According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the word “scourge” is what causes suffering or trouble. The assumption in this topic is that environmental illiteracy is causing suffering and trouble not only to the peoples and communities of Uganda but also to the country as a whole.
Before I delve further into this topic, let me introduce you to the term literacy. When one mentions literacy in Uganda, the general perception evoked is that one wants to know how many people can read and write. The Other day the Government of Uganda was boasting that the literacy rate in the country is now 80% in a veiled attempt to show that most Ugandans are now able to read and write.
However, the Universal Primary Education (UPE) and Universal Secondary Education (USE) aspects of Uganda’s Movement enforced education system, one of the fundamental changes to emerge in the country since 1986 when President Tibuhaburwa Museveni captured power, are producing more and more people who cannot read and write coherently. This is now apparent at the university level where an increasingly big number of graduates cannot write a coherent application letter for a job.
Besides, as I wrote recently, many so-called educated people have over the decades become secondarily illiterate because they no longer feel a compulsion to read and acquire new knowledge, renew their knowledge or modify their knowledge in the fields of knowledge where they were nurtured while at university. Also, many students claim that their lecturers and professors cite authorities or their own notes of more than 20 years ago to instruct them, mainly for examinations.
On the whole, the struggle for critical thinking, genuine interaction and sustainability in all spheres of human endeavor is being frustrated by the over commitment of the powers that be to use education to ensure power retention, disempowerment of indigenous groups of people and the politics interests, mostly ethnic and refugee interests. Apparently, refugees have started to demand that they are represented in the Uganda Parliament. This is happening amidst declining levels in the political development and political literacy of Ugandans as the general message to the country is that what matters is integration in the money economy.
Without political literacy and political development Ugandans cannot protect themselves from political manipulation for the benefit of interests that don’t benefit the country. They soon sink into slavery and lose their local democracy, sovereignty and ownership to refugees and former refugees who have used the Uganda Constitution to access everything that was essentially Ugandan -including power and land.
With political and military power, they and their politically illiterate supporters are grabbing land and land based natural resources for themselves as the disempowered Ugandans look on with naked eyes and fear under obnoxious laws enacted purposely to deradicalize, inactivate and disempower them. With citizens who are politically literate and politically developed on a continuous basis this would not be possible. However, it is necessary for the citizens to be literate in many dimensions to be able to resist threats of conquest, decitizenizing, denationalization, occupation, depoliticization, displacement, dispossession, dehumanization, deradicalization and deintellectualization, which must occur concurrently for a people to lose their country to others.
In the 1800s the word literacy did not exist, but the word illiteracy did exist. However, when the word literacy emerged, it referred only to ability to read and write. It is more than having ability to read and write. Therefore, when assessing and determining the literacy rate of a country such as Uganda, we need to have a broader view of it.
When we do we recognize a diversity of types of literacy. Indeed, there is an array of types of literacy, including: primary literacy, educational literacy, social literacy, scientific literacy, technological literacy, mathematics literacy, civic literacy, financial literacy, cultural literacy, development literacy, regionalism literacy, globalism literacy, militarism literacy, sexual perversion literacy, human rights literacy, spiritual literacy, Covid 19 literacy, climate literacy, sustainability literacy, cooperation literacy, Apartheid literacy, literacy of the causes of violence, negotiation literacy, imperialism literacy, neocolonialism literacy, leadership literacy, governance literacy, political literacy, resistance literacy, resilience literacy, climate literacy, environmental literacy, ecological literacy, eco-literacy and complexity literacy, to name but a few facets or dimensions of literacy.
Therefore, it is sensible and reasonable to view literacy, not simplistically but as a complex, multidimensional term or concept. Indeed, complexity is always better than simplicity.
This article is written by Prof. Oweyagha Afunaduula (Retired university lecturer and environmentalist)