get to the root cause of these problems and stop treating symptoms.
Maj. Gen. Otaffire Kahinda, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, says in Point Blank, “leave issues of the generals to the generals” and he is correct; leave religious matters to the religious. The problem with our African countries is that they copy any life style from foreign countries in order to receive conditional grants.
Uganda is over 85% Christian and we can choose our own destiny and the best “person to listen to is yourself”. Did you know that most of our politicians are not religious? They don’t use their Christian or Muslim names because they do not want to be identified with any religion, why?
What is the way forward? Let the religious bodies take back their schools and install moral discipline. It is not a simple war to bring back sanity to society and save it from moral collapse. This proposal will not change Educational Policy or Examination System in Uganda.
A good example is the health sector where founding bodies of health facilities have continued to operate them with full support from the Government.
The writer is a concerned Christian