Addressing Ndejje University last month, President Yoweri Museveni is said to have declared university arts courses to be “useless” and that they offered “no solutions to many of the country’s challenges.”
This was a repeat of a similar statement he made exactly one year earlier while visiting Ibanda, Nkore.
No doubt, the President spoke out of sincere conviction. However, it is a claim that flies in the face of centuries of human reality. The vast experience in countries that have made impressive strides from underdeveloped to very developed ones is that a balanced, integrated human resource development is central to sustainable development.
The success of a country like Singapore was not based on dismissal of Arts subjects but on a scientific analysis of that country’s strengths and weaknesses and appropriate corrective measures that ensured a balanced exploitation of her citizens’ broad spectrum of intellectual gifts and interests.
A healthy society is one that provides its citizens with the comprehensive opportunities for learning about their past for analysing their present for dealing with the social and psychological demands of a challenging world and difficult experiences for relieving stress through entertainment for understanding gender and other human relations for meeting spiritual needs, in addition to managing and exploiting their environment and natural resources.
The traditional sciences are very important in the life of any country. Uganda’s oil industry will need the scientists to bring the product from the ground to the pipelines and transport vehicles. However, that same oil industry will need managers.
It will generate serious conflicts that will trigger anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges that demand the professional help of experts in conflict resolution and psychology.
Uganda is a country of highly traumatised citizens. That we have survived decades of violence and other forms of oppression without psychological counseling may well explain some of the challenges that we continue to face individually and collectively.
The citizens may go about their daily lives with apparent ease, yet for many that is a mask that camouflages serious mental distress that would be relieved by psychologists.
The country needs social workers as much as it needs medical doctors, political scientists and procurement experts. Uganda needs historians as much as it needs economists, lawyers, accountants and civil engineers.
Let us take the example of history graduates. These are folks with the great opportunity to enhance our tourism industry by conducting highly informative tours of our cities and communities, enlightening the visitors on our cultural and other historic heritage.
Likewise, the graduates of music, dance and drama are able to partner with the historian tour guides to offer the tourists a complete package that feeds their eyes and ears. Our Kenyan friends recognised this long ago.
After my wife and I enjoyed a highly informative and entertaining tour of Nairobi National Park and the amazing traditional dances at nearby Bomas of Kenya, we became enthusiastic promoters of that tour circuit and of the company that provided us with a very knowledgeable guide. Many Canadian friends have since taken aantage of our recommendations.
The challenge for Uganda is not the types of subjects offered, but the content and education system that continues to promote theoretical learning in both the Arts and sciences without equal emphasis on fiscal management and entrepreneurial skills.
It should be mandated that no student graduates without learning entrepreneurship, complete with skills in starting and managing a successful business. Such courses should be taught by individuals with long and practical experience in doing business, some of them in semi-retirement but happy to contribute to our growth of the national human resource in all fields of human endeavour.
No subject is useless. After a long and stressful day ministering unto the sick or solving political problems, the doctor and the president need to be ministered to by the graduate in music or the poet or novelist, in exchange for hard cash.
Dr Mulera is based in Toronto, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE: Daily Monitor