IGNITE TALK: Using Development Education & STEM to empower young people in Uganda to succeed in school and life.

Today, I celebrate my parents. My dad is late now, but my mum is still alive & healthy. Today, I celebrate Nelson Mandela, who said education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. I also celebrate my son, Mandela, whose only words so far is “mum” & “papa”. He made 1 year on Tuesday. Parents, doctors & teachers are known to tell us things plainly, mostly times bitter facts. But you learn from them.

When I was 16, I remember my dad telling me that, I will never inherit anything from him. That the only thing I would get from him is education. Not even a bicycle. He is gone but those words still ring in my head every day.

He made me love education, and after many years and struggles I was able to finish high school. While in school, I loved books. But did not have access to computers. This lack of access to computers later became an inspiration to pursue it further.

After many struggles & hard work, I was able to finish university thanks to a scholarship, sponsored by Tulane University (New Orleans) – based here in the US.

After university in June 2012, I started my teaching career in July 2012. My admiration & passion for teaching had become a reality. My subject is computer studies, which I was denied at high school.

When I became a teacher, I had to decide many things. To be a progressive, liberal teacher or a conservative teacher. To use technology in class or maintain the old traditional class room model with black board & white chalk. I had to decide whether to a disciplinarian or easy go teacher.

Most importantly, I had to decide whether only class work & exams will enable students succeed after school.

After conversing with my heart and my mind, I decided I would be a teacher, a teacher who goes the extra mile. A teacher who would embrace initiatives that build & empower students. That is how got them into robotics, innovation competitions, mobile app programming, public speaking, writing competitions. I also got them into e-learning & technology camps. The impact has been amazing. It has been 7 years of amazing work. Increased participation in STEM, increased enrolment in science programmes, positive behaviour, practical skills & bigger dreams.

In Uganda today, just like other African countries, jobs are a big problem. Partly, because of what happens in schools – theoretical approach to learning. There is a mismatch between what is taught at school & what happens in real life.

All of us gathered here, all wish our children a better future. But remember, a better future begins with good education. My focus is on SDG goal number 4 – quality education. And as RODEL put it, “a great education changes everything”.

That has been my approach, my way of doing “development education” to empower young people in Uganda to succeed in school & life. But there is more work to be done. The future of work is going to look very different, with new technologies like AI, Machine Learning, and blockchain etc.

I welcome you all to join global efforts in creating education that breaks down barriers to success & embraces innovation and diversity.

Apwoyo matek. Asante sana. Thank you very much.

For God and My Country.

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