Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Students Make Uganda’s Vision 2040 a Reality

By Esther Nakkazi

The last time I was at the national theatre in Kampala was at the launch of ‘Crossroads’ a book written by African women discussing society, religion, sex, the West and sports in personal, true-life stories detailing Uganda's rapidly changing culture. The book was edited by American journalist Chris Conte.

Two months later, I was back attending the 2015 Secondary schools Music Dance and Drama finals. The national theatre was full to capacity almost overflowing with students excited and anxious.

Students at the 2015 Music Dance and Drama finals
My mind raced back to my secondary school days. I was more into sports and books but I did enjoy this music festival very much. It showed creativity, talent, patriotism, as well, it was educative and very entertaining.

It was sponsored by UNFPA-Uganda in partnership with the National Planning Authority (NPA) and the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, and Sports.

In order of the best of the 2015 Secondary schools Music Dance and Drama finals were; Budo Senior Secondary school, Sam Iga Memorial College, Mackay Memorial college, Trinity College Nabbingo, Lubiri Senior Secondary School, Mengo Senior School and others.

But in all 42 schools participated and only three of these were private schools namely; Budo S.S, Seroma Christian High school, and Owobusobozi Bisaka Itambiro Modern Secondary School.

Some of the reasons given for the thousands of others not to be part of this great show was the high costs involved for the schools to participate and students not being interested.

So I kept wondering how schools that charge exorbitant school fees could also give such an excuse when we had some schools that needed to travel for more than 8 hours to Kampala show up or how a student can say they are not interested. The few that were here today, for the national finals were all winners in their own right having beat others at the district and regional level.

To participate, the schools had to let us understand the theme;  'Vision 2040: Harnessing Young People’s Potential for Uganda's Socio-Economic Transformation',  through original and creative African compositions in poems, folk songs, drama and creative dances.

As you know, President Yoweri Museveni’s long-term plan is to make Uganda an upper middle-income country by 2040. So first, let us know why students have to be involved in understanding this theme if it is to even happen.

About half of Uganda’s population of 37 million is younger than 15 years. 78% Ugandans are below 28 years, 52% are less than 19 years. So Uganda is a real young nation.

Meanwhile, for every 1 job on the Ugandan market, there is 1,000 youth vying for it. So harnessing the music and dance talents is key to having the youth create their own jobs in future.

In most of the items performed, ‘teenage pregnancy’ stood out. Kamuli Secondary School’s play about alcoholism, teenage pregnancy and early school drop out drove the message home and hopefully, it sank.

“If a girl gets pregnant today it means that she will drop out of school. So she will not be able to attain her dreams. As a country we shall have lost a very important resource,” said Ms. Esperance Fundira, the UNFPA country representative.

But there is more to that. Being a young girl, her body is not yet ready to go through the trauma of childbearing; chances are that she will get complications during childbirth, she added.

She advised the young people to make smart choices and seek for services and information on sexual and reproductive health.

“You as the young person who, you have the power to take full responsibility for your life. You have the power to demand from parents, teachers, policymakers, the community that you are treated as a vital asset that you are,” Ms. Fundira emphasised.

This made me think that the students particularly understood that Uganda would never achieve Vision 2040 nor become a middle-income country if this vice is not addressed.

Dr. Kisamba Mugerwa, Uganda’s chief planner said to achieve Vision 2040, he had stipulated that every Ugandan woman should produce at least 4 children but he was advised by economists that it should go down to only 2.

I think in this Dr. Kisamba faces a tough task, given that the fertility rate is at 6.9 children per Uganda woman, the world’s second highest in the world.

Hopefully, events like the Secondary schools Music Dance and Drama competition will enable him to achieve this sooner for Vision 2040 should not only be a vision but a reality.
Mackay Memorial college performing at the National Theatre, Kampala  

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