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Monday, July 6, 2015

Hollywood actress Awakens Science and Arts in Education debate

By Esther Nakkazi

Lupita Nyong’o, Kenya’s Oscar Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress, has spoken up for Arts courses, which have been labelled ‘useless’ in comparison to Sciences in education in some eastern Africa.

Ms. Nyong’o, last week urged guardians to be supportive of children with an affinity for Arts, while attributing her success in the film industry to a distinctive and motivational pattern that fanned her passion.

Speaking to students and artists during a session dubbed “Arts in Education” at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi; Lupita said she grew up in a community that fosters creative self expression and around guardians who “validated her dreams.”

Ms. Nyong’o's advice and job stand out among the many debates ongoing about Sciences being better than humanities in eastern Africa.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni, a champion of sciences, has urged public Universities funded by the Government to take on more science courses and drop the arts and humanities, which he described as ‘useless’.

"He posed a question to university students studying conflict resolution: ‘What would happen to you when conflicts are resolved?"

Museveni has continuously expressed concern that these ‘useless’ courses are not marketable in the labor market, neither in Uganda nor internationally and are irrelevant to development. Except, Ms. Nyong’o has proven him wrong.

Professor Ratemo Michieka from the University of Nairobi said development lies in Science, Technology and Innovation and giving more prominence to Sciences than other disciplines may just be the answer to development.

"No country has developed without a critical mass of scientists," said Professor Nelson Sewankambo.

“In the 60’s it was statistics, then environment, gender. Now it is Science. It is not wrong for government to say that while its easier to produce humanities, we need more science and technology graduates. It is not that the other should be abolished,” said Professor John Opuda-Asibo, the Executive Director, National Council for Higher Education

He added that Uganda was only looking at what was neglected for a long time.

Professor William Kyamuhangire, Associate Professor and Manager of the food technology and business incubation centre at Makerere University has argued that Museveni’s intention is to harness the local scientific human resource to develop a hi-tech industry in Uganda that can use locally available raw materials to produce value added products for the local and export markets and at the same time, create jobs.

He noted that most African economies, in this 21st Century have advanced needs and their economies can only be driven by science and technology.

Countries like Uganda and Kenya that have recently discovered petroleum, need to have the technology to refine it into usable products, which calls for training in geology and mining, petroleum extraction, petroleum refining and their management.

Lupita frowned upon the fact that “arts education is often dismissed as non-essential.” She laid emphasis on reinforcing children’s abilities and talents as opposed to imposing careers on students.

Ms. Nyong’o elevates the Arts in education but the debate continues.

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