The conversations we need to have

So many people seemed to be outraged the other day when an article alleged that the young team who worked on the KIIRA EV Project were sidelined when funding came in. Well, we don’t know how authentic that allegation is and we are definitely not the court.

But you know what? There are conversations we need to have!

With a beaming face, I reported to school on Science Day! This was the day where we displayed projects like, “Water finds it’s own level” and a few others I can’t even remember. I remember our teachers setting up whatever was necessary and taking us through a lecture of what to repeatedly say to parents as they passed through. As the day went on, the words rolled on my tongue effortlessly. I was later to understand that this was how I would be able to go through school.

When in my Senior five as a budding writer, I asked my Literature teacher why he would never talk about the last number about writing your own poem, he said, “Never attempt that question, you will just fail”, I should have understood that the error wasn’t in my writing, that he by the way had never read, but the system.

I ask you this, if a mother bird never let her chicks learn to fly, how would they ever understand the use of their wings?

I have often seen the President firmly criticize the study of Arts and emphasized the need for practical Sciences, but I often wonder how the world got so dull and lazy to think that we ought to live for what is only conceptualized as marketable. When did we stop aspiring to transcend? When did we forget that, that’s marketable is because we made it so?

But then again, we are used to having the wrong conversations, like for example, why do we ask children ‘what’ they want to be when they grow up and not ‘who’ they want to be? When as a child you are brought up to be ‘something’, that means something you have seen, not ‘someone’, how are you ever supposed to dream, innovate out of what you know?

From when we are young, our lives are price tagged and it is more important what we will be seen to be not who we will become. We are not raising generations of people who want to be problem solvers, or to create a better world but a world of ‘marketable’ people, in a country whose expectations have become limited over time. Engineer who? Doctor so and so, Honorable.. you take the front seats at the table.

So, no. Innovation will not suddenly fly out of our ears after about 19 years of say this, write that, what do you want to be? Our wings? We don’t know how to use them.

But bless your heart! After all those years sometimes we still want to try – Part two of conversations we need to have. – A stolen legacy? Broken wings?

I went to Makerere university, and for all courses an undergraduate research/dissertation/project is necessary for one to complete their degrees. This is a gold mine! Ideas, Aspirations, Hope, just graded and discarded! How many problem solving innovations are seated in some pit with A, A+, B, and that’s it! The tile earned. Some of these could be implemented to solve Makerere’s own problems. There have been stories of students’ projects being shamelessly stolen and implemented without giving the due credit!

But with all this, the youth still push on. And the employers can smell their despair miles away from the streets. They constantly milk their brilliant ideas, innovations, polish them and pat them on the back and say, “you can do better”. And constantly remind them how they are impatient and want to earn a penny so fast! And everyone shouts how they should go into self-employment! – You are not innovative enough!

You would think the youth here are the laziest and their minds closed shop early! But far from it! Try starting a business as a fresh graduate, by the time you are through registration, licenses, et al, you will have lost the last ounce of resilience and money you didn’t even know you had. No waivers, no working loan schemes for young graduates. We keep hoping for innovation, but we will not mulch for it.

This country constantly and empathetically beats innovation out of young people and expects them to stand up, dust themselves, appreciate and find another cane. We have not created enough room for innovation on the table, while we invite it to eat.

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