Today Christina left for Tanzania. I hope she enjoyed her stay here and was able to take a lot of pictures. It was great having her here—I felt a little more motivated to get out there and take photos (the results of that trigger-happy day will be scattered throughout this post). Thanks, Christina, I hope you’re having fun in Tanzania!
Last night she interviewed me, and I was struck by a particular question she asked.
So why do you keep coming back to Uganda?
This year is my third visit back, but I was so caught up in the technical work behind setting up InterConnection Uganda that I forgot for a bit why I was here. I had one train of thought: get this place up and running. But that was it…and I sometimes felt a little empty, like I was missing something. And I was.
I didn’t do the CFU lab installations this year. I was missing the Ugandan students.
I see so much potential in this country. But that potential I can’t see in the adults—they’ve settled, and many have lost motivation to find a better future. There is a lack of creativity, a lack of initiative to bring about change.
But when I visit the schools and see how eager the students are to learn, I know there must be a driving force behind that motivation. It may seem that they, too, like the adults, have grown accustomed to a life of poverty when you see them laughing and playing on the streets like nothing is wrong. But every ounce of knowledge that the students gain from their classes is another call, another pull towards a better life. Education is taken seriously here—it is the only way out.
Unfortunately, not every child has access to an educational facility. And many times the schools here just don’t do their job right (although this problem isn’t new to much of the developed world). And so as a result, many children grow up with almost a disabled sense of creativity, yet their country is ripe with opportunity. They blame the “African curse,” that no matter how hard they try, they just can’t get out of poverty.
They are waiting for things to come to them.
That’s how people are raised. In many schools one textbook is shared between multiple students, and most of the learning comes from listening to the teacher lecture—when would you ever have time to read that textbook on your own? And so the information, the learning comes to them. There is no effort, no real incentive to go out and search for it.
Now I come from a public high school, and I’ve experienced many occasions when I thought the education I was receiving wasn’t adequate enough, so I supplemented it. But I had my own textbook. I had my computer, the Internet, online library catalogs, and when I didn’t think the information was accurate enough, I could bike to the library. I had those extra resources.
I remember the first training session we had at Bukalasa during the CFU 2005 visit. I remember letting the students loose on the computer, watching them look things up in Encarta, watching them absorb the information. There was no Internet connection in that school…so an encyclopedia like Encarta was probably the next best thing at that point. The students were hungry for information. Here was a computer, a huge, gigantic, compressed library of information. And if they just had access to the Internet…
I believe that Information Technology can provide unlimited resources, without a heavy price load (like creating a library would). I see so much potential in the children of Uganda, in their country’s resources, and I want nothing more than for them to think creatively.
We can’t solve the world’s problems by bringing aid to developing nations, the change must come internally, it must come from the people—and especially, it must come from the younger generation. Aid may help, but it’s really only useful if it can provide resources for people learn and develop their own incentive for change. You have to get the people involved. If you give, and give nothing will ever change, people will just become more reliant on that aid. (Again it’s the ‘information’ coming to them.)
The computer is a very interactive activity. Information won’t come out of it unless you look for it. And that’s what makes it so great. There is creativity involved here.
So I guess you can say I come back for that…to bring fuel for creativity. Because every wide-eyed student I meet can change this country. I want to see them contribute to the economy by creating new, innovative businesses. I want to see them investigate the problems in their communities on their own and actually have resources to find solutions. I want to teach them to teach themselves, and I think there is no better and cheaper tool for that in this environment than a computer and access to the Internet.
It’s a good thing that there are two schools left over because of the late container shipment. I guess I will get that chance to set up a lab and meet with the students once again this year.