The confidence with which he would demand “taxes” made very popular.
“Njagalayo akokulya (I want something to eat),” he would tell the sellers, not giving up until he had got what he wanted. Even the days he would be unbothered about them, the sellers would beckon him to pick his “taxes.” He dropped this habit by himself when he was close to two and a half years.
On February 2, 2015, John Chris woke up very early in the morning, excited that he was starting school, finally. He had on several occasions jumped in the back sit as his father drove his two elder sisters to school and felt that he too belonged there.
Clad in a white shirt, grey short, white socks and black shoes, John Chris smiled for the camera before holding hands with his father to walk to school.
Everywhere he passed he was cheered on by women and children, the people he had always interacted with in the days of staying home, eating and playing.
“Am I going to school to play football and sing?” He asked his father as they neared the school gate.
So many kids were crying, understandably missing their homes and parents. John Chris, who likes to refer to himself as a “big man,” promised his father he would not cry.
But soon after clearing with the administration, his father handed him over to his teacher to be. When she led him in the opposite direction, John Chris looked back at his father and threw tantrums. He probably had sensed life would never be the same again.
The following day he refused to go to school. He told a friend in the neighbourhood that he had finished school. His father did not bother him knowing that it was just the beginning. But even the day after John Chris did not want to return to school.
He became the wailing man on the road every morning for over two weeks. It didn’t matter whether he was at the back of his grandmother or in his father’s car. He just kept crying on his way to school. He finally got used and the crying stopped.
But on March 8, 2015, just one month and a few days into school, John Chris shocked his father with a new proposal.
“Papa I want to change school. I am tired of this one,” he told his father who had just returned from their little farm in the countryside where he had been for most of the weekend.
“Why do you want to change school?” Asked the father.
“I don’t want this school of books,” the boy said.
“Which school do you want,” asked the father.
“I want a school with things to play with,” John Chris replied.
His kindergarten, or nursery school, has some things for kids to play with, including swings, but the boy’s problem is books. He must be bored with fidgeting to scribble letters in a book and shouting “ABCD…”
There is a big problem in our kindergarten education. Oxford learners’ dictionaries define a kindergarten as a school or class to prepare children aged five for school. And our Wikipedia calls it a preschool educational approach traditionally based around playing, singing, practical activities such as drawing, and social interaction as part of the transition from home to school.
Although a kindergarten child should be typically five or six years, in Uganda we take there our children even before they are three. There are several reasons for that including tight work schedules for parents and lack of appropriate and affordable helpers to keep our children at home.
At that age, children should have more physical things to play with, to work with. Instead, our kindergartens force the little children to cram the typical rhetoric of our formal primary education.
They are not given a proper opportunity to think by themselves, and act. This method of pushing knowledge into heads continues through primary, secondary and even university education. The more the teachers push, the more knowledge evaporates. In the end, we get graduates of nothing but years, unable to create anything.
We need an alternative system of education – one which will, from day one, keep our children engaged in doing or producing something. If John Chris was provided with some semblance of bricks, sticks and iron sheets, and challenged to build a house, I believe he would find school more interesting. What do you think of our kindergarten, primary, secondary and university education?