The Miseducation of the Teacher of ICT

In the early 2000s, Computer Studies was introduced to the secondary school curriculum with the first UNEB paper having been sat in 2004. One of the aims for this was, “To foster a learner as a computer literate and capable citizen who can develop, communicate and implement innovative, practical and responsible ICT solutions to problems.

The subject has come a long way and is passing through the necessary stages of development any subject ought to go through. It was just after 2010 that it was introduced as ICT at A level. This saw one of the government’s tangible initiatives in the subject’s development where schools were given full computer lab equipment to handle the expected large classes.

The teachers too have taken big strides for example the launch of the ICT Teachers Association of Uganda last year (2018). To date, ITAU is the biggest congregation of ICT teachers in Uganda which also has a main whatsapp group, regional whatsapp groups and a clear management structure under the NEC, Regional committees and the AGM.

When I was invited to join this group by Rogers Mukalele, my hero in the ICT teachers’ fraternity, I didn’t even know what to expect. Slowly, I came to realise that it was a platform for sharing information, challenges and success regarding Computer Studies and ICT as subjects.

The first days were exciting until I started to sense a knowledge gap among teachers. While many exhibited acceptable standards, a good number too didn’t live up to the expectations of a teacher of ICT.

In my experience as a teacher, I have found teachers of ICT who cannot organize and manipulate a class list in Ms. Excel. You would find such a task being done by either a teacher of another subject or an external source. The irony is, Ms. Excel is one of the topics in the syllabus. If you think Ms. Excel is not a good example, Ms. Word still poses challenges to some teachers of the same subject.

As teachers, we are cramming statements and giving them out to students with even little regard to the meanings of the statements. For example, teachers will mention what OCR is in full but how many know even how to use OCR?

A teacher will tell you what DOS is in full but cannot format a flash disk using command prompt. Are we victims of a failing education system? Do we as teachers realise that we are also failing the already failing system? Are we even doing something to stop this trend?

On the ITAU whatsapp group, I once posed a question, “Can a website be designed in one day?” Out of the 250 members on the group, I got less than 10 replies. The low number of replies was not because few were online. The fact was that the majority couldn’t attempt that question even when it is one of the topics taught in the O level syllabus. While members thought I needed an answer, my intention was to confirm my worries that the people entrusted with giving out knowledge are not knowledgeable enough to do so convincingly.

…and while you may have your answer to that very question, remember your S.4 student is given only 30 minutes to do that number in UNEB. What could be wrong and what are you as a stakeholder doing to reverse this trend?

The teachers that were trained to pass exams are now graduates and are passing on the same skills to the young innocent learners. Unless we as teachers get together to fight the cancer that is killing us, our profession is doomed.

The painful part though is that even when ITAU, the various IT hubs and the government organize meet-ups to enhance our knowledge, still few teachers show up. I will take the example of the #wordcampkla 2018 that took place in November where only a handful of teachers showed up.

E-zone School of Computing also organized a heavily subsidized 1-day web design camp in January 2019 and only 1 school showed up. The rest were organisations. This was enough evidence to show that there is something terribly wrong with the profession and something ought to be done.

I believe that it would make more sense to our students if we were practical with what we taught them to do. Afterall, the syllabus clearly states in one of its aims “To ……………… communicate and implement innovative, practical and responsible ICT solutions to problems”. So, next time you move with the tag of ICT teacher, kindly show us some of the practical and responsible ICT solutions you have for us.

Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing
0752 111 223  /  0772 11 223