Since Subsidiary ICT was introduced to A-level education in 2012, very many young people who pursue A-level education have been able to attain vital ICT skills before joining university and / or tertiary institutions. Before that, computer education was mainly done in urban schools and computer studies as a subject stopped in S.4 (UCE). Others had to train in private computer centres, scattered in many towns and the training was largely substandard.
Introduced in 2012 as a second subsidiary subject, Subsidiary ICT has led to standardization of computer education through secondary school sub sector, from S.1 up to S.6. Our young people now have the opportunity to acquire skills and remain globally competitive.
Unlike Subsidiary Mathematics that has only one paper, Subsidiary ICT has two papers; S850/1 Paper 1 (Application of ICT Knowledge) and S850/2 Paper 2 (Practical). These therefore enables to attain both vital theoretical knowledge that they use in day to day youth conversations and also practical skills that helps them accomplish tasks such as checking emails, printing etc. The teaching of Subsidiary ICT has contributed to the development of Uganda in the following ways.
Uganda has about 38% internet penetration, according to Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). The growth has been boosted by rapid growth in mobile phone penetration that currently stands at more than 50%. At least 22 million Ugandans own a mobile phone, with 33 per cent accessing the internet through mobile devices, such as tablets, iPads and smartphones. Most of those who access the internet are young people, many of whom learnt about the internet at school or from friends. These has changed the business dynamics for telecom companies since data is now a cash cow compared to normal airtime.
With over 70 of Uganda’s 38 million people being young people below 30 years, there is no doubt that most of these passed the secondary school education and are the one driving Uganda’s Internet use. These young people use applications such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube.
Subsidiary ICT has also contributed to rise of ICT innovation in Uganda. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) every year organize the Annual Communication Innovation Awards (ACIA), and they have created a whole category to cater for primary and secondary school innovations. The category is called the “Young ICT Innovators” with its resultant sub categories “Rising Stars” for secondary schools, “……………..” for primary schools. Other competitions include Technovation Challenge and Science & Technology Innovation Challenge. It is important to note that in the ICT sector, disruption is the new normal. By having innovative students who are able to develop apps and hardware solutions to solve community problems is a plus. Subsidiary ICT has been instrumental in setting the foundations for innovations.
The mobile money boom can as well be attributed to teaching of Subsidiary ICT in Uganda. With most of them born after 1991, ICT students in secondary schools are definitely digital natives, not digital migrants like their parents. To these young people, life and technology are inseparable. They are willing to take up mobile money jobs, social media jobs, digital publishing, and phone repair. Much as there is massive unemployment in Uganda resulting in scarcity of office jobs, many are also driven purely by passion for technology and are able to readily accept these jobs and proceed with their lives. These small jobs are important today because they act as intermediary business enablers hence bringing sellers and buyers together, thus lowering barriers to entry and advertisement costs. These allows many other sectors to grow.
As far as I know, the teaching of Subsidiary ICT is going on well in Uganda, including northern Uganda. However, there remain pertinent issues such as recruitment of ICT teachers. When the subject was introduced, many schools recruited IT and Computer Science graduates to teach the subject. Many then went to university and did Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Education, a requirement to register as a teacher and join teaching profession officially. On the other hand, the Ministry of Education & Sports, chose to “retool” already existing teachers for two weeks to teach ICT. My view is that it is better to recruit IT and Computer Science graduates to teach and then ask them to professionalize by doing Post Graduate Diploma in Education, because they are already qualified and competent in field of ICT. Many “retooled” teachers have since abrogated their roles due to stiff competition & large skills gap. There is a big difference between being “qualified” and being “competent.”
Also, the MOES should donate computers to schools that have very few or do not have them at all. There should also be attempt to review the curriculum every five years, because the rate of progress in the ICT sector is so fast. And lastly, computer teachers should make an effort to come together by joining the Computer Teachers Association of Uganda (CTAU), a body that would help advocate for the unique needs of its members. I believe that making people knowledgeable is the only way of developing people. I therefore encourage young people to embrace ICT, because that is the only way we can make Uganda a Knowledge economy that creates, shares and uses knowledge for national development.