Finally, the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC) has declared that it will start a section of Ugandan Literature for the O’ and A’level syllabus. “Uganda has followed the colonial system of education since its inception,” Ms Angella Kyagaba, the Head of Literature and English Language at NCDC, stated. This was at a literature seminar that was organized by Uganda Women Writers Association and the Uganda Publishers Association (UPA) at the Uganda Museum on 6th July 2011 during the FEMRITE Week of Literary Activities.
The seminar was a follow up on many activities in which Ugandan Writers and publishers have continued to lobby the Ministry of Education and Sports and the National Curriculum Development Centre, to include more Ugandan literature on the school syllabus.
At the seminar, writers complained that the concerned institutions have continued to neglect Ugandan literature. They argued that Uganda’s literary heritage will not develop if policy makers continue to promote other literatures at the expense of home grown literature. When Ms Kyagaba said that Shakespeare will continue to dominate the syllabus because he is the King of drama, participants asked her to instead think of grooming the King of Ugandan drama. It is very important that Ugandan literature is given space in school which where it can be read and debated.
Up till 2006, there were only 4 Ugandan authors on syllabus. Okot Pbitek (Song of Lawino), John Ruganda (The Floods and The Burdens), Timothy Wangusa (Upon this Mountain), and Arthur Gakwandi (Kosiya Kifefe). It is worth noting that since then, more Ugandan books have been included on the syllabus. However, the structure of the syllabus is in such a way that these books are lumped with books from the rest of Africa and the rest of the world. A teacher therefore chooses what text to teach. In most cases, they choose the books that they are familiar with, those that they studied while at school. The students too prefer the familiar books such as Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare, Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, Animal Farm by George Orwell, and many others. Sadly Ugandan books remain unfamiliar.
By no means, however, do the advocates for Ugandan literature agitate for the removal of these great books. No. Instead, they are asking for deliberate inclusion of Ugandan books. Books such as For the Fairest by Ulysses Chuka, Cassandra by Violet Barungi, Echoes of her Voice by Rosemary Kyarimpa, Secrets No More by Goretti Kyomuhendo and others are unfamiliar in the Ugandan classroom. Beatrice Lamwaka, the Caine Prize Finalist 2011, when asked what her perception was of the texts she studied while in school, stated that she thought that all writers were white and dead. She was surprised when she met Ben Okri, bubbling with life. It is important for Ugandan children to know that writing is not a preserve of a select group but a venture that Ugandans too have indulged in.
The reason Ugandan publishers and writers jubilated when Ms. Kyagaba, on behalf of the NCDC agreed to their request of establishing a section of Ugandan literature was because once that is established, the competition will be between Ugandan books alone. The section will have only Ugandan authored books. This is a break through for the publishers and writers. Ms Kyagaba added that as NCDC, they will also ensure that the selection of set books for this section is gender balanced.
source: WORDRITE e-journal issues 6 (c) FEMRITE Publications