While preparing to sit her primary leaving examinations Social Studies paper, my 12-year-old niece approached me to help her with some of the questions that were giving her trouble.
“How is the harvesting of cocoa in Ghana different from the harvesting of coffee in Uganda?” she asked. I didn’t have a straight answer I instead had more questions running in my head, like: how is cocoa related to coffee? Why Ghana and not Kenya which is nearer? Has this child ever seen coffee beans apart from taking coffee in cafeacutes? She repeated the question and I responded, “I don’t know.”
She then asked, “How are camels helpful to the Berbers of North Africa?” For starters, I didn’t know about the Berbers in North Africa. The only barbers I know are those who handle hair. Without hesitation, I replied, “I don’t know.”
She then opened the next page and asked, “Why did Egypt try to colonise Uganda?” That was news to me. I tried to call and ask my Egyptian friend but he wasn’t picking the call. The only major conflict between Egypt and Uganda that I ever knew was about who owns the source of River Nile.
Since my Egyptian friend didn’t respond to my call, my answer was clear: “I don’t know.” My niece looked me straight in the eye and said, “You don’t seem to know these things uncle. Should I continue asking you?” I felt a cold chill roll down my spine. “Please continue asking questions, my dear. How will you know these things if you don’t ask?” I said, putting on a brave face.
Sometimes I wonder why these pupils are asked questions that have no bearing with issues concerning their surroundings. The man-eaters of Tsavo national park were a main hindrance to the construction of the Uganda railway. Now that the Uganda railway is still struggling to function, is it still the man-eaters of Tsavo national park hindering its construction?
Technocrats from the ministry of Works should provide Uneb with the right answers. When I was at school, I remember an invigilator telling us that calculators were not allowed, yet we were going to do a History paper. What is there to calculate in History? Maybe the years dictators took power.
Some of the questions seemed vague, yet the examiners were dead serious. Questions like: ‘The dead are not dead. Justify.’ What is there to justify? It is only witch-doctors who have answers to such questions. Let the dead rest in peace.
Some questions were so long, confusing and violent. For example, ‘Germany has its eyes not on Prussia’s liberals but on its might. The great question of the day will not be solved by mere speeches and resolutions of the majority but through blood and iron. Attack.’ This is sowing seeds of violence in students. No wonder strikes never cease in Ugandan schools.
I earned myself a hefty punishment during my high school days when I tried to reason with my History teacher. He hated Napoleon Bonaparte so much that whenever he asked questions regarding him, you could feel him venting his frustration.
I tried to tell him that things don’t work that way since the man is long dead. He took my seat in class and told me to teach if I thought I was smarter than him. I took up the challenge and asked him, ‘Napoleon was a green snake in the green grass. Elucidate.’ The canes I received that day reminded me of the floggings Jesus of Nazareth received before he was crucified on the cross at Calvary.
I wish all success to all candidates who have just sat or are sitting Uneb exams.
Source : The Observer