Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

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When they talk about Africa’s dense forests, I am happy to note, that on a routine day at work, i was awarded with 3 breathtaking hours, of a drive through the magnificent Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (and National Park).

I present to you….

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Save My City!

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So its official, Kampala might as well be called Boda Central! When you are named Banana Republic, then you can understand why so many things go rotten quickly, and why its always slippery if you step on the peels.

I am sick to my stomach, and angry at the sight of a Police Officer (Director of Operations) standing on a make shift stage, along side an unidentified man, who is rallying Boda Boda cyclists against the impending registration and re-ordering of their operation within the city; and ordering the Capital City Authority to withdraw the registration instructions.

Who is this man? Does he live in Kampala? How long has he lived in Kampala? How many Boda Bodas does he have? How much, in taxes, does he pay every year? How much has he actually paid, proof of which he has? Am just trying to establish the moral and positional authority, especially on behalf of the 3.5 million persons who live in Kampala, against which he can stand and order disobedience of a public instruction of a city authority…

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There’s Hope…

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Yesterday I met 11-year old Ainamanige Collins. Distraught and visibly bothered, Collins is one of the children who turned up at an Ariel Club meeting. Ariel was a child of Elizabeth Glaser, who passed away while young because the world had not thought about Pediatric medication for HIV Positive Children. Ariel clubs are meetings specially arranged for HIV positive children, where they meet peers, get medication refills, get their CD4 Counts done and generally have fun, despite their medical condition. But Collin’s problems were not under his skin, they were in the system he was born in. 1 of 5 children, whose farmer parents are left with no option but to send him to a public school. Collins has missed most of the second school term for lack of school fees. 12000UGX per term! At the end of the day, I told Collins not to worry about school, because the God he had just prayed to, as the meeting closed, had answered his prayer for school fees for the rest of his primary school education. After 1 day, and 1 prayer, at least in Collins’ eyes, there is hope.

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My Reactions to the #MediaSiege

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So, today Uganda Government Media Centre, released a statement on the Closure of Daily Monitor and The Red Pepper. In my simple mind, I still need the Minister to explain a few things – – in simple lay man’s language:

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UACE Results – Dont Write me Off!

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The moments are ecstatic,  and there will be all sorts of prizes, from goats, to chicken to i-pads and am sure St. Lawrence will throw in a car. Every year, 3 times a year, we celebrate our aces, when the National Examination results are released by UNEB. Every year, its the same cry, what exactly do these results imply?

A little under 13years ago,  yours truly was covered in The Daily Monitor, a Christian boy had beaten the odds at a moslem school, and excelled, 10 in 8. The odds were many, for anyone who has gone through Kibuli SS. The drama that ensued was not just celebratory, what was I going to study at A-Level? My dear late mom was convinced i should go for medicine, my headmaster agreed. Me? Computer Science. Its funny how at O’ level you hear youngsters talk of these big career paths, yet the subjects they will sit one month away for the next 18-20 months are so detached from reality. Anyway, to swallow my won words, do not underestimate them – i keep telling people, as early as S.2, i knew i wanted to work with computers.

So the battle begins, PCBM or PCM or PEM? I wanted PEM, the world wanted me to study PCBM – and all this was based on my o’level marks. The irony is that my marks represented more Distinctions in Arts subjects (Ain’t they that easy – English, History, Geography, Maths, CRE, i even studied Political Education) and minor distictions and credits in sciences (Physics, Biology and Chemistry). So on the basis of my marks alone, there was nothing i should have been doing near PCBM and Economics.

As it happened, I had my first term in the PEM Class and my second in the PCBM Class, and 12 months later, i failed. That is, according to the standard that was expected of me, that i had so ably displayed. At Kibuli SS, there was (i hope still is) a cardinal rule – passing A’ level was about getting Government Sponsorship to your first (or second) choice course at the University. Anything short of that was a fail. According to this rule, i did not fail. But there was one more rule – it was simple, it was mine – to study computer science! In 2006, i graduated with a BSc in Computer Science.

My experience taught me a thing or 2 – first that you never ever write off someone based on their marks, the reverse of course is that you should not let the high scores get to your head, as so regularly said, pride comes before a fall. But secondly, and most importantly, is that you (educators and parents) should craft an environment that nurtures desire and talent and dreams at an early stage, and not try to funnel this generation’s high fliers into courses (and indeed careers) based on their marks.

A Side Note

The Monitor  (page 2) today carries a picture of one, Micheal Mubiru who scored 1AAA in PCB/M. Micheal, Congratulations! BUT what are you doing in a class? Is this  in St. Mary’s Kitende? Are you a qualified Teacher? Do you have a Certificate in Education? Or anything close? Aint you supposed to be in Vacation? True, you are probably very much needed in that position, but what happened to the systems? Were you formally recruited? Do you have an appointment letter? Which grade are you? Teaching Assistant? Look am not against you, am against the blatant misuse of your brains and resource, based on a flimsy excuse that you would have sat at home anyway, and so this is a good way to spend your time – doing good!

Guess what, you are cheap labor. That’s what you are to your employer. Am willing to bet your boss has not given you a proper appointment letter. You know why? Because you will get onto the payroll, and there will be NSSF and PAYE to pay. I doubt these are in place, against your name.

Of course i could be wrong… as a friend suggested, you could be paying your student loan, as a Lab Assistant (this school would need a lab, as i still don’t think that makes you a qualified Teacher, let alone Teaching Assistant). But what the heck, do we even have qualifications for these positions?

I wish the Government had a plan where bright students like you can get internship jobs in Schools where you are needed the most, by filling out your vacation with a Certificate in Education, or something, that not only makes you a great personal resource (read: brain matter), but also a great resource to your area of influence (your former school) by instilling pedagogy and other such skills that make you into a great teacher. People like you often get victimized – that great brains don’t always make great teachers – i disagree totally.

You see Micheal, people who were not like you , who failed O’ level are the ones going to become Kindergarten Teachers, they are going to handle the most critical years of the children you will give birth to. And the ones who are on the opposite end of your A’s, they are (some of them) going to become primary and secondary school teachers. Some of your teachers, who guided you to your A’s were a product of such a cruel system. People like your employer have been long in this system, enough to know what to change, and yet the system has stayed the same.

And now we celebrate the likes of you – and sadly, the story we have been told before, makes it feel strange to have you in a Class. Far from it, I would prefer more of you in the classrooms across this country, after all, a system that nurtures you would have put you up in an Education course, on the promise of a job, so you might not even go to University for a conventional degree (medicine, pharmacy, engineering – and the one you might have put as your 1st choice), but would be helped and in 3yrs, you would be doing what you love (teaching), in the subjects yo knowledgeable (AAAA in PCBM) with the right enabling skills (an appropriate course in Education).

Right now, am concerned, that you are a great brain, in a terrible system, and a worse labor machinery, that is out to exploit you! Again, congratulations on your excellent results.

MTN Uganda & Nokia Lumia 920/820 Launch

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Am not in the business of Device reviews, let alone, lay in bed with Microsoft, BUT, here i found myself in the same room as a Windows 8 Phone, that’s being taunted as the “best innovative smartphone”, the Nokia Lumia 920.

I stayed away from the OS, and so you can imagine how hard that has to be for the General Secretary of a pan-african FOSS organization. Still, i delved right in, to try to feel the hype that MTN Uganda and Nokia East Africa have raised about this phone – see #MyNokiaAtMTN.

First off, as a parent of a tech-enthusiast, i was impressed with the KIDS CORNER – a place where my little gal can scratch and play, without my worry for how much data she will blow, or calls she’ll mis-dial. Its tailored for her – music, videos, games and other apps. The Kids Corner can be password locked, for the teen facing age-mates.

Detailed Specs by Nokia: Here; And the usual Spoiler: Here

The Lumia 920 comes running Microsoft’s Windows Mobile 8 on a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor of the 1.5GHz dual core variety (Krait with 1GB RAM) – thats powerful. With a 768x1280px 4.5in screen, your eye will not miss the detail, but as a heavy user, i went about figuring out how much content i could use with this phone – 32G on the device, 20G  on Nokia Drive and another 25 with Microsoft’s SkyDrive, and the optional DropBox App, makes good even for the NYT Editor-in-chief!

So you can get contacts and SMS from your old phone (via BT) and cloud save your SMS, Photos and files…you have multi-lingual support for soft keyboard , and with PureView, Optical Image Stabilization means, you can take that late night shot, and still get worth yo money. 120,000 Apps in the Nokia Store, and yeah…, but these are still considered basics in a Smartphone – until you land on the Nokia City Lens app, which allows you to move your phone in an 8 sequence and it will pop, right on yo screen, all the hand outs, bars, shopping malls, and even gas stations by combining feats with GPS and Nokia Maps. Now that i found cool.

Then there is the hype of “fatboy” – a housed contact charger, that is being billed as ‘Wireless Charging’. Little wonder @albertmuc contested it. But it sure works, especially if you think that your JBL Speaker system can stream jazz into your dreams, while charging, the entire night. I thought that was good piece of collaboration.

So for 1.625M UGX (608USD, 454EUR ), and 2.225M UGX (837.5USD, 625EUR), you can get your hands on the Nokia Lumia 820 and 920 respectively, from your nearest MTN Service Centre in Kampala. MTN Promises to bundle some 300MB of data on there for you to get started in style. Steep if you ask me, and MTN should really think about a phased pricing plan.

Verdict: if you are so ‘lame’ as to stick with Windows, and Microsoft (pun intended, blame my trusted loyalties), then this phone will do you the world of a carefully crafted business and communications integration. With this device, you get a really great camera, decent battery and a great mapping software. If that’s what you’re interested in, the Lumia 920 satiates your needs.

If you want more, go open source… Seriously!

Salary Vs Stewardship

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So this morning, on my way to work, i listened to the Kampala City Lord Mayor, as he was hosted on a radio talk show, 93.3 KFm’s D’Mighty Breakfast – the subject of which was related to corruption in the public service, and the president’s recommendation to scrap bail for some cases.

As vocal as ever, Chris Obore suggested that its plainly absurd for a Permanent Secretary to earn about 2.5M UGX per month, and still be expected to manage Authorities in the same ministry, many of which have their directors earning more than 10 times that. That a Principle accountant who earns 1.2M UGX cannot be expected to effectively steward a budget of 1Bn UGX under him, without the expectation that he could dip his hands in the till.

This has got me thinking – not just about the numbers, but the spirit of stewardship. It suggests a number of things: 1, that in this nation, your salary speaks volumes about your authority, and therefore it doesn’t matter what the Lord Mayor thinks of the City’s ED, the fact that she earns twice his pay, therein lies an authority problem. That she can do as she pleases, or that she does not have to report to him at all…

The second problem, is one of stewardship – being able to take care of what has been entrusted to us, regardless of our own circumstances. Am starting to believe that in a nation like ours, you need to earn 30 million UGX to take effective care of a budget of 20mil. I start to wonder, from home, that my children’s nanny controls everything in the fridge, and pantry, as well as bathroom store, usually a monthly bill of more than 200K – and yet she earns way less than that. I do expect her to manage this “estate” wisely, cunningly, as the woman of the house would, if not better.

The I drive to work, where i have over 20mil in investments this month alone. No i do not earn that much, but am expected, and i had better, manage that estate well – because its clear if I cannot administer this small estate, how will I expect to to be made responsible for bigger things?

20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ – Matthew 25:

I have always believed, that the family is the basic unit of a nation, and how we live in the families is a basic reflection of the rest of the nation – we cannot live better or more professionally at work, than we live at home. If we waste salt, and drink excessive sugar, scream at the maid, and mistreat the cats, the sum of everything we do eventually grows and rises into the community, and when we become leaders, we are no different!

We accuse the maid of waste, when infact we over look our own failures to supervise and direct – something the Lord Mayor insists applies to the embattled Office of the Prime Minister Permanent Secretary. We suggest to punish at the slightest accusation (read: selective bail), when infact we overlook our own downtrodden moral authority to point the finger.

Over to you – should your salary determine the level, and quality of stewardship of the resources that have been entrusted to you? Should your salary determine your authority?