Ugandans and non-Ugandans are concerned about the way Uganda is being governed
under the National Resistance Movement (NRM) government. They are increasingly voicing their opinions
through writing and debating. They should be encouraged to do so hoping that
the authorities will listen, hear what is being said and take appropriate
corrective action. Or they should present their point of view and convince
those with different opinions. The authorities should avoid resorting to intimidation
and harassment to silence dissenting voices.
so would violate the right of expression as contained in Article 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General
Assembly in 1948 which states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of
opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any
media and regardless of frontiers”.
are also many Ugandans who believe in prevention rather than cure because the
latter is very costly. What is happening in Uganda through the education system
and the evolving land policies has or could lead unintentionally to what happened
in South Africa under the apartheid regime.
prevent or correct such an outcome, we shall address the shortcomings in the
education system in apartheid South Africa and what is happening in Uganda
under the NRM, and the land policy under apartheid in South Africa and what is
evolving in Uganda. We must keep in mind at all times that land and education
are the principal pillars in nation building.
apartheid (separate development) system was adopted by the National Party when
it came to power in 1948. Under that system, South Africa was to be a “white
man’s country” built with cheap black labor.
in 1913 and 1936, the Land Acts had introduced the principle of territorial
segregation confining blacks, 85 percent of the total population of South
Africa to 13 percent of South Africa’s total land area while whites, some 15
percent of the total population received 87 percent of the total land area. These
acts were reinforced by the Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act and
Bantu Authorities Act, which together constituted the pillars of the apartheid
system. The blacks were herded in reserves leading to severe environmental
degradation, poverty and all the associated ills.
South African blacks were to provide cheap labor there was no need to give them
much education that would create expectations impossible to fulfill. The multiracial
missionary schools had demonstrated that black pupils performed as well as
whites which threatened the supremacy of the whites. To stop it from happening,
segregation was introduced in schools to purposely give blacks inferior
education and training.
Minister of Native Affairs (later Prime Minister), Hendrick F. Verwoerd
complained that missionary schools had fostered false expectations among African
children by directing them to ‘greener pastures they would never be allowed to
graze” and teaching them subjects (such as science and mathematics) they would
black schools were underfunded, non-compulsory, overcrowded, dilapidated with poor
quality facilities and unqualified or poorly trained teachers and a curriculum
based on low level education, nursing and theology. By contrast, white schools
had everything for an excellent modern education.
is not surprising that black population remained illiterate or had limited education
and skills. The few who had jobs were hired in low-paying categories.
of skewed land ownership and education system under the apartheid regime, South
Africa entered the 1990s with a population overwhelmingly young, unschooled,
unskilled, landless, unemployed and unemployable, very poor and hungry and
prone to crime and violence and a high fertility rate because blacks married
young and contributed to rapid population growth. Poor and hungry people tend
to have many children.
neo-liberal policy of development in Uganda is producing unintentionally outcomes
in education that are similar to those under the apartheid regime. The
introduction of very expensive private modern schools beyond the reach of the
majority of Ugandans has produced a few well educated graduates from rich but few
families. This compares with white schools in South Africa which catered for
the minority white population.
majority of Uganda children from poor families like their counterparts in
apartheid South Africa are attending schools that are ill-equipped,
overcrowded, many of them dilapidated or below minimum standard with unqualified
or poorly trained teachers with limited or no benefits such as housing. Therefore
up to eighty percent of children are dropping out of school and those who stay are
receiving poor quality education.
like apartheid South Africa, Uganda has a predominantly young population,
poorly schooled, unskilled, unemployed and unemployable. Because of frustration,
the youth are resorting to crime, alcoholism, violence and corruption. They are
poor and hungry and not surprisingly are getting married and starting families at
a young age and contributing to rapid population growth.
unavoidable conclusion is that the apartheid and NRM education systems in South
Africa and in Uganda have produced similar results in education. The minority whites
in apartheid South Africa got excellent education just as a few students from
wealthy families in Uganda are getting excellent education. On the other hand,
the black students in apartheid South Africa got poor education making them functionally
illiterate just as the majority of students in Uganda are getting poor
education and are functionally illiterate. What about land distribution in
blacks before 1913 in South Africa, some 90 percent of Ugandans currently live
in rural areas. The apartheid Land Acts of 1913 and 1936 herded 85 percent of
blacks on 13 percent of land in rural and urban areas.
Uganda, there are debates right now to move rural population into urban areas
so that land goes to a few wealthy developers – like the whites in South Africa
– who can use their wealth to modernize agriculture and produce food for
domestic consumption and surplus for export. This way, it is reasoned, Uganda would
end subsistence farming and usher in a commercial economy and a modern society
driven by the middle class. Like in South Africa, this policy – still under
active discussion – would produce landless people without functional education
and skills to find jobs outside the agriculture sector.
the privatization of land including to foreigners which has support in the
cabinet will dispossess subsistence farmers without alternatives that guarantee
income earning opportunities and security. It is easy to predict the
consequences of such action which will be nasty. We advise strongly that the
discussions should be recast to avert tensions. We should aim for compromise
which is a mark of maturity and wisdom.
ownership of land by foreigners –African or non-African – has already been
criticized in large part because of its political nature and environmental
they recast the land policy under debate, Uganda authorities and the entire
public should draw preliminary lessons from the land agreement between Madagascar
and a South Korean company – Daewoo.
decision by the government of Madagascar to lease land for 99 years to Daewoo
firm to destroy forest with unique biological diversity and produce food for
Korean population while large sections of the people of Madagascar continue to
depend on World Food Program (WFP) donations has received severe criticism.
land belongs to the people of Uganda. Any deviation from this inalienable human
right should not be taken by a handful of powerful people in the cabinet or in
a parliamentary committee. Above all, the process should not be rushed.
a country where the majority of people do not even know their human rights (in
some cases people are being advised privately to apply for their land to be
included in municipal boundaries so that its value goes up and they sell to
developers with huge profits), representative democracy – especially democracy at
gun point – is not the best instrument to use to solve the thorny and
potentially explosive land issue.
us end with a warning. The easiest way to cripple or destroy a community,
tribe, nation etc is to take away its land and deny it functional education. Ugandans
– especially peoples’ representatives – watch out.