The testimonies of the instructors as well as the presentations from the pupils were quite instructive on the worrying lack of life skills among many children as well as adult Ugandans.
As Zaitun Nabateregga, one of the camp leaders at Inspire Girls Camp noted, a one week encounter with the children had not only helped the teenage girls pick up skills in soap and candle making, they had learnt some etiquette.
“Many of the children didn’t know how to greet, how to say thank you or even how to make new friends and socialise with them. And yet these are important things in everyone’s life that are usually not taught at school.”
The relative confidence that was displayed by the girls was, according to organisers a sea-change shift in the attitudes of most girls who turned up in the camp.
For Nabateregga and colleagues, their initial focus is on helping the girls discover their talents, be decisive, relate with others and build their self esteem.
“We have observed that many children do not understand who they are. They are unsure of who they want to become when they grow up,”says Nabateregga.
But a closer look a the broader spectrum of the Ugandan society reveals a huge deficit in life skills that spans almost all post-independence generations.
Many people have been brought up by parents who never had a purpose in life, who never got a chance to discover their talents because those who had the chance to go to school, were only told to pass exams.
According to Nabateregga, life skills involve know how, values and behaviours that help someone take full advantage of opportunities he gets while also being able to withstand challenges that come with life.
These skills are best imparted in children by their parents or by teachers in schools and in some cases, by community members or through the mass media.
Besides the fact that many parents are these days consumed by their businesses, many of them don’t appreciate the importance of giving their children the basic tools of life, such as social values, being assertive and decisive, being independent.
“You may take your precious daughter to the best school, but if she is not taught to be assertive and decisive, she may later in life fail to say no to things like unwanted relationships, exploitative jobs.”says Nabateregga.
Indeed, because most of our schools emphasize academic excellence through passing of exams, many students these days graduate or drop out of schools with little or no know-how abilities that can help them live independent of their parents or husbands.
The dangers arising from the lack of life skills are well with us, and have come by way of soaring unemployment, a submissive population that is easily confused by politicians.
Reports of fathers and uncles impregnating their daughters are all too common in Uganda and are partly a result of the girls’ lack of understanding of who they are, lack of self esteem, and lack of understanding of the consequences of their actions. They are also prayed on because they are not assertive.
The absence of know-how and entrepreneurial skills among Ugandan youth, one could say, is one of the factors why they are easily out-competed by their peers in the region or at the international level.
Very often graduates walk the street or besiege their parents for jobs because they were not empowered with know-how skills that can enable them innovate and establish their own businesses.
For now, initiatives like Inspire Girls Holiday Camp, are vitally important in an effort to combat the constant trend of abuses against girls and women in the country.
But as Magdalene Kiberu, one of the parents at Conbert noted, boys must not be ignored not only because they are part and partial of society, they are often the source of misery for many girls.
“Boys are bad these days. They are a source of problems in homes and communities. They are into drugs, betting, and do not want to work. It is high time society woke up to the lurking danger of side lining boys when it comes to imparting discipline in children,” said , one of the Directors of Conbert Modern Secondary school.
Because we have ignored the boys for a long time, it is not surprising that many husbands have now abandoned their key responsibilities in homes such as paying for their children’s education or taking care of their families financial needs.