Describing Uganda and the rest of the third world as countries that are in a state of relative scientific backwardness, the State Minister for Higher Education, J.C. Muyingo has decried the weak public “Science Culture” in Uganda.
Minister Muyingo who was speaking at the fourth Science Open Day held at the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) in Entebbe on Thursday stressed that most people are reluctant to do anything related to science.
“This weak “science culture” is indeed an obstacle to our development and ought to be a subject of great concern. Most people don’t want to watch a science film or science documentaries. Science is not very well promoted in schools either and the notion or attitude that science is too difficult prevails in many schools. All developed countries have in common a strong science culture and all developing countries share in common the lack of it. On the other hand, our media (except pay TV which is expensive) either due to finances or capacity, also lacks science programs or pages that can capture the public’s imagination”, Minister Muyingo stated.
Minister Muyingo added;
We (Ministry of Education) came up with a policy which we felt would popularize sciences. We made sciences compulsory up to senior four (S.4). We have also come up with another policy that even at A-level, a student must at least do a science either Information Technology (I.T) or sub-math but I’m disappointed because the more we emphasize, the more people feel sciences are for the few, people feel science subjects are for the ‘Bazungu (whites).
Minister Muyingo noted that Uganda should aspire to be like developed countries that have embraced science and are manufacturing drugs, designing and making automobiles, electronics and have also sent astronauts to the orbit. Muyingo stressed that science can improve lives through numerous contributions in the fields of medicine, agriculture, engineering, entertainment and many more adding that science continues to be instrumental in discoveries of treatments (device, drugs and procedures) for diseases that include HIV/AIDS, Malaria and others which is a result of both basic and applied research in the areas of vaccine and drug development, clinical trials, field studies and more.
“Open days are in the right direction to provide a cure to change that attitude where people think scientists are created in another world. I’m happy that Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) has come up with the open days that can be used to promote the teaching and learning of sciences practically”, Minister Muyingo noted.
Minister Muyingo also disclosed that ministry of Education is scheduled to recruit over 2000 science teachers saying that Uganda needs to build a culture of science and scientific research.
“Much of the tax payers’ money is going to promote the teaching and learning of science. We have also doubled the number of students’ loan scheme beneficiaries from 1200 to about 2400 and all we offer science programs at tertiary level. We shall also take the science teachers for refresher courses and we have also embarked on changing the curriculum to remove some of the courses and subjects that aren’t relevant. The new curriculum will require different ways of teaching science so that science is seen as part and parcel of a life of a human being”, Muyingo revealed.
On his part, UVRI Director, Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu disclosed that through the Open days, they can excite and inspire secondary school students to choose career path related to science. Prof. Pontiano disclosed that UVRI has plans of becoming an affiliate of Makerere University with an aim of offering degrees in virology, immunology, entomology and bioinformatics.
The fourth Open Science Day coincided with the 10th Anniversary of the Makerere University/UVRI Centre of Excellence in Infection and Immunity, Research and Training (MUII Plus) that spearheaded the science Day fair under the stewardship of Prof. Alison Elliot, the Centre Director.
Over 1300 secondary school students (mainly S.5 and S.6 science Students) from various schools in Entebbe, Wakiso, Arua and Kapchorwa participated in the one day event that was held under the theme: “Science for A Healthy World”.