A week ago, donors reduced funding to Uganda’s education sector over allegations of graft and impaired performance under free primary and secondary education programmes.
The development ironically came after Makerere University students at the School of Engineering, Art, Design and Technology brought for test drive on campus an electric car they made, captivating the nation over its reserve of a breed of progressive intellectuals.
Ugandan students have not just woken up here, it might appear, but also overseas, posting record-shattering results. A student of Ugandan origin at Cambridge University has been named the most outstanding black student in the UK, according to information on the university’s website, www.ceb.cam.ac.uk.
Mr Ssegawa Ssekintu Kiwanuka topped the list of the outstanding black student compiled by Future Leaders magazine, a publication that inspires children from Britain’s African and African-Caribbean communities to apply to university.
His feat tells the story of our country’s paradox: Where a cocktail of structural barriers and government’s half-hearted investment in education suffocates innate flair of disadvantaged students unable to pay tuition, and therefore buy the best quality teaching, at premium private institutions.
If, for instance, Mr Kiwanuka had lived and studied in Uganda’s blighted universities, and not in London, he would have perhaps excelled locally, but not so likely to be recognised internationally, let alone by the Education minister in Kampala.
Now his name has been etched in the record of leading world scholars as he pursues a PhD on ultra-sensitive optical analytics of liquids at Cambridge University.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have achieved a lot, but I have also had people along the way who have seen something in me and taken a chance, he reportedly said. “It is true that certain groups have historically been under-represented, but this should not be confused with undervalued.”
Amid glamour, London Mayor Boris Johnson presented him the award during a reception at City Hall in London last week, and said: “All too often, our attention is drawn to the things that go wrong with our young people, and yet there is so much that we should be celebrating: The achievements and the contributions that 99 per cent of our young people are making to society.”