It is 10:30AM Wednesday morning and Kennedy Tushabe a very close friend emerges from the P5 classroom at a newly set up primary school in Nateete, a Kampala suburb.
His red polo T-shirt firmly tucked in his light blue jeans, accentuated with white and black snickers, he strolls towards the gate where I wait with the bodaboda cyclist.
‘Sorry man, I hope we still have enough time,” he projects his voice through the noisy pupils out for break time. He then claps his hands thrice and a cloud of chalk dust vanishes over our heads.
Ken, as we casually call him, has already delayed our deal by almost 30 minutes. But he asks for another two, or three to go back to the staff room, properly clean up his hands, t-shirt and jeans, all messed by patches of chalk-dust.
We are scheduled to meet a senior official from Private Sector Foundation Uganda, at Nandos restaurant.
Ken doesn’t like to look messy. He adores smart looking people and he strives to look smart and trendy himself. At 24 years, it’s only financial hardships that dragged him into seeking a teaching job at the primary school. In the taxi, he keeps complaining about his work. He says often times he feels out of place.
At the school, only he and two other female teachers own a smart phone. Once in while he carries his mini Acer laptop and an Airtel modem to the staffroom, which he uses to tutor his fellow teachers about the social networking site, Facebook.
Social networking is almost all that he uses his gadgets and internet for, and he regrets; “I wish there was a way these things would help ease my work.”
Kennedy like a number of other youths in the teaching profession in Uganda is currently at the crossroads, trying to blend his day-to-day work with the fast emerging technology trends. There is concern that modern technology is cropping up on almost every sector in the country, except teaching, which remains largely manual.
“Drawing lesson plans, sourcing teaching material, marking class work and exams; almost every task is done old fashion. You wonder when schools will ever see the light,” says Ken.
Fortunately, government through Ministry of Education has already taken notice of this and is working out a number of solutions.
The Ministry, Chimpreports understands is piloting more than one project aimed at integrating ICT into the normal class work in all schools around the country.
Plans are underway to implement new changes first in the vocational schools, and then Primary and Secondary schools in the next two or three years.
The Ministry is currently partnering with Uganda Technology and Management University [UTAMU] and other development partners to this effect.
Already a team of South African facilitators from the Common Wealth of Learning are at the Bugolobi based university, training dozens of school teachers and head teachers in the pilot project for primary and secondary schools.
Mr Senzo Ngcobo, one of the facilitators while speaking to Chimpreports, expressed confidence that by the close of the training, the participants would be able to integrate technology in class and use it to teach better.
UTAMU Deputy Vice Chancellor Dr Jude Lubega told us that empowering teachers to be able to teach using digital means was almost long overdue.
“Our children today are digital children and therefore the tradition of teachers going to class with chalk and textbooks to teach this breed of learner is getting outdated,” he said.
A few days earlier the Education Ministry had launched yet another similar training program at UTAMU, but targeting his time round, teachers and instructors in vocational training schools in the country.
Ministry of Education Commissioner for Business, Technical, and Vocational Education Training (BTVET) Ms Sarah Tamale says that government envisages a near future, where teachers are able to walk into classrooms not with chalk and books, but with a laptop or a tablet ready to deliver the day’s teaching.
Once a couple dozen vocation training schools under the BTVET program are complete later this year, Nassali, says government will then look at tooling the institutions with all such required ICT gadgets.
But schools which are in position to provide the equipment themselves were advised not to wait for government.
In a number of African countries like neighboring Kenya, Rwanda, Zambia and others, some schools have already made the big leap from the old blackboard system to tablets, with support from development partners.
The gadgets are loaded with the country’s syllabus content which learners can access with a swipe.