My Take on Rogers Mukalele and ICT Teachers Association of Uganda (ITAU)

Since the introduction of Subsidiary ICT on the A-level curriculum in 2012, one person that has consistently pushed for the betterment of ICT secondary school sub sector is Rogers Mukalele. Rogers, as he is fondly called has been my own personal inspiration and a guiding light to the Uganda ICT teachers. He has been able to avail books (both teachers guides and students textbook books), e-learning platform, WhatsApp groups and lots of other events to help popularize the subject while also being keen on standardization and quality of learning outcomes. But before I go further, let me take you back on how Rogers ended up being my own inspiration.

Mukalele Sharebility website & Walktrack Edu Platform. While looking for ICT secondary level content, I happened to stumble on Roger’s website, designed using HTML3 but with very good content. At the time when the subject was still new and few authoritative books in bookshops, this website was the unofficial reference point for the teachers who could have access to the internet.

Rogers Mukalele wins ACIA in 2013. Angoda Emmanuel wins ACIA in 2014.  That year, like most of the ICT teachers, I had very little experience in the sector. However, my passion & addiction to newspapers brought me into contact with Rogers. Earlier in the year (something like March), I had seen an advertorial about the ACIA and I was happened to get interested. With a few boys and girls in my pioneer class, we worked decided to participate. We brainstormed about the challenges in school, and among the several ones, students zeroed on the insufficient student resources for Subsidiary ICT. We later developed a project titles “Multimedia Teaching Resources for A-level.” The project consisted of interactive Microsoft PowerPoint slides with audio of myself teaching them. It was just a simple project and students recorded my voice while I was teaching them using my very laptop (smartphones were very rare those days). We subjected and I remember I was called to attend the award giving ceremony. Unfortunately, the administration did not avail me with the necessary funds to enable me attend the event. I remember, after the event, Roger’s innovative team of Jinja College won in the category of “Rising Stars” meant for secondary school students.

After Roger’s team winning, I saw the opportunity of lifting my school through the same ACIA platform. I should note here that Lira Town College had never won any national event/trophy since it was established in 1967. In 2014, with the good foundation we had laid in the 2013 Robotics competitions, I was hopeful that the team would submit a competitive ACIA project. Our project was called “Walktrack” and it was a beautiful integration of robotics programming and mobile app development. Four schools were shortlisted to showcase their innovations at the ACIA exhibition including BUDO and 2 other schools that I can’t recall well (one was from Kabale). So, you can see that the Mukalele’s ACIA victory in 2013 inspired me to win ACIA in 2014.

Mukalele’s emerges as 2nd Best Mak Student 2017. Angoda emerges as 5th Best Teacher in Teachers Making a Difference competition.

It may not be known to many but Mukalele is one of the pillars of Uganda’s education sector, not just as a teacher but as a student as well. During Makerere University’s graduation in January 2017, Mukalele Rogers was recognised as the 2nd best student obtaining a high 1st Class degree in ICT. Once again, I saw it as healthy competition and he had quite surprised me and beaten me hands down.

It greatly motivated me to take part in the 2017 Teachers Making a Difference competition organized by the New Vision. As asked a friend (Ajal Emmanuel) to nominate me and he did that in March 2017. He accompanied the nomination with web links, pictures of various tech activities, good referees and YouTube videos. Since I was young, I have always not believed that the best everything in Uganda is in Kampala, as many people believe. I had been seeing teachers win accolades and prizes and most of them happened to be from Kampala and surrounding areas.

In May 2017, the New Vision profiled my story in a full page. I received many congratulatory calls and messages from across the country. In September, I was duly invited to attend the award-giving ceremony at the New Vision (Industrial area) and a total of 12 teachers were recognised and rewarded, from the 25 whose stories were published. I happened to the in number 5 overall, among the 5 who were rewarded with a trip to Ireland. This recognition is one the best highlights of my life so far.

 

Sharebility website & Walktrack Edu Platform

Mukalele has been hugely successful with his Sharebility website. I was one of the pioneer users of his Sharebility site way back in 2012. As I gained more experience and gathered many educational resources, I thought of putting them online. This resulted in the birth of Walktrack Edu Platform which I launched in March 2017.

Walktrack Edu Platform has been accessed by over 25,000 users in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and even users as far as Estonia, Georgia and Russia. It was also one of my strong points in the Teachers Making a Difference contest.

Mukalele is Guiding Light

To me, Rogers Mukalele is a mentor, a voice of positive change and the guiding light in the ICT secondary school sub-sector. I want to use this same platform to thank and appreciate Rogers Mukalele for his tireless, selfless and patriotic efforts and contribution to the education sector in Uganda. We should not adopt the culture of appreciating and thanking the dead. As the ICT teachers fraternity, we it owe a lot to Rogers Mukalele’s work. I believe God will reward your courage to innovate, passion to be different and stand tall amidst the hassles of everyday life.

 

ICT Teachers Association of Uganda (ITAU)

Early this year, Mukalele Rogers sent me a WhatsApp group link to join the ICT Teachers WhatsApp group. As it is with him, I obliged because I knew the motivation and purpose was well intentioned. In the group, members started a conversation about the need for the ICT teachers association and website. True to our intentions, the members unanimously agreed to contribute money to hosting the teachers’ website to start with. After realising enough contributions, Rogers offered to host and develop the teachers’ website.

However, the discussions about the ICT teachers association continued. Personally, I was excited because I like seeing people from different regions (tribes) congregate to discuss issues, especially those with national importance & impact. I am happy with the work so far done and also happy with the elected leadership.

In September 2018, Rogers invited me to speak at the National Capacity Building Workshop organised by the ICT teachers association. However, I was unable to attend due to other pressing priority commitments & struggles of family life. I very much intend to participate in organising and attending one of those kind of gatherings in the near future so I can provide vital views and interventions that I believe will enable us drive the association and our country forward.

As I conclude, I would like provide below here below some take home points for teachers.

  • The teachers should offer solutions & interventions to problems in their schools and surrounding communities. Start a student club, a community intervention, church event etc. where you think you can put your ICT skills to good use. This thing of complaining about salaries and material things will not enable us rise to our full potential. Although recognition of your contribution is important, remember the appetite for material things and money is infinite.
  • Teachers should be active readers and writers. In this digital era, there are a lot of tools that teachers can use to gain more knowledge (read) and a lot more others to publish (write). Document your new interventions in class, school or even publish your ideas in newspaper column and blog. Writing enables you to leave a trail of your activities. You need people to know what you are doing presently, what you did before and what you will do in the future. Go ahead and write your own story, from your own perspective.
  • Embrace opportunities to experience something new. This could be volunteering in small NGO, piloting a new programme in school, attending a workshop. Being open minded is better for you, it shows you value positivity and optimistic about the future. This in turn makes you a better person, better teacher, better wife / husband and a good servant of God.
  • The students you teach are the future leaders and workers of this country. Treat them with respect, humility and give them hope. I have discovered over the years that the subject called “inspiration” is very important to students. I believe that high achievement take place in framework of high expectations. High expectations in terms of good behaviour, academic marks and co-curricular outcomes.
  • Enrol for further education. It can be a free online course, Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) or even a Master’s degree if you can afford. They say university education is the heart of the education in any country. It is also said that “the best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.”

And personally, I believe that “making people knowledgeable is the only way to developing people.”  While many people in Uganda only glorify the rich and not the intelligent, more knowledge is the only wealth that provides you with lifelong dividends. Educate yourself first and educate other later. Good rule. Apwoyo Matek.

 

ICT in Ireland and the Power of Automation

The teachers making a difference trip to Ireland was an eye opening trip for all of us. For me, it was the first time to be out of my country, and first time in another country. And to be honest, I experience two types of extremities. I experienced extremes of weathers from very hot and dry conditions in Uganda (in January) to very cold and wet conditions in Ireland (winter). I also experienced extremities of technology, the poor use of technology in Uganda and advanced use of technology in Ireland.

Accessing Train ticket using Automatic Teller Machines

The Republic of Ireland, like most of the countries in Western Europe, has a very developed and efficient public transport system. There are trains that connect major towns to Dublin, the capital and travel every hour at fair price. At the train stations, tickets are accessed using Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). To access a ticket, users have use the touch screen to select the departure station and destination station, then it prompts the user to insert money (small denominations of Euro like 5 euro, 10 euro). The machine then processes the tickets and outputs the ticket plus any balance, if there is any. The user get the ticket, goes over to the passage gates, push the ticket into some slot and the gates open for you to pass. This has to be done by everyone, because without the tickets, one cannot access the train boarding area to enter the train. These tickets are also revalidated at the destination station, where commuters have to pass it over access gates again, so they can leave the train station.

Dublin, the city of Wi-Fi.

Unlike Kampala that has a few private wireless internet connections, Ireland has thousands of Wi-Fi spots. Train stations, public parks, trains, trams, restaurants, hotels, cafés, shopping arcades, schools, universities and government buildings all have Wi-Fi. At the main street of Dublin, there are over 30 Wi-Fi spots, and every other street has almost the same number.

The Automatic Doors & CCTV cameras

Because of the harsh winter weather, most public buildings have automatic doors on the outside and push or pull door on the inside. This means that when entering a building balcony, the door automatically opens as you come closer to it.

Most public places also have surveillance cameras, and it is easy to understand why the Irish people value the last bit of privacy that they still have. Taking still photos and video is strictly regulated and one has to obtain consent, if people will be involved.

     

Subsidiary ICT contributing to National Development

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.

Lira Town College is using ICT to improve learning

Lira Town College is one of the pioneer government schools in Lira district. Established in 1967, it is a mixed ‘O’ and ‘A’ level day and boarding school located in heart of Lira town, in northern Uganda. Just like other schools in the region, it grapples from challenges of insufficient infrastructure, competition from private schools, stagnating leadership and inadequate funding. However, the current Headteacher, Ms Acen Sophia Rose is doing a commendable job, especially in improving infrastructure, student enrollment & staffing.

When I joined in 2012, Subsidiary ICT as a second subsidiary subject in A-level had just been introduced in A-level. Just like most schools, this development came with numerous challenges, notably lack of computers to conduct ICT lessons. The school had only 3 computers for teaching 120 ICT students. However, in June 2013, the Uganda Communications Commission donated to us a set of 40 computers under the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF). With these, we were ready to face the new world of ICT. As Head of ICT, my role was to help the administration, staff and students get the best out of the resources in our possession. I carried out the following interventions that have not only improved staff and student technology skills, but also made Lira Town College a centre of ICT excellence in the region and Uganda.

Open Use of Computers. When I was a student in one of the schools in Lira in early 2000’s, the Computer Lab was always out of bound to schools. So, when I became a teacher, I did not want our students to only look at computers from outside. As HOD, I made the Computer Lab open to students from 8:00 am to 6:00pm from Mondays to Saturdays. With this policy, S.3 to S.6 students would use the Lab up to 4:000pm while S.1-S.2 would access computers after classes, since they had only compulsory subjects. To further consolidate the principle of open access to computers, we created a student leadership position of ICT Prefect, whose role & responsibility was to enable students have access to computers & internet, resolve simple maintenance issues and ensure discipline inside the lab.

ICT Competitions. Since 2013, Lira Town College students have taken part in a number of ICT projects and competitions. We have participated in the Annual Communications Innovations Awards (ACIA), Science & Technology Innovations Challenge (Robotics), Technovation Challenge, Biotechnology Essay Writing Competition. We have also engaged students in projects such as the Africa Code Week, STEM Girls Camp and Gulu Technology Camp, where students learn programming skills and robotics. These activities have made Lira Town College receive numerous awards and recognition & also inspired our students to pursue Science & Technology careers at University.

Use of Opensource software. In order to trim down the costs of ICT resources and tools, we deliberately adopted use of opensource tools available freely on the internet. Ubuntu, WordPress, Google Drive storage are some of the tools we use.

Digitalization of Records. Just like most secondary schools, most of our activities & processes were manual, with staff mostly using books, papers for record keeping. Today, most of our activities are digital, with almost all records stores safely on school computers. These has eased administration, decision making and improved service delivery. Accounts, academic results, discipline records and timetables are all computerized.

Going Online. Although our school website (www.liratowncollege.sc.ug) is currently down due to technical issues, our decision to go online received much applause from the public. With functional website and social media, we have grown our digital followers to tens of thousands. In 2014, we became of the first schools to post our circular letter to parents on social media. We also provide Internet access, including Wi-Fi at least for 2 months each School Term.  We are building a state-of-the-art school blog, which will in part substitute the “website” and does not have issues of paying for the domain name and hosting every year- a sticky issues for our “born before computers” administrators.

E-Learning. We encourage our students & teachers to use and access open & free e-learning tools & websites. We have Kolibri, an offline e-learning tool installed on our computers. We also provide our students & teachers with softcopies of books, past papers. On the internet, our students & teachers access educational websites such as Alison (www.alision.com), Walktrack Edu Platform (www.edu.walktrackuganda), and Passuneb. We also have “CyberSchool”, an offline digital science e-learning application installed on our lab computers and is very popular with younger students.

Using simple interventions like these, schools can benefit a lot from ICT, instead of looking at it as a burden. ICT is a service enabler, allowing us to deliver educational services faster, better and in more innovative ways.

My humble appeal to all teachers in-charge of ICT is that, ICT is not only a subject in class. Besides, there should be reasonable compromise between access to computers and actual use of computers. ICT should be taken as service enabler that helps other subjects & departments achieve the school mission and vision. It is common for teachers to over emphasize the academic aspect & ignore others areas like morality, skills and innovation. As teachers, we should prepare our students for the future, and that future is a one where ICT will play a tremendous role. Teachers should empower students to move beyond mere ICT consumption & into problem solving, creation and innovation. My belief is that we should explore new technologies and approaches that can solve problems in local contexts with both educational and practical goals.

Teachers Making a Difference 2017: My Story

My name is Angoda Emmanuel, and have been a teacher at Lira Town College since July 2012. I also serve as the Head of ICT. I was born in December 19, 1986 in Dokolo district, in Lango sub region, in Northern Uganda. I am passionate about education, technology and agriculture and I am an ardent reader. I read every day, from newspapers to books, journals, magazines and blogs.

In March 2017, I came across an advert on New Vision newspaper (I also buy 3-4 newspapers papers per week), calling for nominations for outstanding teachers from secondary, vocational and primary schools. Since I was a child, we have always had the perception that good teachers and schools are in central (Kampala) region. Also, every year, I had been seeing several teachers from the region being recognized.

It is from this experience, that made me to ask my friend, Emmanuel Ajal to nominate me. He wrote something and I gave him some web links of some of my previous activities both in education and ICT sectors. He submitted the nomination in April.

It is important to note that over the years, I have received many awards and recognition for pioneering efforts in spearheading ICT programmes in secondary schools in northern Uganda. These include participation in Robotics, Technovation Challenge, ACIA, Biotechnology, Technology Camps and Writing competitions. According to me and my friend, these activities were very important and had created a big impact in the school and amongst students, and community.

Towards the end of April 2017, I received a call from Andrew Masinde, a journalist from the New Vision, telling me that I had been nominated and he had been assigned to interview me. We scheduled a date, and it coincided with Technovation Challenge regional pitch event at Lira Town College. After the interview, an article about me appeared on New Vision, in weekly pullout “Mwalimu” that always comes on Wednesdays. It was the first time my story had covered full page of newspaper. I felt more inspired. Many people congratulated me.

After the article was published, New Vision sent a team to our school to do video documentation of my technology activities. I was also interviewed again (on camera), and much evidence was taken to link my earlier story to facts on the ground. They also spoke to other teachers, administrators and district education officials.

In September 2017, I received a call from the New Vision, telling me that I had been selected as one of the best teachers in Teacher Making a Difference 2017 edition. I was told to travel to Kampala, on October 5, which was World Teachers Day, to attend the award giving ceremony at New Vision offices.

I travelled by night, and reached early in the morning for the event. I met several other teachers that were nominated and invited for the same event.

At the ceremony, 12 teachers were recognized and rewarded. I happened to attain position five. Fortunately, the best five teachers were also rewarded with a trip to Ireland in January 2018.

The Teachers Making a Difference programme has polished my profile as one of the best teachers in Uganda. Many people now respect me, and also listen to me.  It has opened many opportunities for me. Best of all, it has inspired the many students I teach, who look up to me as their role model. I always tell my students to look out for good opportunities. I saw the opportunity in the advert, acted on it and it has given me a once in a lifetime opportunity to travel to Ireland.

This award has inspired me to work harder every day. It has led me to discover that good work is always seen, no matter how long it takes.

I would like to sincerely thank New Vision, and its partners Irish Aid and Embassy of Ireland, Trocaire and Simba Travel Care for organizing this programme. What you are doing is tremendous and is creating a big impact than you think. Nothing means more than saying “thank you” for serving the nation. I now look forward to winning the Global Teachers Prize. Apwoyo Matek.

Other links:

https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1469878/uganda-teachers-ireland

https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1469892/teachers-difference-arriving-ireland

https://www.newvision.co.ug/new_vision/news/1471301/uganda-teachers-pick-tricks-ireland

 

WALKTRACK EDU PLATFORM- MY CONTRIBUTION TO EDUCATION SECTOR

The Internet as we know it has several resources and has had a very big impact on our lives since the early 1990’s. At home, schools, universities, business premises, bars and even buses these days have internet. For many, they just use to browse informational sites and social media.

In educational setups, the internet has been a big help to students especially during the time of coursework. People get to research, download and copy (plagiarise) other peoples work. Many times I have seen this happening and from my own experience at Gulu University.

During my time at the university, if not reading or cooking, I would most likely be downloading documents, ebooks, movies and of course the latest RnB songs.

I had a lot of thirst for reading online materials and was happy to learn government information, new computing concepts to stay a head of my peers. I was also very regular at the library, especially for newspapers and of course being around “nice” people. That was at campus.

For many times, since then, I realised that I had gathered a lot of content and yet new content was still coming. Then in 2013, I met some guy from Kawa Uganda who happened to come to Lira to promote his concept of e-learning. Instantly, recognized my efforts in the area of ICT and later gave me lots of educational materials. The materials where almost 20GB including valuable Geography documentaries, science animations and rare text books. That year, in the Computer Lab, I created an e-Library by simply copying these educational resources on all the servers, with strict permissions to only view. Together with CyberSchool which was already installed, the computer lab became the most sought after place in school. After classes, students would race to enter the lab and explore the e-Library. On weekends, an average of 600 students would use the 40 computers in the computer lab. I had to make students enter in shifts of 1 hour each. After 1 hour, another set of 40 students would come in.

however, in 2014, when we were doing computer repairs, our technician formatted the disks and I lost everything. That incident made made me think a lot of things.

Using the remaining files on my laptop, I started thinking of how I could still help students and teachers access educational resources, without necessary sharing my laptop (I always think that computers are like women).

Over the next year, I have many of my colleagues educational content in DVDs, flash disks and uploaded some onto Google drive. But still the impact was minimal.

In 2015, I hosted a website for my startup, Walktrack Uganda and with no physical presence and concrete business on ground, the traffic to the site was negligible. It was only excited friends who would check once in a while. However, I continued hosted the site every year.

From my experience at campus and I realised that we not only need to download from others, but we should also provide for others. That is how that Walktrack Edu Platform idea came about. I had only one goal-to provide educational resources for free.

Now in Uganda, there are many educational websites and all of them have some kind of arrangement that makes each different from the other. We have the carefully crafted Mwalimu Online Learning Tool, which I used a lot at the beginning and Mukalele’s sharebility which at first was his personal website.

I would not like to go into the details and specifics and these platforms, but it challenged me to do something and contribute to Uganda’s education sector. All I needed was to also publish, not just publish a book but web publishing.

According to Technopedia, web publishing is the process of publishing original content on the Internet.

The process includes building and uploading websites, updating the associated web pages, and posting content to these web pages online. Web publishing comprises of personal, business, and community websites in addition to e-books and blogs. I decided to publish all my stuff online and also got others from other sources. With this thinking in mind, Walktrack Edu Platform was born in January 2017.

Walktrack Edu Platform is an educational website that provides free & open educational resources for both teachers & students across Uganda. It provides important resources for secondary and university, although emphasis has been put on secondary. The resources are a result of my many years teaching experience at Lira Town College & All Saints University Lango.

The resources include Classroom notes, Powerpoint presentations, Questions & Answer booklets, Short books and Past papers. It has many resources from Lira Town College but will later create a platform to allow other people to upload new content to the platform.

My core motivation to put these resources here is to provide free high quality educational resources to Uganda’s digital generation so as to enhance quality learning especially in northern Uganda.

It is good to leverage today’s technological tools to bridge the gaps in our current educational set-up. I intend to provide more online assessments (objectives) especially in O-level Computer Studies & science subjects & provide important educational infographics in an easy to understand format.

The advantage with this platform is unlike others, I have provided lots of stuff, some in zipped folders so you get a complete package. What I am working on currently is the searching algorithm, which will allow to rapidly search the big resource bank for whatever you want.

I am very sure Walktrack Edu Platform will help many teachers & students, especially in the area of computing.I have received messages from Kabale, Kole, Gulu, Kampala and many other commending me to taking this work. With your support and goodwill, Walktrack Edu Platform will sure help thousands in search for new knowledge in today’s digital world. I am delighted by the positive response so far. I wish you all the best and please spread the word.

University Applications: Who should help students?

My normal day begins when I wake up at around 5:30am, in time to catchup with the 6:00am BBC news on radio Mega FM. Thereafter, I listen to press review, to get a head start on the major issues in newspapers. Since 2000, I have been a fanatic of reading newspapers. Every week, I buy 3 or 4 times (Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Sunday).

I have my breakfast at 7:30am and thereafter live for office. When I arrive to school (by the way, teachers don’t have offices, they have open spaces to do work), I check on my teaching timetable to see if I have any lesson to conduct that day. I then check the in tray to see if I have uncompleted work from yesterday, or so. If I have, I go ahead and complete it. I then log into my email & social media accounts.

Ordinarily, apart from teaching, my work at school revolves around managing data/information and other computer issues.

However, at this time of the year, I receive numerous calls & Facebook messages from my former students, those who completed S.6 the previous year. They contact about two issues. For most of them, it is the about pursue higher education and others call or message to thank me for enabling them pass exams. The second reason is strange, because I think passing a collective effort of many teachers, parents and students themselves. I normally refuse to take credit alone.

        

Since 2014, I have been running a programme which I chose to call “Post High School Programme” (PHSP) at Lira Town College. The main objective of the PHSP is give career information and post-secondary education opportunities to students. I normally use 15 minutes of each of my 3 lessons in a week to talk about education after secondary school, opportunities for scholarships, different courses one can pursue, fees payable at universities and importance of living a responsible life.

This programme starts in School term II, and goes on until November, when S.6 candidates start their exams. So, in a week, I have 45 minutes of career talk.

Since I started in 2014, I realized that during this talks, students are very attentive, much attentive than when you are handling their academic topics.

They also tend to ask a lot of questions. However, due to limited time, I do not answer their questions and tell them to come to me privately.

My motivation for starting these programme is just one. When I started working at Lira Town College, I realized that most students had only two dreams – to enroll in UCC Aduku or Unyama NTC. I found these very strange. Every year, when government sponsored students list came out, Lira Town College was missing. Not even in the district quota lists admission lists. Why would some get 3 principal passes and go a Diploma programme? These are the kind of questions I sought answers for.

Robert Fritz once wrote that, “If you limit your choice to only what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want and all that is left is a compromise.” I think this was what our students were thinking. To them, University education was beyond them.

In much of Lango sub region, most people (read parents) think that University education is for the rich. I remember, my own parents told me that. If a parents can pay school fees of about UGX 400,000 per term for 4-6 years, I find it strange to give up after S.6. After all, there are only 2 semesters at university. A Computer Science degree that costs about 1,200,000 can be payable by such a parent.

Through the Post High School Programme, I wanted to give show that it is possible to pursue university education, even when you come from a poor family.

The other thing I did not anticipate is that the programme would be a huge success. For me, I thought I would just give information and then that is it. However, that was not the case.

When S.6 results come back in March, my office becomes very busy. Busy with former students.

After getting their results, they come back to ask me which course they can qualify for. They ask lots of questions, and with the help of the internet & my contacts at various universities, I can ably answer some of them from an informed point of view.

This brings me one begging question. After secondary school, who should help students? It is parents, former teachers or universities.

You see, I have always been a strong advocate of secondary-university partnerships. There is no reason why primary schools, secondary schools and universities work independently.

Primary schools feed secondary schools, who then provide students to the universities. In turn, the universities give them back to communities, when then scatter to do differently things in different sectors.

Information is power, so they say. It is a high time universities and secondary schools start working together. My programme alone, has provided Gulu University with many students, the numbers keep rising every year. The same with Kyambogo & Makerere. My students now have lots of valuable information, and with it they convince their parents that it is possible to pursue a course in Makerere, Kyambogo or Gulu. After studying all their lives in Lira, Oyam and or Apac, I very much encourage students to pursue high education in another region. Like myself and many others, having a multi-cultural experience is good. There is no need to for you to study in only one district. It limits your opportunities and dwarfs your outlook towards life.

When we were at Dr. Obote College, Boroboro (2008), one of the premier schools in Lira, we had some students who had been studying in only one parish. Canon Lawrence Demonstration Primary School (for primary), St. Katherine S.S (O-level) and then Dr. Obote College (A-level). This was laughable because all these schools are within 50 metres of each other. This only trains ultra conservative Ugandans who will never appreciate other tribes and cultures.

Universities have done little to connect to secondary schools. Lira Town College only receives only two universities every year. These are Gulu University and Uganda Christian University (UCU) who come for their yearly Outreach programme to try to sell their programmes to our students. Gulu University team, often from the Department of Computer Science, comes around in the October/November period, just before students start their final UACE exams. The UCU team comes in school term 1 (around February/March), and unlike the Gulu University team, they spend a whole two days talking to students. Other universities & institutions I think are comfortable with doing radio adverts and announcements. Yet there is more to be done.

When it comes to seeking higher education, I think all the important stakeholders to something. Parents provide the tuition, but lack vital up to date information about these things (how many of our parents have university degree or Masters?), students who certainly have a big problem selecting programmes to enroll for; and lastly the universities who provide the education.

It is a high time universities realize that it is difficult for students to access their information, and ultimately apply for different course they have becomes a tall order. Although in my programme, I encourage students to buy newspapers and check university websites, things in the villages are different.

It has even been complicated by the now common “online applications.” Kyambogo University came with it first in 2015, followed by Makerere and others have followed suit. Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST), KIU, UCU all now have online applications.

I have taken the initiative to support my students apply online, and also give them application forms for various universities & institutions. I now have students coming as far as Apac, Oyam, Kole and Alebtong. They were obvious referred to me by my former students. So, my small classroom programme is growing. In the period from April to June, I handle about 3-6 students every day, physically, on social media or phone calls. I do all these in my “small office”

One thing I am proud of is that, I know I am doing the right thing. The right thing to ensure that my students pursue higher education. I believe that “problems are only solved when one person decides to do something about it.”

The three things I am happy to have done in my career all have created massive impact. Starting the Science & Technology Innovation Club (STIC) which enabled us to gain national reputation in ICT competitions & several awards; the Post High School Programme (PHSP) which has enabled many students join universities & pursue their dreams; and lastly excellence in teaching ICT, which has turned us into some sort of ICT giants in the sub region(that’s what people tell me). From the onset, all these efforts came as a result of a well-intentioned decision to do more, to excel, to do the extraordinary to serve a people, community and by extension, the country. I borrow this quote, ”success is not just what you accomplish in your life, it is about what you inspire others to do.”

Back to my ordinary day. I receive request for data/information from my colleagues, teach my classes and do my online correspondence. These I do, up to around 1:00pm when I log out and shut down my laptop. I then check my diary to my “shopping” list (if there’s money). I then jump on my bicycle (most people don’t expect me to be riding a bicycle) and stop at the favourite supermarket (OM) and purchase and few items like sugar, coffee before proceeding home. At home, I listen to news or read a book, magazines or learn new software.  I retire to bed after 10pm.

The Future:

My department will reach out to various universities & institutions to see how we can improve on the programme. My school has 250 students in S.6 every year. In Lango sub region, the number rises to about 1,600 students (Lango sub region has about 45 A-level schools). I can help 10, 50 or so. When the numbers grow, I will definitely need help. Help with internet, computers, stationery, airtime and others. That is why I am thinking. Thinking of scaling up these programme. My target next year is to handle 500 students. Despite our political problems as a country, I prefer to look into the future with a lot of hope. Hope for northern Uganda. Hope for a better generation.

Deep inside me, it is my deep conviction that teachers are best placed to deliver valuable life messages about relationships, appropriate behaviors and higher education. but just like other “struggles,” one needs to make a courageous decision of conscience & completely regard personal gain.

As of now, I continue to give a little help here and there. Asante Sana (Kiswahili). Apwoyo Matek (Lango). Eyalame noi noi (Ateso). Apwoyo sana sana (Kumam).

      

School Reports: PSM from SchoolMaster is good.

When the school term 1, started in February 2017, I wrote a Call for Proposals for the School Report Card System & posted it on three online forums.

Lira Town College has since 2013 used 3 Report Card systems (software). I must say is difficult getting the ultimate solution considering the small budget, poor computer skills among staff, low value attached to IT systems and administrative challenges.

In 2013, we piloted with BestGrade, a free Excel based system developed for help school computerized records management and process academic progress report cards. It worked well in A-level where we had relatively small numbers compared to the “universal” numbers in O-level

We abandoned it largely due to absence of a functional academic & report card committee.

Fast forward to 2015. We obtained the KSIS system from a young software developer based in Dar es Salaam, in Tanzania. KSIS was a web based system, and worked well for both O-level and A-level. However, it was not without challenges.

It was difficult for add students, assign subjects to students and computing took a lot of time. The other challenge was the difficulty in keeping the records after printing. Any small mess with the OS means vital data is lost. The KSIS system was handled by a team (headed by me) and we assigned each class to one person.

However, in 2015, UNEB changed the A-level grading from computing subject grade averages to what it calls “criterions referencing”. This meant that candidates were graded based on fixed criteria irrespective of high or low they perform. The point here is balance papers if you want good grades/points.

So, we abandoned it in A-level but still used it for processing O-level reports. For A-level, we opted to use Microsoft Word. It was a tedious thing to do but I remember I was able to process all reports cards on time.

We also again switch to Microsoft Excel to handle some cases in the O-level, especially where there is a problem. We discovered that in the KSIS system, any candidate that had only seven subjects was given 1st grade. So, all these cases where corrected using Excel.

After publishing our need for Report card system, I received many proposals a number of individuals and companies. In total, they were 17 proposals, all of them from Kampala.

I remember receiving so many emails and also length calls from these developers.

However, one guy who really impressed me is Ronald, from SchoolMaster. He called me and told me about the PSM (Package for School Management) that they had.

I remember him telling me that “talk is cheap” and wanted to schedule an appointment with me. We fixed a date in March (which I do not remember now).

On the appointed day (it was a Saturday), I received a call from Ronald telling me that they were at school, waiting to see me.

That meeting was very productive. They installed PSM on one of my office computers and took me through the process of using PSM. Just like the say, seeing is believing.

     

We had wanted to pilot it with processing Beginning of Term 1 exams, however, we had not constituted a team, and I was away in Gulu the week preceding Visitation day. You see in Lira, Visitation Days are fixed in the middle of the term and parents are presented with either Beginning of Term or Mid Term exams results. This is now tradition in most schools in Lira and northern Uganda.

In last March, we processed the payment (of course we bargained) and signed agreements. Ronald had given him profound belief that the system would work for us.

Finally, in April we used the system and it has given the best academic reports we have always wanted. We easily generated marksheets and gave them to the team to enter the marks. After that, we simply uploaded them back into the system. The only small challenge was adding new students who were not on the class list. However, after setting up a network work went on very well. Only four people accomplished the work of processing reports for 2,400 students in 3 days. Perfect, isn’t it?

I liked these about the PSM:

  • The ease with which you assign subjects to classes & students.
  • Easy and fresh user interface.
  • Small results computing time.
  • It is easy to set parameters and other settings such as grading, comments.
  • The ability to deploy on a network and share data.
  • Flexible payment scheduled and agreement we signed. The school administrator does not have to sweat to get a service.
  • Top-notch customer care and support. I remember being given 3 people and still being to be get help at 11pm in the night.
  • Being able to export report cards to PDF and save.

I am writing these for the good of the ICT industry. We should be able to share ideas, collaborate and do things that help mutually help ourselves. I want to point out some issues here.

Firstly, I was disappointed that no one from Lira, Gulu, Sooty, Mbale responded to our request. If a young programmer has contacted us from any of these districts, I would have surely given them the deal. Kampala is good, but we need to do things here as well.

Secondly, having a ready package helps, but customer care is supreme. There are people who completed rejected an offer in excess of 1 million event when we had not seen their system. A customer rarely buys what he/she has not seen.

Thirdly, I think it is time secondary schools started working closely with universities. Some of the ICT challenges in schools can be solved ably well by students at universities, or lecturers. By doing these, we offer these students valuable experience in working with real life systems & in the end, they appreciated how a small piece of code can impact lives positively.

As Head of ICT, I can objectively say that has ICT has transformed the way schools run and although it is most of our headteachers are reluctant to deploy ICT systems, the global wind of change is coming. I am hopeful that small by small, schools will transform and embrace technology. You ICT serves 3 purposes in a typical schools. ICT is a subject itself, used in administration and as an aid to learning.

Thank you Ronald for your saving us. I will continue engaging you and your team on our other projects. I am grateful that I met you and your team. As we always say in Lira, “apwoyo matek” (thank very much).

End.

         

 

 

School Report Cards System: What works in Lira Town College & northern Uganda

On Monday, February 06, 2017, I wrote a Request for Proposals (RFP) for School Report Card System which I duly posted on two mail forums. Before I go far, let me give a little information about myself.

My name is Angoda Emmanuel (prefer it in that order), and I work with Lira Town College as Teacher (ICT) and also serve as Head of ICT. I have been in this position since 2012, after finishing a Bsc. IT degree from Gulu University.

Lira Town College is located in heart of Lira town (opposite Stanbic bank) and we currently have student enrollment of about 3,000 students & 97 teachers.

In Lira Town College, each class in divided up into “streams” each having between 70-120 students.

As Head of Department (HOD), I have taken initiatives to incorporate ICT into several school activities, these in order to increase efficiency, cut costs and keep up these today’s tech trends.

In 2012, I started by designing regular school documents such as letterheads, students leave chits, meal cards & class lists. For all these, MS Office was just more than enough, although before me, no one bothered.

Around that time, I saw that the challenge of writing manual report cards with carbon copies was tedious, dirty and very inefficient. (It took 3 days to get class position of a whole class). So, in 2013, we experimented with Bestgrade. It worked well mostly in A-level. However, our unstructured way of doing things meant that it could not work well especially in O-level that has hundreds of students. Coupled with limited expertise in computer use, we abandoned it & reverted back to manual system, after only 2 school terms.

In May 2015, I got into contact with Alex, a software developer based in Dar el Salaam, Tanzania (the land of another JPAM). I was on short holiday and he is exceeding good in web applications.

His dad was a friend to our Headteacher, and he happened to tel her about the young man’s system. Consequently, Alex brough the system to school & after taking due diligence on the system, we got it (on credit since it was holidays of First term). I have considerable experience in web applications, so together, we customized it to our requirements in the week that followed. Alex’s system was called “KSIS” – Kreative School Information System. He further told me that his system was popular in Dar es Salaam and surrounding areas.

Pros of KSIS

  • Allows importing data from MS Excel

  • it has good security .i.e assigning users

  • Beautiful interface & awesome usability features.

  • Easy to generate difference reports, per class, per subject, per student.

  • Easy to print

  • Easy installation using Apache, meaning you can run it as many PC’s as you like.

Cons:

  • difficult to assign subjects to students. This is the single most frustrating thing with this system. Only one class takes a week to assign subjects.

  • Weak backup system. It is difficult to recover data in event of computer malfunction.

The need for new system:

considering the non-formal way in which our school operates, I saw that we need a new system that operates pretty much in the way our people operate, without compromising quality & efficiency.

So, in short, we need a system that can adapt to our system, not we adapting to the system.

In northern Uganda, most secondary & primary schools operate like that. No good paper records, no clear separation of responsibilities, no clear common vision, no solid principles & of course no ethics. We do not have the sophistication, managerial efficiency & organization of Kampala & Wakiso.

Despite the above, we have some really good schools that have managed to produce good academic results despite those issues. Dr. Obote College, Lango College, St. Joseph’s College Layibi, Sir Samuel Baker School, St. Mary’s College Aboke, St. Katherine S.S, Sacred Heart S.S, Ocer Campion Jesuit College et cetera.

Submissions:

Firstly, I want to sincerely thank all the individuals & companies that responded to my call /request. In total, I received 17 submission & a couple of phone calls. The list is as below:

#

Name

Email

Company

Contact

1

Owachiu Denis

owachgiu@gmail.com

Dextra Uganda Ltd

0779660771

2

Ronald Eyit

ronieyit@gmail.com

0782151413

3

Samson

samson@schoolplus.co

SchoolPlus

0755425707

4

Vincent ML

vincenmangeni@gmail.com

_

0782186210

5

IdeaLink

info@.idealink@gmail.com

IdeaLink

6

Calvin Mugarura

mugarurac@gmail.com

Blue Node Media

0782689850

7

Chris R. Kasangaki

chriskasangaki@gmail.com

_

0772648222

8

Sonko Emmanuel

sonkoemmanuel@gmail.com

_

0777970780

9

Carol Mugabi

cmugabi@eygo.biz

EYGO Ltd

_

10

Kenneth Otto

kennethotto6@gmail.com

_

_

11

Sam Nturanabo

snturanabo@gmail.com

otimgerald@gmail.com

_

0777671455

12

Alex Oyite

alex@fixpertsug.com

Fixperts Uganda Ltd

(School Grade Book)

0783471120

13

Daniel Kakinda

dkakinda@yahoo.com

_

_

14

Hakim Sabunwala

Hakim.sabunwala@gmail.com

_

_

15

Paul Bukol Mweru

paul@streamtechnologies.com

Stream Technologies Ltd

0776566115

16

Lauren Babirye

sales@schoolmaster.co.ug

SchoolMasters

0781771867

17

Ronald Sebuhinja

sebsronnie@gmail.com

SchoolMasters

_

Observations:

1. High prices. Most individuals have overpriced their solutions. This issue of bringing Kampala prices to Oyam or Kole is a big issues that developers have to take care of. A school that charges 250,00 as fees/tuition can never pay 5 million for software, however. Think developers should have high price, high-end apps for Kampala & Wakiso elite schools but also develop low-cost but functional applications for rural folks with limited resources. Going open source is good & may be instead of having one-time purchase, we introduce termly contracts or outsourcing.

2. Standalone systems. Most submissions are standalone systems with little compatibility with other systems. Basically, they are closed systems. To complicate matters, these systems are designed with strict & fixed “license regimes”. If the computer on which the system is installed malfunctions & you want to run the OS, you loose everything & have to call again to have it re-installed. These phenomenon is what has rendered CyberSchool project useless in most schools. People always want to do many things on a single PC.

3. Comprehensive package or specific solution? Most solutions submitted are what their developers call “School Management System” which purportedly has different sub-components for managing accounts, HR, students, reports, admission & procurement. I think it would be good to have only “School Report Cards System”, something small & specialized to handle only that aspect. This will certainly make the system small, user friendly and considerably cheaper. Most teachers & schools only want results to be computed speedily, efficiently & stored securely for future use/analysis. The issue of integrating accounts info, registration info, class attendance or gate pass is good but sounds so out of this world (northern Uganda).

My Preferences:

Personally, due to extensive experience I have with web applications, I would go for the following:

  • Web based system that runs on Apache

  • Should be able to allow upload of students data from MS Excel

  • Search of students across levels, class & streams.

  • Easier way of entering marks.

  • Auto-generated remarks & grading.

  • Customization of settings such as grade limits, passwords.

  • Ability to export student reports as individual PDF files for easy storage.

  • Should be able to aggregate grade summaries, performance charts, list best performers.

  • Should be able to produce marksheet (whole class with the respective subject marks for verification).

  • Should be able to run online securely (if the school can host it).

  • Should be able to check missing marks & typo errors (values such as 123).

  • should be able to take into consideration all subject papers & their allocated marks. (e.g. Paper 1, Paper 2, Paper 3).

  • Easier way of selecting subjects using responsive check boxes, but compulsory subjects can be auto-checked at once at the top.

  • Good use of security features such as serial number for each report card, watermark feature & printing date & time.

  • Should be able to print individual reports as well class reports for all students.

  • Good backup mechanism & system restore procedures.

Conclusion

Once again, thank you all for your submissions. I have realized that the ICT sector in Uganda is vibrant and we have many young ambitious professionals ready to develop world-changing solutions. I am ready to host you in Lira (male developers) so you can run around these schools and extend your market to northern Uganda. Lira Town College system requires a change. Lango College also uses the same system as ours. Dr. Obote College Boroboro still uses BestGrade & complain endlessly. And so many schools.

Also developers should target mock examination bodies across the country. In Lango subregion, we have Lango Secondary Schools Mock Examination Association (LASSMEA). LASSMEA registers over 10,000 students and struggle each year to compute & process results. In second term, I can host (free meals & accomodation) developers who are ready to meet the management of LASSMEA to see how to capture the area.

The school term has just started and I encourage developers to design affordable solutions within a range of UGX 400,000 to 1,000,000 for northern Uganda market. And lastly, I like this quote from Mother Teresa, “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

Asante Sana. Apwoyo Matek.

Gulu Technology Camp 2017

Oysters & Pearls Uganda has organized a “Technology Camp” for young people this coming 2017 from January 08-21 at Gulu High School. For the past 3 years since June 2013, Oysters & Pearls Uganda has been running the technology camp, in line with their vision, “Cultivating education & technology.”

The program targets school students in P.7 – S.6 classes, and the curriculum is incorporated within the science school curriculum in subjects such as physics, chemistry and mathematics. However, it is more of hands-on technology for practical purpose. Group work is very much encourage as students have to work and present in groups and consequently, this widens their knowledge base and also brings their dreams to a reality.

They intend to teach the following: Robotics & electronics programming, Video game development, Mobile phone applications development, art & crafts, teachers/trainers development sessions, and additional experience in playing new game technology such as Oculus and HTC Vive among others.

What to bring: Students must bring mattresses, bedding & mosquito net, personal hygiene items, and a flash light. All meals are included. Drinking water is provided in the classrooms. Phones are allowed but should remain off during class. If you bring a laptop, you must register with the camp administrator and never leave it unguarded in the dorm. Bring athletic clothes and shoes. Dress code is casual and should be modest. Bring one nice outfit if you plan to attend prayers.

Oysters & Pearls – Uganda is a registered NGO in Uganda and has been working with the blind and visually impaired in Northern Uganda since 2011. In 2013, the robotics program and advanced computing was developed for the sighted students. In 2015, a community office was opened in Gulu Town to serve a wider audience. Oysters &Pearls -Uganda works closely with several Ugandan partners such as Fundi Bots, based in Kampala, and U-Touch, which has five community-based offices in Uganda.

Details: class Jacob  0706 939414

op-uganda-technology-camp-flyer

code-of-conduct-technology-camp-2017