Using ‘Useless’ Courses to change a nation
“Education is the most powerful weapon that can change the world”, said Nelson Mandela. Changing the world for the better. Changing the individual world, the societal world and/or the global world.
No doubt, education is such an integral aspect many individuals, organizations and nations have capitalized on to change their socio-economical statuses.
Education is broadly categorized into two, the formal education where one sits through classes and attains a paper with a stamp on it (call it a certificate), and informal education which is deliberately undertaken by an individual who seeks for more understanding and improvement of his/her life and/or society, or imparted onto an individual by an authority figure (parents, guardians or society).
Whatever the path taken, the end goal is an individual, organization or nation that survives and thrives through shifting times of challenges, a society that is harmonious, economically, socially and whose citizens have good standards of living.
In Western world, education is the lifeblood of economies, it is not a color in the national fabric, rather it is the thread that holds the national fabric together.
In great contrast, education in Sub-Saharan African continues to grapple with a myriad of challenges that look mysterious and leave policy makers paralyzed, puzzled and locked in a problem-solving-mode, where they never pause to think through with a system perspective the challenges at hand, rather throw ‘solutions’ unto the ‘problem’.
The education objectives are never realized thus the streets being littered with unemployable and unemployed graduates who speak good English and take perfect selfies for Instagram.
In Uganda, policy makers continue to surprise us with their never-ending string of ‘solutions’ (teaching vocational skills in lower secondary, increase pay of science-based civil servants, teaching sciences in indigenous local languages, etc.) to the increasing unemployment rates.
In an effort, many think and he does too, to reduce the overwhelmingly increasing unemployment rate in Uganda, his Excellency, the president of the republic of Uganda, Y.K Museveni has always bluntly touted the scraping of ‘useless’ courses, theming the significance of science courses and condemning everything arts to the bottomless pit.
Giving it a closer look, I have personally realized it is not the courses that are useless, rather it has been the inability and/or inefficiency of the stakeholders to use these courses for the better. The inability to use a tool does not render it to be useless. Using a case study of one of the ‘useless courses’, psychology, it is anecdotically held that pursuing a university degree in that field is a path to achieved failure. A dead end. A dark future. Unemployment.
Psychology, with all its blessings, finding deep-seated facts that motivate human behavior, providing psychotherapy to patients with heart-breaking depression, seeking to explain why some societies perform better than others, engineering products to suite a given market, extra, stakeholders make no sense of the key contributions that such a ‘useless’ course brings to the table.
In other worlds, psychologists have done ground-breaking, mind-boggling and significant research findings that have improved societies. For example, The Marhshallow Test, by a renowned psychologist Walter Mischel sought to find out how a child’s ability to delay gratification, or inability for that matter, affects the later-life success of that child, how rejection sensitivity is a barrier to social relationships, etc.
The global publishing industry has seen a great surge in publications in the psychology field, Authors such as Malcolm Gladwell have published psychology bestseller books for example ‘outliers: The Story of Success’ having ground-rooted research facts on how success brews, why Asians are damn good at mathematics, why migrates to America become filthily wealthy in the garment industry.
Psychology, is such a billion-dollar industry in such worlds whose foundation is knowledge and application. Lives change for the better. Unemployment rates are manageable. There is a greater social currency for pursuing ‘useless’ course in such economies.
Going by the numbers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), predicted that employment for psychologists overall will grow by 19 percent between 2014 and 2024, much faster than the 7 percent average growth predicted for all occupations. In contrast, employment of psychiatrists was predicted to grow by just 15 percent and social workers by only 12 percent. This was also coupled by the increase in number of undergraduate and postgraduate admissions at major universities.
Bringing it home, can the stakeholders get awakened to the need to invest heavily in psychological research (say ‘useless’ fields) to find out why corruption has become a stage four cancer in public offices?, why the 1978 Uganda Cranes squad remains cream de-la-creame of all sports teams because of its stellar performance in AFCON finals and using the findings can help to work around the forces against the national club, or why Ugandans are skeptical about riding the Kiira EV.
Psychology, like many other ‘useless’ courses, is a very useful tool stakeholders have failed to use, thus labelling it useless. Many societal problems do not require a medical surgeon to cut your heart out, or an engineer to calculate the center of gravity of your pockets. They call for service of professionals whose specialty is in ‘useless’ courses.
Having a system-thinking perspective that economy is not a sum or a whole of similar entity(s), rather an integral of diverse entities that neatly fit together to build a society that thrives with prosperity, justice and peace, capitalizing on making each granular and individual entity produce the foreseen and practical objectives thus positively contributing on the national scene are some of the ways ‘useless’ courses can be used.
Without investing in and encouraging students to pursue these ‘useless’ courses, we shall continue seeing the Kiira EVs making rounds in town for advertisement (without a sale), smart people chewing public funds, couple murders on the rise, religious leaders committing unexpected sins, and forming committees to investigate the daily slices of corruption in public offices.
We can put the ‘useless’ courses to use. With these ‘useless’ courses, let’s identify significant problems and invest resources to solve them. It can be finding out why the Uganda music industry is dominated by artistes who have never seen a blackboard and how these findings can be put to ‘factory-use’, how the MMD (stereotypically known as ‘Musilu Dara Dara’ Course) can be used to tell and weave a new story of our nation, or finding out why professors retire into unforgiving poverty and how the course can be altered.
Let’s secure the future of our nation with mindset change about academic education, ‘useless’ courses and the diversity and integrality of professions.