Sunday, August 10, 2014

Why it is important to empower children living with special needs with IT skills

Last week I run a PR campaign for KiBO foundation which had partnered with Cisco to provide 
IT training to five special needs schools within Kampala. The training I attended was at Mulago 
School of the deaf.

As the children followed the instructors sign language as he demonstrated how excel sheet works, I could tell how excited they all were to be using a computer. I could relate,  It is the same enthusiasm I too had when I was first introduced to a computer in the fourth grade.

Looking at the bigger picture, these children now have a competitive advantage in the working world because of the skills they now possess. Often people with special needs are marginalized and reduced to blue collar jobs. However in the 21st century, a computer is the big equalizer that provides equal opportunities for all.Some counties like south Africa have tapped into the potential from this group of people. Like deaf people are highly sought after to man CCTV cameras because they are likely to be more attentive than their peers who aren't living with special needs.

While filming the clip, I stumbled into another class by accident. The children were chatting each other up in sign language and it was a humbling moment when I realized that they were just as cheeky, playful and happy as normal children their age. The sad part however is, because of their condition, they are likely to have many of their dreams crushed because they do not fit into societies definition of 'normal' which by all measures is not fair to them and us because we are denying ourselves potential brilliant ideas.

Everyone is born with the ability to change the world, case in point, Steve Hawkins. We must let ourselves see beyond the superficial body makeup to truly see each other for who we really are and technology is playing an important role in creating equal opportunities. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Why I don't support the Homosexuality bill and I'm still a patriot

Earlier this year, Uganda signed the homosexuality bill into law that made the practice a criminal offense which could lead to imprisonment of the culprit. To most Ugandans, this was a win against the minority because as a country despite our cultural and political difference there is nothing we hate more. Despite warnings of donor cuts, our politicians convinced us that as a country we need to liberate ourselves from western influences and to fund our own budget to justify the consequences of signing the bill into law. Since its signing, a number of suspects of the practice have been arrested, to the amusement of the rest of the country.

The budget for this financial year which was read in June has  however cast a dark cloud over the hardworking citizens who now have to pay ridiculous taxes in order for the government to fix the gaps created by the withdraw of aid that constituted 23% of the overall budget. On top of this, valuable foreign health partners have withdrawn their support. Like earlier this year, I was working on a communication plan for Prepex, a non-surgical circumcision device that was to be implemented in rural Uganda. And at the last minute, the project was terminated as a result of the bill. Yet circumcision significantly reduces the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS.

At this point, it’s obvious that the people paying heavily for the results of illegalizing homosexuality is the rest of Uganda which is why I do not support it. Uganda has far more important issues to deal with like the 62% unemployment rate among the youth and an infant mortality rate which stands at 45 children per 1,000 births. 

The real problem our country has is its politicians looking for cheap popularity among voters. For the past two years members of parliament have been tabling bills that have no benefit to the country like the mini skirt bill which gives the public authority to undress a lady wearing a mini-skirt in public! Which reflects the kind of people we elected into parliament. While a child in Northern Uganda is struggling to go school because teachers are on strike over 6 months delayed payment by government, our representatives are tabling bills that do not tackle the real issues that people are facing.

But in truth, I blame my fellow citizens who are easily and just as quickly diverted from the real issues of national importance as long as they are given an emotional cause to rally behind which makes Uganda very fertile for propaganda. It is a spin doctor’s paradise. And given people are struggling to live from one day to the next because of a politicized economy, its less likely they will ever have the time to rationalize where the country is heading. And for the record, the people fighting against the bill have as much to gain from it as the minority who are funded to promote the agenda. The documentary "God loves Uganda" highlights this.

The fact is that an act like homosexuality is wrong at many levels of our society/culture and even without a bill it’s less likely that the "minority" will ever grow above 1% and yet the bill affects 95% of the population. It doesn't take a genius to figure out which side of the argument to support. 

I truly believe that what a man does in the privacy of his home is entirely their business and should not be the concern of the community or government unless its defilement or rape, which often goes unpunished yet surprisingly constitutes a high number of the criminal cases in police records.