Access to the Internet could shape educational discourse in Uganda in the wake of the Corona Virus and beyond.
Internet is a basic human right, according to the United Nations declaration. This right is premised on the extension of human freedom of speech and access to information. In spite of Uganda being a signatory to the UN statutes, the enjoyment of this right is basically a privilege of the urban dwellers. Most Ugandans are left out.
My interest here is to talk about the possibility of extending this right to all people and to all educational institutions and their ministers in view of a scenario like the Covid-19 crisis. This virus has disrupted educational and other sector programs and activities all over the world. In Uganda alone, over 17 million pupils and students excluding their teachers are sitting at home. Perhaps 10% or less of these learners will get the opportunity through their able teachers and families to access learning platforms on social media and educational portals using the internet. What about the remaining majority percentage?
What if defeating the pandemic remains a more-than-one-month battle? What if some teachers change their careers, or die (God forbid)? Internet would have been the most viable means of ensuring continuous teacher and learner engagement.
Currently, many educationists in developed countries, in educational organizations including some of our own brothers in the developing countries’ cave have seriously resorted to or intensified their usage of the internet as a basic human right to continue educating their learners.
But what is Uganda waiting for? As long as we continue to lug behind without taking drastic moves, the dream of ‘quality education’ and the attainment of the 4th sustainable goal will remain ‘just a dream’.
In countries like Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia among others, through the partnership of Internet.org and Facebook, have basic free internet and they are already leveraging on this right to continuously engage with their learners.
In 2016, the former ICT minister Honourable Frank Tumwebaze declared free access to the internet in Kampala. This was a commendable initiative! The service encountered huge numbers of users and the system broke down, in addition to the infamous over-the-top tax (OTT) which was introduced a couple of months ago. Such setbacks don’t limit the celebration of this right but also fail different economic activities that rely heavily on the availability of stable and affordable internet.
“Internet access is no luxury but instead a moral human right everyone should have unmonitored and uncensored access to this global medium-provided free of charge for those unable to afford it,” Dr. Merten Reglitz of Birmingham University stated. I want to halt my understanding of the other side of the coin but press on for the scalability of this right in Uganda. In response to the United Nations’ echo and those of lecturers like Dr. Merten, an Indian state of Kerala embarked on a massive project of rolling out free internet to every household despite the fact that it is also among the zonal developing countries. It fully embraced the internet as a basic human right by 2019. This was a locally funded arrangement.
Technology is the way to go. We should be intentional in investing in its infrastructures without hesitation and education should be given the first priority. If we don’t purpose to do this, the next two generations will be as less innovative and full of mediocrity as the passing generation yet incredible enormous opportunities to transform this country and the world loom in making every available resource like the internet to access and offer quality education to all .“If coronavirus does not kill us, it will leave us smarter” Daniel Kalinaki of the Daily Monitor said.
This article was written by Decimon Wandera. He was one of our pioneer TFU fellows. He successfully graduated after his 2-year Leadership Fellowship and is currently part of the Alumni Movement in December 2019. More so, he enthusiastically accepted the position of Leadership Development Officer. He is passionate about children and education and is an exemplary leader.