By Dennis katungi


A total of 750 senior six leavers from all the districts in Uganda and students of Shimoni Primary Teachers College will undergo two weeks Patriotism training at Shimoni Primary Teachers College grounds at Bulindo, Wakiso District. The training, which will be conducted by National Secretariat for Patriotic Corps (NSPC), will take place from 27th May to 8th June 2017. According to the Commissioner NSPC Col Patrick Mwesigye, the training has been an annual activity since 2013 targeting senior six leavers who are transiting from secondary to tertiary education.
Critics of these programmes call it indoctrination. They say this is a continuation of NRM’s Chaka-muchaka that seek to build a young critical mass for the Movement.  What really is it about Patriotism training? This programme is non partisan right from the grass-roots.  Schools are randomly selected and pupils recruited and trained as a whole.  Trainers do not look at the background of pupil’s families to identify political inclination.
The main objectives are to equip young people with life skills and deepen love and commitment to own country. Pupils are targeted at stages where they are about to make critical transition from secondary to higher education. This is at a point where they are about to move to advanced ideological as well as academic theories which certainly will shape their world view.  At the same time, we know that the environment at University is fairly liberal and risky for young people. Such courses help students to be grounded and manage the transition which mitigates the risks ever so present at Institutions of higher learning.
It certainly is the responsibility of any government to equip young people with the tools of analysis, creative and critical thinking in order to shape their future.  If you look at the topics covered in the programme, you clearly see that far from indoctrination, young people should benefit and Uganda should benefit in the long run from the key skills development starting at this point earlier in life.
Practical topics such as: Leadership skills & development, Social transformation, Patriotism for nation building, Personal & Professional discipline, Health & Hygiene, Constitutionalism & the rule of law, National resources and their impact on Geo politics as well as Military, self-defence & skills at arms are taught.
A quick look at the website of International Association for College Admissions Counseling reveals similar programmes across the world. China has the Youth of Excellence China, (YES-CHINA) where they promote ‘mutual understanding & friendship between China & other countries, it is open to all including foreign students. Spain has Youth Leadership Summer Scheme, UK has Global Summer Camps & many other programmes, Germany has Innovation/Creativity/Diversity training in summer School, Chicago has Summer Scholars programme where they teach culture, business leadership, pre-health & wellness, sustainable & social justice etc.. the list is endless.
Ugandan parents and their youngsters should jump at the opportunity to enroll on such youth schemes. They are certainly transformative in a positive way.  Some of the issues we have in Uganda today stem from people growing up without a moral campus.  ‘Everything goes’ attitude is very dangerous for any country.  In Runyankore they call it (Okukura Buroro)! Literally meaning growing up ‘anyhow’ without being shaped either by family, institution or authority.
Government is doing its duty to avail youth mentorship & training opportunities for these young people in life skills. Parents of such young people who would like to opt out are free to do so.  Let’s embrace what is a common good without politicising positive aspects of government’s well intentioned programmes which are non segragative and available to all Ugandans.

Dennis Katungi – Communications & Media Relations Manager, Uganda Media Centre.