While the country and the world at large might be experiencing a lot of hardships and untold suffering brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic, this could be a blessing, and not in disguise, to us, as Ugandans.
Your Excellency, it is partly because of the ongoing lock-down that has enabled some of us raise various issues of national importance, for the good of our country. You might have spent over 10 years fighting Amin, 5 years fighting Obote, and 20 years fighting Kony, thinking that they were the greatest stumbling blocks to national development.
There’s no doubt, they were! Ugandans wish to thank you for successfully fighting and defeating the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), in the mountains of Rwenzori. Indeed, you have fought and won many battles (if not, all). However, there are two monsters that have hindered national progress, even much more than the ongoing Coronavirus lock-down, both at home, and globally.
Arguably, these two have greatly interfered with your plans to bring about the desired levels of socio-economic transformation in this country. You cannot fail to blame the ever-rising levels of youth unemployment, on these two. Your Excellency, these two have fooled each and everyone of us, regardless of whether you are highly educated, or not, including University Professors.
Your Excellency, these two enemies to national development, can be traced in UNEB and NCDC. In my open letter to you about the same, I referred you to the Toyota Production System (TPS), principle of “Improve quality by exposing the wrong.”
Your Excellency, it was this principle, together with many others, that enabled Toyota Motor Company, to supercede the rest of the most highly recognized auto companies, worldwide, including Ford, over three decades now. This time round, I wish to introduce you to yet another principle that has been successfully applied at Toyota.
Your Excellency, this is the principle of, “Rid of all, that adds no value.” As David Maggie, argues in his book, “How Toyota Became #1”, riding oneself of all that adds no value, is a principal requirement in business. In business, as in life, subtraction is almost always as powerful as addition.
In some instances, it is even more so. Imagine a hiker, desperate to reach his final destination, still miles away, by sundown. To get there, he has to pick up his pace considerably. He quickens his stride, but he still isn’t moving fast enough. His backpack is full of weighty food and supplies he no longer needs. He stops, empties it, and resumes his hike, several pounds lighter. Consequently, his pace increases, considerably, allowing him to arrive on time. Progress comes, not only from moving forward, but also from removing hindrances along the way, as well. A world-class swimmer, adds a stroke, but also removes body hair, ahead of a big meet.
A professional footballer, increases strength, but also loses weight, ahead of a new season. A carpenter, buys a new, more powerful saw, but also learns how to decrease the number of strokes, needed to drive in nails. Your Excellency, there’s all evidence to prove to you, and everyone concerned, that the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), together with the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), have FAILED executing their constitutional duties of conducting and co-ordinating assessment, as well as providing and controlling the national curriculum, respectively.
By and large, UNEB has never administered authentic, valid, and reliable examinations, since its inception. Your Excellency, there is overwhelming evidence to prove this assertion. Even after NCDC failing to design the Economics syllabus, rightly (micro- and macro/applied economics), UNEB, has year-in-year-out, administered exams using this faulty syllabus.
Your Excellency, I am still wondering how UNEB has for all this long fooled, even Professors in Economics, to the extent of subjecting their children to exams derived from a highly faulty syllabus. Truth be told, Economics is wrong by design and structure. This means, the subject is being wrongly taught and assessed.
Likewise, all persons that have headed NCDC before, should be recalled from retirement. I personally told Connie Kateeba (Ms), formerly, director NCDC, in the presence of the current director, Grace Baguma, during the “training”, for Entrepreneurship Education teachers, in January, 2012, that the literature they had published for the subject was largely from Google. As usual, I was not listened to.
Your Excellency, I personally don’t think, having failed to effectively work on only one subject, NCDC, with the same people, moreover, would give Ugandans genuine work, regarding the new curriculum for lower secondary school level education. If publishing is about producing plagiarized work, then NCDC are on track. However, if to be called a publisher one must present their original work, then Grace Baguma should step aside and pave way to an independent audit at the Centre.
Besides, she needs to explain why, and how wrong books bearing their stamp/approval, hit the market. On September 25, 2019, I got the chance to interact with the deputy executive secretary, UNEB, James Turyatemba, and I told him the exams they are administering were null and void, because of the many irregularities in them. I even showed him a variety of examples of from different subjects, to prove my assertion. Unfortunately, this did not move him, even an inch. In fact, he instead described the matter as trivial.
Indeed, replacing Mathew Bukenya, with Dan Odong, must have been an oversight, Your Excellency. All the problems cited here, happened directly in Odong’s presence. Odong is a teacher and formerly examiner of Principles and Practices of Agriculture, but Your Excellency, I can guarantee with confidence, a well-prepared P.6 pupil, cannot fail to obtain 30%+ in an Agriculture examination of A-LEVEL. Truth be told, the examinations of Agriculture, and all exams administered by UNEB, are far below the belt of a standard exam.
Your Excellency, all these facts I have compiled and put together in a publication titled: DESIGNING EFFECTIVE ASSESSMENT-Question Formation and Answering Techniques, currently undergoing editing. This book provides a comprehensive analysis of UNEB examinations, for a period of over 20 years, in some subjects. To my dismay, the situation is worse off, in Luganda exams.
You cannot imagine even the question that the executive secretary, Dan Odong, read out during the release of the 2019 UACE results, to justify the students’ failure of Luganda, was wrong, and was read from a paper that contained many other wrong questions, including the first question, too. *Discuss the current political and social life in Eritrea (25 marks). This is a question which appeared in a paper described as “History of Islamic Civilization.” Questions of Islam and other religious faiths, like Bahai, have on many occasions, appeared in examinations clearly labelled “Christian Religious Education” (CRE).
Your Excellency, I strongly suggest that you use your constitutional mandate and set up a Commission of Inquiry to audit the two chief executive officers in question, Dan Odong (UNEB) and Grace to (NCDC). “The illiterate of the 21st is not a person who cannot read and write; but rather one who cannot learn, re-learn, and unlearn,” Alvin Toffler.
By and large, our children have a lot to unlearn today, or tomorrow, for they have been fed with a lot of wrong information. Surprisingly, even the theme under which UNEB is operating is wrong “Assessment for Quality Education” Little do they know, that “quality”, can be both positive (high quality) and negative (low quality). So, the right should be: “Assessment for high Quality Education.” Your Excellency, like Gary Convis, formerly manager at Toyota, once said, “We can forgive people for mistakes, but we need somebody with honesty and integrity to show up and be willing to speak up when there is a problem,”
I am being honest enough to tell you that there is a problem with UNEB and NCDC. “Problems must be made visible. Early detection and resolution, are the key,” says Gary. Adoption of the Japanese practice of “genchi genbtsu”, which is also well-rooted at Toyota, will go a long way in helping you to deal with the problem in the institutions. “Genchi genbtsu”, literally meaning, go to the source and establish the facts yourself, so as to make correct decisions, build consensus, and achieve the desired goals. Your timely intervention, will go a long way not only in solving the problem, but in saving the “bazzukulu” from falling prey to the monster, once again, for their future is not tommorow, but it is actually, today.
Jonathan Kivumbi is an Educationist
For God and My Country!