Knowledge of Ugandan symbols still low in Madi Sub region.

todayAugust 16, 2022

By Ronald Orachwun

Move around town and take a random sample on who can or cannot sing even one stanza of the song, 'Oh Uganda!' the result will be shocking.
This is close to 60 years after the song was gazetted as the National Anthem.
The lyrics of the Anthem commit the future of the new nation in God’s hands, rallying citizens to stand for Unity, freedom, Liberty and togetherness.
The second stanza also talks about Uganda's Love and living in peace and friendship with her neighbours.

The last stanza praises Uganda's Beauty, ability to feed her own from the fertile soils and the abundant Sun, concluding with “The Pearl of Africa's Crown”, a line first attributed by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who visited the then British territory in the early 20th century. 
Composed by Prof. George Kakoma in July 1962, the Anthem is one of the three recognized National Symbols since the country obtained her independence from the British colonialists on 9th October 1962.
Uganda is this year preparing to commemorate its 60th independence anniversary. But do people really know how to sing this revered national song? If they do, do they know what this song means? Most people are ignorant of the anthem save for a few school age going children particularly those in the primary section.
“Ohh Uganda, may got apoli, wii lei afuta ithai hoooo, unitee free, for libatee togeza wei oooolwei saaaaaaaaa”, sang one Jimmy Idrifua whom we met at Mission road in Moyo town. The Uganda National anthem, perhaps the most respected song in the country is often times played at school assemblies, burial of prominent government officials and several official private and government ceremonies as a sign of respect, honour and a sense of belonging to the country.
Several Ugandans have taken to cramming the song without actually bringing out the real lyrics of the song since almost everybody wants to sing along.
“Oh Uginda gey goat opoithiii way lay africa in the how, unite for me and youuuu, for olwoo starrrrr”. This was sang by Tasia Beatrice, a Ugandan trader with whom we interacted during one of our trips to Palorinya refugee camp in Obongi district recently. Today, many Ugandans would be jobless and not pass the patriotism test if singing the National Anthem and identification of other national symbols are supposed to be interview questions.

The figures.
A mini survey conducted by the government owned New Vision newspaper in Kampala in 2010 discovered that only 15 percent of the 300 respondents could sing the three stanzas of the anthem.
Among the participants for the survey were Members of Parliament, local councilors, UPDF officers and teachers.
Shockingly, all but four parliamentarians contacted declined to participate in the survey, saying they were busy. This could perhaps be an indication of lack of confidence and ignorance of the national anthem. Also a 2020 study by Makerere University’s college of education and external studies found that 42 percent of Ugandans can sing the national anthem. This is however contrary to close to 90 percent of the people who could effectively sing cultural anthems of their respective tribes due to the attachment people have to their origins.

Dr. Dorothy Kyagaba Sebbowa, the lead investigator said the study was conducted due to the existing gaps in patriotism that prevails to date.
“We did think that some of these things that are happening today could be because people do not have this love for their country (patriotism). You find that sometimes people are so individualistic, there is a lot of corruption, the high crime rates, so we are thinking if we start from the early age, teachers and parents coming in to see how to instill this patriotism in children at an early stage could make a difference”, she said.
Training patriotism to nursery school teachers who in turn teach this patriotism to their young children she said, will instead make a huge contribution in achieving Vision 2040, since children are often times referred to as the future of the nation.

Other national symbols.

Under the current Constitution, one other official symbol is the national flag, which like others such as the national anthem, have all that the nation needs to communicate her vision, aspirations and values. But my several other days of field visits across Madi Sub region and parts of West Nile unearthed another shocking revelation. There is need to unpack other national symbols such as the National flag to the citizens. Over 85 percent of those with whom I interacted could not identify all the colours of the Uganda flag. Other reports have also pointed the ignorance of most Ugandans about these national symbols.
For instance, a recent survey by Makerere University’s Research and Innovative Fund (RIF) titled The National Symbols and Values: Implication for Patriotism and National Development Project says these national symbols like the flag are not known, shared and cherished by most of the nationals, yet they are the glue that would define “our national identity and culture.” During the many trainings conducted across the country, it became apparent that issues discussed looked new to most of the participants. One of the participants from Fort Portal City, according to the report, pointed out that the ignorance on how to use the Constitution was not their fault because little has been done about popularizing it. Another shocking revelation from the trainings, according to the report, was that many of the participants were also not well versed with the number of colours of the Uganda flag. 
Let’s look back at my field movements again on the national anthem. Some of the people whom I talked to were fairly fluent with all the words of the national anthem in English but they said they do not understand what they were singing because in most cases the anthem is performed by a brass band and people are not actively involved in singing the song. Most people just end up murmuring without knowing the lyrics and meaning of what they are singing.

Twaweza report.
The December 2018 Sauti za Wananchi, recent report by Twaweza Uganda provides more insight into this. 13 percent of those that participated in the survey out rightly admitted that they do not the colours of the Uganda national flag. But still more shockingly is the fact that a number of people whom I interacted with in my previous field trips fronted the following colours as those in the flag. A shop attendant in Palorinya Sub County Obongi district, a one Inyakuni fronted black, green and red as the colours of the flag, while others who were with him at the time of our interaction fronted; pink, green and yellow.

Way forward
Dr Paddy Musana, the principal investigator and former head of the department of religion and peace studies at Makerere University, says in Uganda, there’s a high spirit of entitlement. “Government is presenting us with the mentality that it would do it, it doesn’t need our help. Let’s consider translating the Constitution and other national symbols into the different local languages in the different regions with majority people, but also use the media to create civic education. We need, if the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has any ways of regulation on issues of local content, issues of national symbols should be mainstreamed as local content. The media should create space for national symbols education. Issues if patriotism and national symbols should be taught to children right from primary level to create massive civic education.

The Uganda National Anthem
Oh Uganda! may God uphold thee,
We lay our future in thy hand.
United, free,
For liberty
Together we'll always stand.
Oh Uganda! the land of freedom.
Our love and labour we give,
And with neighbours all
At our country's call
In peace and friendship we'll live.
Oh Uganda! the land that feeds us
By sun and fertile soil grown.
For our own dear land,
We'll always stand,
The Pearl of Africa's Crown.
Source: Uganda Media Center

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