Turning small things into big lessons in Life

How do you succeed in your career? How do you make in life? What are the most important things in life? These questions tend to linger in the minds of many young people – especially those at university or those that have just started on their journey of paid work – whether it is personal business or employment.

Let me go back a bit. I remember when I was young, my dad was an average government employee with a small office in the engineering department. Those days people didn’t have phones, so communication was manual and mostly face to face or letters. On Sundays, he would carry us on his “Roadmaster” bicycle to church and after church, we would pass by at their office to drink water from the borehole. We didn’t have bottled mineral water then. The 70’s and 80’s people know these. Life was good and basic. Good because most things were free.

When we had a visitor at home or an emergency, mum would send us to dad’s office to pass the message (of course during holidays). It was either me and my elder sister, but mostly me because girls usually have a lot of work back home. Like any other little boy, I would run to the office, using only shortcuts.

When I arrive at the office, my attention would be to observe clearly what people do in the office. My thinking at the time was that people just sit and wait to be paid at the end of the month. Most times I would find them (my dad & his colleague) just writing on paper. At that time, I thought paper work was not work! I would then pass on the message and if it was a money issue, I would be given money and I rush back home.

When I grew up (about 12 years), I asked papa (as we always called him) what people do in offices. When you asked him questions, his answer would always surprise you, that’s if he answers it. Most times he would just keep quiet. That day, he just said, “Angoda, study hard at school and get your office. You will then know what people do in offices.” When I was young, he used to call me by my surname (most people now hide their surnames).

That statement many years ago instilled in me a desire to hold an office. A desire to do decent work that comes with certain prestige & pride. Being one that never gives up with my ambitions & dreams, I surely worked hard at school – despite the challenges of teenage life and pressures of adulthood.

My first office was at university. In my hostel, I acquired a good reading table and two plastic chairs. Instead of going to the campus library every day to read, sometimes I would just stay in my room (it was a grass thatched house left behind by return internally displaced persons) and study. Later on, I had power connected to the house and would rarely go to read to campus – I would just go to check out newspapers and socialise with friends. But I did all my work in my “office.”

Later in 2nd year, I even started a business started from my “office”. To me then, I had to get my office, no matter the situation. After all, I had grown up admiring offices.

When I started working at Lira Town College, the first thing I did was to set up my office. It should be noted in most schools, teachers just work from the general staff room and very few have fixed sitting places. From home to staff room, then to class, back to staff and go home. It’s predictable.

Since I’m an ICT teacher, I work a lot with my computer, so I need a power source and a good table to do work.

Setting up my office eased my work. It is easy to access you. You can host visitors and visitors can also wait for you. You get some privacy to work on your projects and also accords you some respect.

So, back to the questions. How do you succeed in your career? How do you make in life? What are the most important things in life?

There is no one answer to how one can succeed. And there’s also no single answer on how to make it in life. What about the most important things in life? I will not give any answer to these questions. You can answer it in your head.

We have different situations, scenarios, experiences, dreams and desires. Every day we go through a lot. But it is only through consistent self-improvement that we can be better versions of ourselves. Education plays a large part on making you a better person, so do your parents and friends.

In sum therefore, it is good to turn small things in your life into lessons you can learn from. But remember, I am not successful yet! End.

Communication & Social Media for Civic Engagement

In today’s digital world, you cannot underestimate the power of timely & effective communication. Great things can only be accomplished with good communication. War, marriage, school and even church all need effective communication. Communication is the act of transferring information from one place, person or group to another[1]. In other words the message has to reach on time and be understood easily. Away from the fixed telephones, fax and mail boxes of the yesteryears, communication today is mostly mobile- using digital devices such as computers, smart phones and internet.

The rise of the power of the internet dramatically changed the way people communicate today. Messages, emails can be sent with bulky documents and will be received instantly. Video calls are now popular with young generation and text messaging apps (as they are usually called) like WhatsApp Messenger, Viber are very popular across the world.

However, it is the social media phenomenon that has spread like a wild bush fire. From the U.S, its birth place to Japan, from South Africa to Morocco and everywhere else it is hugely popular.

According to Wikipedia, social media are interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The most common social media platforms include facebook.com, twitter.com, Snapchat and Instagram. In Africa, Facebook has been outstanding because unlike twitter, it does not restrict the number of words you can use in a post.

My experience with social media has been awesome. My first access to Facebook was in 2010 while at Gulu University. At that time, I had just received my first laptop and like other young undergraduate students, social media was the place to be.

I used Facebook to connect with friends and also read other news posts from other users – especially news updates. At that time, I would spend the whole afternoon on social media, so much so that it even affected my performance in second year.

After university, I still found social media awesome and was the first place to go to when I was bored.

After a while, I realised that I was losing a lot of time to social media, instead of doing something useful. So I started to kind of restrict my usage in 2013.

When I ventured into STEM and tech activities, social media became my first media where I would communicate programmes and any good news from our activities. My followers increased and so did my influence.

So, whenever we had any programmes at school, I would just post it on social media and we would get a lot of feedback from the “virtual friends”. The popularity of social media however resulted in less newspaper sales and less people listening to radio programmes. It has also let to phone  and internet addiction amongst youths, which ends up in depression.

In my community outreach programmes, I use social media a lot. In 2014, I started the Career Assistance Programme (CAP), an initiative that aims at providing vital career assistance to high school students across Lango sub region. Without social media, the programme would have failed, because it is difficult to call or mobilize students scattered all over Uganda. So I just post something, and because they are all on social media, they will eventually access it. I get feedback, they contact me, I contact them and everything just works fine. It is truly cost effective & efficient for young people – between 16 to 30 years.

At first, many people thought social media was for just young lazy people. But that has changed, because everyone now is social media. Presidents, ministers, fathers, mums, reverends, pastors, teachers, students, professors and even rebels.

Today, many organizations & governments are using social media to reach out to the public, in addition to traditional media such as newspapers, radio and television. It is not unusual to find someone today with 100,000 Facebook virtual friends, or to have a page that has 1,000,000 likes. Cristiano Ronald has got 122.1 million friends, Shakira has 104.6 million, Vin Diesel 101.6 million likes and Leo Messi – 89 million likes.

Despite this positive trend in communication using social media, some countries in sub Saharan Africa still go ahead to put restrictions such as taxing social media users or outright blocking of users. Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sudan are notorious for this.

According to CIPESA[2], in June 2018, a month before the introduction of the OTT (Over-The-Top) service tax, the internet penetration rate in Uganda stood at 47.4% (18.5 million internet users) but three months later, it had fallen to 35% (13.5million users).

Many governments appreciate the important use of social media for civic engagement of citizens to participate in government programmes. However, those in power also fear the use of social media for political mobilization because its impacts go beyond physical boarders. Remember the Arab spring? Arab spring are a series of anti-government protests, uprisings, and armed rebellions that spread across North Africa and the Middle East in late 2010. It began in response to oppressive regimes and a low standard of living, beginning with protests in Tunisia[3]. In this regard, social media was a tool used for cause regime change Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

It is important to note here that social media has been the driving force behind the swift spread of revolutions throughout the world, as new protests appear in response to success stories shared from those taking place in other countries. We can therefore say that social media enabled revolutions in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain and recently Sudan.

Depending on how you use it, using social media for communication can either be life changing or life destroying. But what is undeniable though is that social media is an effective tool for civic engagement and mobilization.

[1]https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/what-is-communication.html

 

[2] https://cipesa.org/2019/01/%EF%BB%BFsocial-media-tax-cuts-ugandan-internet-users-by-five-million-penetration-down-from-47-to-35/

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring

 

Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders-Leadership in Civic Engagement Institute-University of Delaware

Institute Overview

Our Leadership in Civic Engagement Institute at UD provides a broad survey of civic engagement as it relates to the United States and sub-Saharan Africa. More specifically, the Institute explores how citizens, as individuals and members of organizations, and their interactions with government, business, the media, technology and the like have shaped and continue to shape U.S. politics and society – and how these experiences compare and contrast with those of the Mandela Washington Fellows. Each week, Fellows will participate in academic sessions, practical sessions, leadership skills training, site visits, community service, peer collaboration and cultural activities.

PROGRAM AGENDA

PROGRAM SPONSOR: The US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA)

PROGRAM ADMINISTRATOR: Institutional Research and Exchanges Board (IREX)

HOST INSTITUTION: University of Delaware Institute of Global Studies

INSTITUTE STAFF

Nike Olabisi, Academic Director Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences

Colin Miller, Administrative Director Director of Global Arts, College of Arts and Sciences and IGS,

Download: CE_UD_19_Agenda_Final_IREX Reviewed (1)

My journey to the U.S started 10 years ago

On June 19, 2019, I arrived to the United States to participate in the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship. From Uganda, 24 fellows were selected by the U.S Embassy to this prestigious program. Like many Ugandans, it has always been in my dreams to reach the U.S, the biggest economy & superpower (although there are other powers).

The University Scholarship – 2009

So, how did I reach here? The story is long, but from my personal standpoint, my desire to reach the U.S started at university – about 10 years ago. After my senior six, I wanted to get into university, however the money situation at home wasn’t good. My dad was now retired and my elder sister had just completed & also depleted financial resources available. The future was bleak. That was in 2009. When the results came back, I was among the best in my school and district. I was excited, but the excitement faded into despair as I remembered the issues back home. From everybody’s viewpoint, there was no way I could manage to raise tuition, moreover for 3 years.

After a lot of thought and determination, I told mum that I was going to apply to Gulu University, and I would report to start my undergraduate degree even though the tuition issues were going well.

In May 2009, I applied and I was admitted to study Bachelor of Information & Communication Technology. I was admitted and travelled for the first time to Gulu to pick up my admission, unfortunately, the admission letters weren’t ready and after 3 days decided to return back to Dokolo. But at least I had seen my name on the admission lists on the notice board.

Upon return, I continued preparing to go to university as if everything was fine. I told mum that I would rather go to university, start studying and be chased because of tuition and come back home rather than sit home and give up totally. After a few weeks, I went back to university with a few thousand shillings ready to start studies.

Usually, the first week for first year students at university is the orientation week. It was during one of the orientation days that I saw a scholarship advert on one of the student’s notice boards. The advert was calling for fresh students to apply for Gulu University-Tulane University ICT Project scholarships. I normally carry a pen and paper in my pockets so I wrote down the details quickly and went back to my hostel – which was a grass thatched house left behind by returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) affected by 20 years of war in northern Uganda. I started preparing my application. The requirements were simple. One had to be coming from one the districts from northern Uganda and must have gained admission to either BSc Computer Science or Bachelor of Information & Communication Technology. The next day I went back to double check details on the advert, I found it was nowhere. It had been plucked out.

I applied for the scholarship, got shortlisted and I was finally awarded the scholarship. The scholarship was a result of partnership between Gulu University and Tulane University from the U.S.

That is how I started getting attached to U.S. I also note here that our secondary school education teaches us a lot about the U.S in many subjects – geography, history, literature and even religious students. So, you start fantasizing about the U.S very early in life.

When I got the scholarship, I became very interested in the U.S. So much so that I started following everything about the country – technology, education, politics and even Hollywood. Because it was the American money paying for my education, my attitudes changed about the country and started dreaming about visiting the U.S. After all, it was not only me. Everybody in the world believes the U.S is the greatest country and land of opportunity – and of course the American dream. The movies portray it as land of plenty, power, happiness and success!

My desire became stronger with each passing day. After all, the U.S citizens had contributed substantially to my education. At least I needed to show I am grateful, somehow anyhow.

Technovation Challenge

In 2012 when I started work at Lira Town College, I got involved in STEM activities (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) and projects including robotics, science fairs and many schools would compete in the competitions, which were held mostly in Kampala. I engaged myself in these projects fully, because they allowed to go out to meet my peers, tech experts and enabled students love my subject. So, together with students the first competition we took part in was the Science & Technology Innovations Challenge (STIC) in 2012. We didn’t do well that first year. However, in 2013, we did very well and we won our first major award in tech in Uganda – we were 2nd runners up. Because of the good work we did to win that award, one of the judges at the event, Dr. Dorothy Okello got my contacts and later emailed me about this all-girls-only competition called the Technovation Challenge. That’s how I got to learn about Technovation Challenge. Immediately, we embarked on it and were one of the only 2 schools that participated in the 2013 and 2014 years. After, many schools really came of board and became very competitive. However, due to my pioneering efforts with the programme, I was able to be appointed us the regional ambassador for northern Uganda. The position came to the opportunity to travel to the U.S to attend the grand finals. So, in 2013 I was invited to travel, and all funding was available but I couldn’t because my students were doing national exams around the same and I also didn’t have a passport at the time.

In 2015 again, I got the same opportunity but still I could not travel because of no passport. Opportunity missed twice. But that was not it.

Also, my work and passion for e-learning resulted into an invitation to Rwanda in 2014 for an e-learning conference. I still didn’t make it. The following year, the same guys invited me again to Ethiopia for the e-learning conference again, still like the previous years, I remained in my country. Same problem, no passport.

My break came when I was nominated for the 2017 Teachers Making a Difference competition (organised by New Vision & partners) and I emerged among the best 5 teachers that year. At the awards ceremony on October 05, 2017 (World Teachers Day), we were rewarded with Uganda shillings 1.5 million, a plaque and a certificate and a trip to Dublin, Ireland. So, I used part of the money to process a passport, so I can go for the trip. And the Embassy of Ireland & New Vision supported us a lot all through the process.

With the passport, I was able to travel abroad for the first time in January 2018. Now, that opportunity has opened doors for other opportunities. In life, just like Steve Jobs said, sometimes the dots all connect together.

It has been a very long journey. I am grateful to Makerere University, my lecturers at university, my colleague at work, my students, my friends, my parents and my difficult my life for pushing me my life’s direction. Life is full of experiences.

Development Education & SDGs in the Classroom

Currently there are many new education issues and approaches aimed at making learning more fun and enjoyable for students and teachers. In the early 2000’s, the term Computer Based Training (CBT) was popular but was soon replaced with, Computer-Aided Learning (CAL). Then in the mid 2000’s, it thus became very fashionable to use projectors in class, displaying things on a computer via a VGA cable. That came with excitement of using computers to change the status quo.

There are also other soft issues such as Participatory Education, Learner-Centred Learning and Target Learning. These were mainly methods of delivery, and was done by the teacher / instructor.

Later, when laptops and internet became widespread, we saw how distance learning and e-learning became very popular, especially amongst the urban elites.

There is a new renewed belief in the acronym “STEM” – Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics. Many now believe that these education paradigm will parachute Uganda to the much talked about “middle income” status. Oysters & Pearls Uganda, a non-profit organization based in Gulu, has even taken it far. The have outreach programmes based of STREAM – Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering and Mathematics. All these buzz words have brought a lot of changes into our education system, depending on the angle with which you look at it.

However, today, I want to bring to light the concept of Development Education. I first heard of “development education” or Dev Ed during my January trip to Dublin, Ireland.

Development Education has been referred to by many names, most notably, Global Learning, Global Education, and Global Citizenship. No matter what name you choose to use, if you are educating for a just and sustainable world, you are delivering Development Education.

Development Education is a very important tool in making sense of the complex issues that prevail in our ever changing world. It is an active and creative educational process to increase awareness and understanding of the world in which we live. It is meant challenge perceptions and stereotypes by encouraging empathy, optimism, participation and action for a just world.

Organization such as Trócaire (headquartered in Maynooth, Ireland) uses Development Education to inform learners about global issues such as poverty, injustice, gender equality, humanitarian crises and climate change using a human rights lens. Their work engages children, young people and educators through a process of interaction, reflection and action.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to pilot the rollout of Development Education at Lira Town College, starting with my class. My experience in education tells me that improving education standards does not necessarily require financial resources. Sometimes, just the right attitude is enough. So, my plan was to start with what I have – knowledge, laptop, projector, scheme of work (incorporated with global issues).

In my weekly classes, I decided to add the “Development Education” segment of 15 minutes in the middle of the lesion. In this segment, I introduce the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that we can work on as a school. These include SDGs like SDG Goal number 3 – Good Health & Wellbeing; SDG Goal number 4 – Quality Education; SDG Goal number 10 – Reduced Inequalities; SDG Goal number 12 – Responsible Consumption & Production.

Every week, we look at only one SDG goal. I list the current topical issues concerning that goal and we discuss as a class. I must say that the segment is the most interactive period of our lesson.

The core objective of the Development Education in Lira Town College is to empower students to be change agents in their communities & take action in favour of SDGs.

Specific objectives under this action include:

  • To spread awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to influence responsive behaviour & decision making amongst students.
  • To enhance the career prospects of students with the belief that every career is rooted in solving a problem facing humankind.

Figure 1: The first slide of the lesson. Each lesson is grounded on ICT4D agenda.   

Assessing effectiveness: While it is good to know the effectiveness of any intervention, I believe it is too early to assess the effectiveness of an educational intervention within one year. However, in terms meeting defined objectives, all outlined objectives are being met.

Assessing the Efficiency: We talk about the efficiency, we cannot omit the issues of cost-effectiveness and cost-benefit analysis. We also look at the methodologies most appropriate for delivering the intervention. The Dev Ed pilot in only one class has been efficient, largely because I am the only teacher teaching it. The use of local available materials & gadgets makes it cost efficient.

Figure 2: The slide introducing the Development Education segment

Figure 3: The slide show the SDG for the day’s discussion.

Figure 4: The action points for the day.

Sustainability: This means the extent to which the programme / intervention is building mechanism and possibilities of sustainability beyond its lifespan, and the available opportunities that will guarantee this sustainability. The good thing is that students, the beneficiaries of the programme, are now fully submerged into the programme and actually demand the segment, in case it was omitted due to time constraints. This shows that even without the initiative of the teacher, they know that global issues need action. The opportunity for success is that A-level students are a bit enlightened about major global issues because they do a few subjects and the subject contents are deep and wide in nature. This enables them to quickly conceptualise, understand & debate issues.

Future Plan

Next year 2019, I intend to roll out the idea to all the A-level classes. This will start with Development Education Workshop in February, to orient the teachers to the concept and set out the issues concern. I intend to use the computer lab as the breeding ground of Development Education, and enrolled teachers will be free to use the lab & its resources for teaching.

Conclusion

I see Dev Ed as a pathway to social change. Wale Akinyemi, in an article in The East African (October 13, 2018), outlined the difference between today’s thinking and old thinking.

Old thinking says this is the way it has always been. New thinking says that while we appreciate the way it has been, this is the way it should be.

Old thinking says this is how we have always done it. New thinking says that it the very reason we should change the way we do it.

Old thinking says we have to uphold the traditions of the past. New thinking says we need to create new traditions for the future.

As for me, I choose to embrace the past but focus on the future.

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