Folk songs nowadays are the most neglected, followed by children’s and patriotic songs.
By Conan Businge & Agnes Kyotalengerire
THERE was indeed a good deal of singing in those olden days, as we grew up. Most of the men sang or whistled at their jobs, whilst hoeing or digging, or doing their rounds as fish-hawker or baker. Even schooled people, like headteachers and doctors in our villages, as they carried on their duties in office or their rounds in clinics, hummed a tune between their teeth.
But all that is now lost. Teachers and parents have ignored folk and children's songs, of which negatively impacts the teaching of toddlers.
Folk songs nowadays are the most neglected, followed by children's and patriotic songs.
Irene Mukunde, a retired nursery teacher with 15 years of teaching experience says, "If your child's school is not using folk songs to teach, you are in wrong place. Folk songs have enormous value in teaching toddlers, compared to several songs played on radio and television station nowadays. Get another school immediately."
Folk songs and ballads can be used in many varied ways in education. Songs can be played on the radio, television or any music player, or-preferably-songs can be sung by pupils, at the beginning of a lesson to give an atmosphere.
Teachers say that this would always be done, to illustrate certain points; or at the end to bring it to a suitable close. "Care must be taken to see that the song is a useful addition to the subject, and that it does not prove a digression," says John Mugumbya, nursery teacher in Iganga. He is also a music teacher.
He explains that the country is now changing Western songs have been documented; children now neglect traditional songs but strive to document theirs. Parents at home do not have the time to teach their children the local language and their traditional songs.
"They also lose focus of the fact that a child can be taught to respect the elders through folk songs and most especially love for peace," he explains.
He also adds that such songs are vital in teaching children their heritage, and other issues about their community and life.
Mugumbya warns that teachers need to be careful, on the folk songs they teach them. "Some of the songs are not age appropriate. Be careful as a teacher or parent, on what you teach them."
However, Impromptu checks on most of Uganda's nursery schools, shows that children aren't singing folklores, an omission that greatly puts the heritage of the nation jeopardy of losing a long-standing and rich part of its identity.
Today's school children are more likely to know the lyrics to popular songs, of local musicians.
Cecil Sharp, the great collector of folk songs, wrote in his English Folk Song: Some Conclusions, "We look, therefore, to the introduction of folksongs in the elementary schools to effect an improvement in the musical taste of the people, and to refine and strengthen the national character.
Earlier, Sharp had referred to the overwhelming evidence, that as recently as 30 or 40 years before the writing of his book in 1907, every village had been 'a nest of singing birds'. Old country people he had talked to said that when they were young everyone sang, in the fields, on their way to work, and as they trudged home.
Research has shown these songs not only help children learn about important events but also allow them to more closely relate to the hardships and joys of their grandparents and ancestors, by stepping into their shoes.
"Most of our children cannot sing the national anthem, folk and children's songs because teachers who teach them don't go over the songs enough for them to learn," says Milly Nakate, a tutor at Kabulasoke Core Primary Teachers College
She says that, "The old rhymes, poems, riddles and songs would start from home; with parents and children gathering occasionally around the fireplace in the evenings. These songs and fictions tales would always be infused with information meant to inculcate knowledge, life skills, morals and values.
Dr. Tony Lusambu, the assistant commissioner primary education says that the folklores must be revived in schools and homes, for the betterment of learning and protecting our heritage.
Most of the teachers talked to, agree that few children can be able to sing the songs and that they admit that they always spend little time on such areas of teaching. Micheal Mulindwa, a retired primary teacher in Kampala says, "Part of this problem is cause by the poor training of teachers. Parents should do their best, instead on counting on teachers to do all this training."
To enable children continue benefiting from the songs and rhymes, riddles and stories, curriculum developers at the National Curriculum Development Center (NCDC) have integrated the semantic curriculum content with science included into the RTI literacy module in story form.
Nakate says that this is now available in the textbooks for Primary One to three, in Uganda.
The books are distributed and available to government schools in some districts of Uganda.