The disparity in nurturing creativity and Innovation in Uganda’s education

Moses M. Mwebaze July 30, 2022

Much has been said about preparing students for the job market of the future. Arguably, our academic institutions are yet to reciprocate the call to reimagine education that suits the demands of the fourth industrial era. This has led some to rightly contend that academic institutions are dispensing thousands of graduates with knowledge and skills (if any) not needed today or tomorrow. The common claim globally is that education today is broken and needs a fix. Well, possibly that is what all of us can see or even vividly testify about. I hold a philosophy that education cannot be broken and still retain any form of value, rather, it is the unmet needs that include reimagining education and how it should be conducted to align students with the requirements of the 21st-century marketplace. It is the HOW and less of WHAT! The fourth industrial revolution is mentioned to be changing not only the way we work, but also how we live, and communicate. How about the way we learn?

To inspire students, a couple of higher learning institutions teach an important module on the subject of creativity and innovation. This is one of the fundamental learning tools to benefit students by aligning their thinking, inspiring them to approach education as a means to spur creative thinking, resulting in pursuing innovative approaches to identifying and solving problems primarily, within their domain of study. I find solace in the creativity definition that mentions the ‘use of imagination to develop ideas, invent or re-invent something.’ Equally, innovation would qualify for the practice of implementing the ideas that result in the introduction of new or improved cognition, products, and/or services. It is worth noting that ‘creativity and innovation are not all about technology per se, and nurturing the duo requires a buildup from basic classes upward.

The unfortunate side of this writeup is the subject of creativity and innovation being taught like the European history where learners are primarily expected to read texts and regurgitate the same in a summative assessment. This is the break-point, cutting across the different subjects in the education provided to students we are preparing for the future.

Recently, I was invited to conduct inspirational training on the subject of innovative technologies in education. It was conducted in an academic institution of higher learning where I asked the students if anyone had ever used or heard about the innovative Ugandan initiatives I mentioned. To my shock, no participant was familiar with these creative innovations within their field of study, started by people like them.

My audience was comprised of very normal kinds of students, typical of those in the higher education pipeline with less self-ambition, instead being dutiful to work through the parents’ mission to go to school and get a job, take on tasks nothing more, nothing less. A task-master should be present, a replica of their education directed by a teacher in front. The majority respond to or ask no question, rather, it is the sage on the stage to tell them anything and everything which they gladly and holistically take and wait for ‘the exams.’ Hardly does their cognitive abilities feature in the process of learning. If it does not end with an exam, possibly they do not need it! Does that sound like preparing students for the future or even the present? The fact is what these students manifest today is what educators along the path of learning have nurtured in them. If that is the potential of educators, should we expect surprises from the students?

Think about this, as an educator, if you were in charge of the creativity and innovation module in an academic institution, what qualities would you look up in an educator to take on the subject, and what activities would you want to feature during the instructional design process? Keep in mind that the underlying issue is HOW and less of WHAT to be taught. If teaching ‘Creativity and Innovation’ does not prompt us to alter the learning approaches, then the wider problem resides with us the educators.  Ultimately, if across-the-board educators’ capacity to reimagine teaching and learning to suit the needs of the marketplace is unattended, we are certain to end up with GIGO for most of our graduates!

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