My thoughts about the role of governments in the development of any society have periodically evolved; this is because - based on the constant scrutiny they face around the world, it is easy to cast all societies’ responsibilities on them even though the constraints they encounter are very clear.
It is important to note that I am not defending poorly run governments, but rather pointing out that development in any society is a responsibility that lies with all its stakeholders and not just the government. An article entitled, “When I Grow Up I Want to Be…” in the Ugandan newspaper, The Observer (re-published on the allafrica.com website) authored by Samira Sawlani prompted me to share my thoughts on this subject. In her article, she expresses how challenges faced by Ugandan workers today will limit career options for children in the future. As a young Ugandan, I disagree with Samira because of the following reasons.
She elucidated very important points about the challenges that the workers in Uganda face; focusing on the teachers, doctors and those pursuing a career in sports. She seems to point out that the future of the country solely relies on what the government invests in, which is not the case since there is an exponentially growing private sector in the country.
Even if we looked at the listed sectors (education, medicine, and sports), there are several privately owned hospitals that employ doctors, a booming private sector education industry that employees a large number of teachers and a growing talent industry not just in sports but also in entertainment! These are industries that can and should be self-reliant and not dependent on government investment.
Of course the government has an important role to play in these sectors and they are in dire need of reform, but concluding that the future of young people is limited because of challenges faced by today’s workers is just cynical.
My major disagreement arises when Samira states, “ So perhaps in the next few years when children in school are asked what they would like to be when they grow up, they will only give one of two answers: to work in the oil sector, or to be an MP. For it seems that right now, only these professions are getting any type of respect.”
I do not purport to speak for young Ugandans but working to be respected is not part of our goals, our goals are; to make a contribution, to create change, and be a part of developing our society. We realize that this takes take hard work, making sacrifices and commitment and we are willing to do that. We also realize that all these superficial notions of cynicism, selfishness, quick money and a need to be respected in today’s environment do not bring about any change or development but rather diminish it. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. Of course it is not going to be easy, but for anyone to claim that our future is limited because of the status quo challenges is just myopic.
I understand that Samira’s thoughts are just a single story of the bigger picture out there, many of us living in Uganda have grown cynical, lost hope and let these superficial notions blind our ability to foresee a formidable future for our society. However, let us not let this go on for so long, we can change it because we all have the power to do so.
Let us remember that Governments may have an important role to play in developing a society but that role is not exclusive to them, it involves larger participation from all of us; the business community, civil society, religious leaders and we the citizens. Let us remember that even in the most developed societies in history, citizens have done more in bringing about development than Governments. So to all the Samiras out there, we won’t work to be respected but to contribute towards the betterment and development of our society.
Twitter - @mklubega