By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: The Minister for Education and Sports Janet Museveni, who is also the First Lady, has hailed a group of young innovators called the e2Young engineers.
The First Lady lauded the e2 Young Engineers Uganda programme, which is headed by Mr. Arinaitwe Rugyendo, for skilling Ugandan children at an early age. Mrs Museveni made the remarks on Friday, May 17, 2019 at State House Nakasero, while meeting the Israeli Deputy Ambassador to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Seychelles, H.E Eyal David. H.E Eyal David, who was in the country to discuss with the ministry on various levels of cooperation between Uganda and Israel in improving the education system in Uganda, used the chance to introduce Mr. Rugyendo’s project to the First Lady and recommended it as good programme that has the potential to simplify the teaching of science and maths in Schools across the country.
“Your Excellency, this programme is time tested and has been running in over 46 countries around the world. When you talk about skilling Ugandan students and vocationalising the education sector, this early childhood programme comes in handy and we recommend it for your consideration,” he said, before inviting Mr. Rugyendo to make a brief presentation. Mr. Rugyendo took the team through the details of the programme and argued that the intention is to solve the bias towards science subjects in schools, build a science culture in the country from which the country will groom future problem solvers, creative thinkers, innovators and entrepreneurs.
“Our aim is to nurture children at an early age so that they become the next generation of Ugandan Scientists and innovators,” Rugyendo said. At the meeting were also top officials of the ministry led by the Permanent Secretary Mr. Alex Kakooza and Mr. Rugyendo, the Managing Director of the African School of Innovations, Science & Technology (ASIST) Ltd, which runs the programme in Uganda on behalf of the parent programme in Israel. The e2 Young Engineers Uganda is an Israeli early childhood education programme that teaches practical skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) to children aged 4 to 15 using a LEGO & Robotics Curriculum. Children on the programme learn skills such as problem-solving, organisation, teamwork, cognitive, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, teamwork, independent thinking, ability to analyse engineering processes, 21st-century skills, self-confidence, focus and self-efficacy.
Most important is that they exit the programme at the age of 15 with a practical project that they eventually scale and commercialise in future. Rugyendo requested the First Lady and the Ministry officials to study the programme and embrace it on the national curriculum for public schools through a collaborative arrangement. “My concern is that it is the private schools, most especially the international schools, which are benefiting. Our local schools where the majority of the children dwell are left out because the ministry has not yet studied it in order to recommend it for them,” Rugyendo revealed. He called for collaborative efforts and deeper interaction with the ministry in order to have the programme be available within the confines for the Early Childhood Education policy.
In response, Mrs Museveni lauded the programme and asked her officials to discuss it further. “Children are shaped at an early age. It is important to see how this programme opens up their minds. It is true that our methods of teaching, especially in the sciences, have not been able to create enthusiasm for science and technology. I want to see how this programme will change the status quo,” she observed. She added that it was her dream to see how Ugandan children start innovation at a very early age instead of waiting to do it after university. “We need to look at this programme, discuss it with the owners, study it and plan with them. I feel it can do something to our learning because government has not taken the Early Childhood Education policy seriously because of lack of programmes like these,” she told her ministry officials