15 February 2017

Uganda: Train Professionals for Rural Work

Even with high pay, facilitation, professionals who have lived in town fear village life

To date every parent would wish his/her child to perform well and join a very competitive school. The competitive schools today include Kings College Buddo, St Mary's Namagunga, St Mary's Kisubi, Gayaza High School, and Ntare school just to mention a few. This is natural; every human being would wish to be counted among the best.

But, with competition to these good and prominent schools, which parent has the capacity to take his/her child? These are parents who are well to do to the standard of Ugandans. They are rich. These well to do no longer stay in the rural poor villages and have all virtually shifted to urban set ups.

Their children, therefore, have been born and brought up in an urban set up. Their growth is surrounded by what goes on in urban environment. This includes having access to electricity, running tap water, access to information through watching TVs, reading newspapers etc.

The majority of the professional courses are to date filled with students from these prominent schools. These include professional courses like medicine, engineering, forestry, and agriculture etc.

To develop a nation, the government in leadership majorly focuses on several things, but we could mention a few like maintaining a healthy population, provision of clean water and good road network, offering support to farmers, and education facilities for the population.

Maintaining a healthy population is normally done through ensuring that people have primary healthcare to reduce incidences of falling sick and that those that fall sick have access to health facilities that are well equipped with both the staff and drugs and are close to the population.

The provision of a good road network helps in transportation of goods and services for the population to earn some income, while support to farmers might be in the form of provision of extension services include mundane items like tips of how the soil fertility can be maintained, what type of improved seeds to be planted; when and where to plant what and when. It can also include educating the population about the environment, about why certain trees and other aspects of the environment should not be destroyed indiscriminately.

For an impact to be felt, all the above services should be close to the populations. This is because for our population distribution as a country, the setup is such that the majority are scattered in rural poor villages.

The life in the rural community set up is such that there is lack of facilities that are commonplace in urban set ups; no electricity; flowing water; Tvs etc.

The professionals who can provide the listed services to rural areas, be they doctors, engineers, agriculturalists, and others, have all been brought up in urban settings. These professionals have lived an urban life and totally do not know anything about the rural life set up.

It should be noted that background and the environment shapes man.

With the above background our government should expect a lot of resistance of trying to convince the professionals to go and provide services in the rural areas.

If you visited the healthy facilities in rural areas that are in the most urgent need of the presence of doctors, it is very hard to find one on duty. This applies to agricultural extension workers on farms and teachers in rural schools.

Their absence is not because they majorly lack facilitation but because they are in an environment that is strangely new to them.

They may move up and down trying to find their level but ultimately they end up longing for the kind of life they were brought up in.

Similarly, a few professional from the rural set up might have to fight to cope with the upscale kind of living, but the main challenge is with those from the upscale kind of life having to take up the rural kind of set up.

Live examples also do happen in places where a new district is formed. It happens that the new administrators normally opt to drive back to more developed urban centres in other districts on daily basis rather than reside in the new district where they work. Sometimes, this is the main town in the former mother district. These officials do this because they are looking for facilities that are basically missing in the new place.

The government should, therefore, study this phenomenon and come up with a concrete solution. Some officers may think of simplistic solutions by advising government to provide electricity, vehicles, pay high salaries etc to the professionals. This may look like a solution but it is not a solution since the surrounding of the facility remains remote to these professionals.

Government solution should instead do better by focusing on developing mini-education centers in the rural areas and encourage the rural students to join for training. This is a long term solution but most practical. Nations are not developed in a short period; for any development to be meaningful, the population must take the lead and this shall never be short term.

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Alex Turihohabwe is the director Blessed Investments Ltd/Chairman UACE

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