Uganda: In 1960s Education Excellence Was Talk of the Day—Today It’s How To Avoid Poisoning By Regime

Mutebi II
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Kabaka Mutebi II shown in healthier days--there are fears that he's a victim of poisoning. Photo: Facebook

[The View From Uganda]

In the early 1960s, then Prime Minister Milton Obote’s nationalistic policies were the rage. The 1964 Education Act sought to put Ugandans at the helm of running schools. Educational excellence was the talk of the day. Today Ugandans wonder who will be next to be kidnapped or killed. 

The 1960s education strategy was People Power in all but name. The boards of governors would be peopled by a predominance of government representatives; specifically Ugandan representatives. The plan was to make schools non-denominational, that way even ivied institutions such as King’s College Budo, the so-called Eton of Africa, would no longer be a “Protestant” school, or Kisubi a “Catholic” school.

At the time, a story on December 18, 1963 in the biggest newspaper of the day, Uganda Argus, called this Education Act nothing short of “revolutionary.” As every Ugandan agreed, it seemed the Act would set Uganda upon the same course that Ghana was on under Kwame Nkrumah. Ghana is renowned for its superb education system from that era—the country is today benefiting from that foundation. It was a glorious time indeed; a time of great achievements done in the name of what the Colonialists said were expectations too great.

Obote’s determination to ensure that government take full control of the education system was, as one writer said, the African descending into himself in order to find an inner strength, peace. The 1970 Education Act completed this revolutionary flourish. In Uganda's Development Plan for Education, 1964/65 up to 1970, enrollment was bolstered markedly.

Obote didn’t stop there. The second five-year plan, Work for Progress, declared, “The Government therefore attaches the highest importance to the expansion of secondary education, and much more will be spent on this than on any other branch of education during the Second Plan.”

At the time, a tertiary and secondary school teacher was being given the significance he or she deserved through an expanding education sector. Obote government's “Move to the Left”, namely The Common Man's Charter of 1969 gave every Ugandan more reasons to smile:

“We cannot afford to build two nations within the territorial boundaries of Uganda: one rich, educated, African in appearance but mentally foreign, and the other, which constitutes the majority of the population, poor and illiterate . . . We are convinced that from the standpoint of our history, not only our education system, inherited from pre-independence days, but also the attitudes to modern commerce and industry and the position of a person in authority, in or outside the government, are creating a gap between the well-to-do on the one hand and the mass of the people on the other . . . Our education system aims at producing citizens whose attitude to the uneducated and to their way of life leads them to think of themselves as the masters and the uneducated as their servants.”

Those days when education was front-page story are long gone. Today’s Uganda is filled with fear and dread. 

Take, for instance, the electoral violence which on November 18 saw the killing of possibly more than 100 Ugandans—the state admits to 54 deaths—and scores of others abducted in broad day light. Now Kampala is buzzing with rumors that the ruling elite poisoned the ailing 

Kabaka Ronald Edward Frederick Kimera Muwenda Mutebi II, the monarch of Buganda, with its new tool Polonium-210. It is very scary that His Royal Highness Mutebi II may not live long enough to see his 67th birthday. The whole of Kampala is whispering. The Kabaka, who appeared in public for his 66th birthday at his Mengo Palace last Wednesday, looked like a shadow of his former self.

Before the whole country, a ghost in the place of the Kabaka showed up. At the Kabaka’s birthday celebrations, we all held our breaths in utter shock at what we saw. Surrounded by security personnel, Kabaka Mutebi looked beyond weak, wan, ailing, frail, and unhealthy or any other adjectives you may use to describe a man literally struggling to breathe.

It seemed like a herculean task for him to even attempt opening his eyes, as every time he tried they seemed to shut. The King seemed on the verge of dissolving to the ground into the nothingness his health has been reduced to. It was clear something severe was eating up the cultural head of Buganda. 

As everyone gasped in shock, sober heads decided to put two and two together as several well placed persons I spoke to claim that the Kabaka was poisoned. One source said it was no coincidence that the rapid downturn in the Kabaka’s health comes after his recent denunciation of the NRM leadership which is sinking Uganda.

Other prominent Ugandans have died under disturbing circumstances including Shiekh Nuhu Muzaata Batte, and most recently Kampala Archbishop Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga.

 Kampala mayor, Erias Lukwago, is currently being treated in a hospital in Kenya of an undisclosed ailment.

From education as the national preoccupation in the 1960s, to how to avoid being kidnapped, tortured, killed, or poisoned in the year 2021.

God help us all. 

The columnist Matogo can be reached via 





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