‘What can we do to empower our children to believe in themselves, to have pride in their country, to have pride in their culture? How do we revive the good parts of our culture and take it to our children so that they try to build on their self esteem, self worth?’
In this video Charles Obore reflects on the the colonial roots of inequity in Uganda and the need for culturally relevant education and community centered leadership. Charles Obore was a teacher in the Teach For Uganda and now runs CBI Academy (Communities Beyond Imagination) in his home community where he is mobilizing collective leadership around initiatives focused on gender equity, sustainable agriculture and economic development.
Charles: ‘When we look at the history of colonialism we really see two different forcesfighting one another. In our previous cultural setting we used to live in communities that believed in one another, we did not take much regard of who has the power or who is more influential or superior than the other but we believed in working together. But when the colonial power came on board the aspect of using divide and rule means of controlling society really affected our modes of leadership.
Because the people that the colonial powers picked to front their agendas, I think that the leadership thinking was deeply corrupted. They forgot our culture and now took over what the colonial powers had brought on board, developing levels that their people who are on top of the others, and now we believe in power and manipulation.
It’s no longer about what is common for everyone. Our education system also I believe it no longer depicts what our culture really wanted education to be. Our kind of informal education was really meant to educate people on how to survive, how do you deal with the realities in communities, that was the kind of education that our grandparents used to teach us before the formal education came on board.
Which means we taught our kids what was more relevant to them to survive. But also previously society had a much stronger hand in raising our children. We used to say that children belong to the community, that our community was responsible of raising up the children.
When the formal education and colonial powers came, they just needed us to know the English language but not to get the knowledge to think on how to handle issues of communities. Even currently our educational syllables in primary schools or secondary schools focuses in literacy, and numeracy and leaves out important aspects of leadership, community organization, preparedness for community challenges because these are the things that our cultural education used to teach us. But these days it’s all about get the paper, look for job, going to office…
The effect of colonialism has removed us from what we used to be, and told us that what was ours was evil, and what they brought is a good thing. Because of that kind of history I think we lost our culture, we lost our values, we lost our self worth, the pride in being who we are, the pride of being black, the pride of being an African, the pride of the kind of norms and cultures that we used to have before.
Because the colonial powers told us that white, was more superior, more intellectual than us even up to now, we still have that kind of thinking. People now look at the black race as an inferior race compared to the white race or so forth. This kind of issues now manifest even in our schools if a white child is present, you realize that all the other children will look at that child as more superior than them. That kind of traumatization, that kind of mindset that was placed on us still lives up today.
We feel that there are things we cannot do, we feel that white people should always help us because they built that kind of thinking that we cannot live on our own. Even when we lived in our bushes and eat our fruits, they said that was bad, that was traditional, they now thought they needed us to be modernized.
For me personally I believe that yes modernity is good but our tradition is also important maybe this is modernity in our perspective, maybe that is modernity in your perspective so you don’t need to tell me that modernity in my perspective is bad. That’s the kind of mindset that has really infiltrated into our young kids, which comes back to us, now the teachers that what can we do to empower our children to believe in themselves, to have pride in their country, to have pride in their culture? How do we revive the good parts of our culture and take it to our children so that they try to build on their self esteem, self worth.
Making that kind of shift really starts by we the teachers, we are the leaders to believe in these young people. How do we teachers structure the way we teach our children? How do we incorporate our cultural ways of thinking into our classrooms? For example in our previous cultures all the people could sit around a fireplace, young children are brought around so the old people, tell them stories, educate them, and kids are allowed to ask questions or bring up the ideas, it’s a social gathering but more of learning. So how we bring that kind of atmosphere into our classes that teach us how a free environment to share with the children, listen to their ideas, then they’ll truly believe the sense and the feeling that they are much more than what the world describes them to be.
We need to remind them what our history is, where have we come from, and we need to focus on educating them that, yes is good for us to borrow ideas from the western world but it’s more important for us to borrow only what is relevant to us.
And even our people we need to teach them to think that they can create solutions for themselves. Organizations most of the time just bring solutions to them.. Ok “This community has a problem of water.”,so someone just comes and digs a water hole. That “Oh, this school does not have a classroom”, someone comes from another country and builds a classroom. So that actually disempowers this community, so that kind of thinking needs to change. It is good to help these people but what is more important is how do we help them in a manner that recognizes that they have the potential to help themselves? Can we mobilize them? Can we make them think of their own solutions and what we only do is to support them to fulfill their potential?
We have brilliant young people in these communities, with brilliant ideas to solve the challenges of the community. But I think most of the times, even our government does not use them, it does not recognize them and even NGO’s that work in the non-governmental organizations do not recognize the potential these communities have. People here, can create their solutions here.’
Video produced for Teach For All and in partnership with Teach For Uganda.