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Education & Cultural Transformation


Uganda`s pre-colonial societies & missionaries shared a similar system of education even before missionaries came. Before the missionaries come, Uganda had no schools like those that exist today. Despite this, people were still trained and educated. We had the European description of informal education in existence. With no definite learning institutions, particular teachers, blackboards nor books and pencils, yet still children were taught. Throughout all societies, systems of instruction were similar; with only the syllabus or subject matter differing according to social norms and particular needs of a given society. This could in other terms be referred to as the traditional education system.

The traditional education system aimed at creating a responsible individual whose behaviour would be acceptable to society. As children were growing up, the fireplace acted as the instruction place, after supper or whenever individuals wronged. Story riddles and tales were narrated by, grandmother/mother to sensitize the children on expected behaviour by society. Fathers, however, through stories, proverbs plus direct instruction, educated young boys what their role in society was. Meanwhile, some societies embarked on using corporal punishments to show their young ones the graveness of their specific indiscipline cases committed as well as immorality. For instance, to show the bitter consequences of fornication and having premarital sex, the Baganda and Bakiga would kill any pregnant girl by dropping her down, off a very steep cliff so as to warn those who thought of doing same. The Banyankole, on the other hand, would disown and curse the girls who got pregnant before marriage. The Acholi and the Langi would heavily fine boys for those bad behaviours. This would certainly show the young generations that, that act was socially undesirable and totally unacceptable.

Other punishments were carried out to stop indiscipline & misconduct in society. These punishments varied in accordance with the gravity of the offence in a particular society. Majority societies banned sorcery (witchcraft) and theft thus attempts to discourage the young from not indulging in these activities, thieves, as well as sorcerers, were forced off the villages and killed some times. Through such acts, in the long run, social order would be attained.

Discipline not being the only component of education, it covered all aspects of an individual life. Apart from moral behaviour, it also looked at the hands and the mind. Nothing among education was seen to be irrelevant. All education aimed at creating a perfect person that would fit in the society of birth and duelling. The history of societies was often recited to encourage co-operation and unity. Societies of the Kakwa, Baganda and Banyoro had particular people bearing the role of reciting their societies history. Society members were educated about their routes/origins, relationships with those neighbored them and the common moments of sorrow and joy. Societies were reminded of their social and historical values so as to retain a standard identity/bond and heritage.

Special attention was paid to the young being educated about their traditional cultural values, norms, totems and taboos. The young learned the dos and don’ts of their societies of origin. They were educated about their totems, clans plus taboos of their respective clans besides clan relations, clan boundaries were clearly stated to prevent incest among relatives. Young boys were educated on how to mature up into good citizens and girls trained to grow up into responsible ladies or housewives. Never the less, among the Bakonjo, Gishu and Bamba, boys underwent the circumcision ritual to initiate them into manhood and the Sabinyi girl’s participated in female genital mutilation to initiate them into womanhood. Fathers trained boys in methods of fishing, herding, fighting, trade, agriculture, plus hunting. Mothers instructed young girls on how to do childcare, cook, cleaning, pottery, basketry, dressing and other duties house work-related and good social behaviour.

Technical skills and works were also embarked upon and were taught through learning on the job. Boys acquired skills by working along with their fathers and girls did so by actively working together with their mothers. In case one’s daddy worked as a blacksmith, the son easily acquired this knowledge by working closely with him. This explains why skills such as pottery, ironworks, drum making, rainmaking, healing, divination, and many others were usually hereditary. This explains why the Banyoro were known for good red-spear making, the Okebu were known iron-smelters well as the people of Buddu in Buganda were accredited for their expertise in bark cloth making. All skills were exhibited by particular clans in a given society.

Therefore, Uganda before colonisation generally provided an all-round education to her people for a good leaving. Those that mastered the craftsmanship skills in the respective jobs were highly regarded. In Bugishu land, healers and diviners were high placed. Equated to today`s parliament in modern democracies was the Ateker or Etego. An expert dancer or fighter had to be trained.

The coming of colonialism trashed this educating system and training young people in the pre-colonial Ugandan societies. The missionaries that reached in Uganda (1877)i.e the CMS, followed by the white fathers(1879), the Mill Hill fathers (1896) plus the Verona fathers who arrived in 1910. All these embarked on teaching formal education later to be joined by their colonial governments after 1920. Missionaries established mission schools and colleges where the education structure automatically changed to be contemporary and foreign. They emphasised religion, writing and reading but later shifted emphasis to liberal arts, but presently on science-based subjects.

Cultural transformation
After colonialism and the introduction of foreign religions in the last half of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, cultural traditional set-ups of many Ugandan societies got transformed. This in effect drove Ugandans to hate their traditions calling it ‘primitive’ and ‘African’, taking on European ways of worship, languages, dressing, marriage, leadership, feeding, employment and speech.

Ahmed Bin Ibrahim the first Arab trader to reach the Buganda Kingdom or leadership in the 1840s
 was more trade interested but still preached about Allah. By the year 1869, Buganda King-Kabaka Mutesa I had joined the Muslims to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. Islam had a strong foundation in the Buganda kingdom by 1876 followed by the protestant and catholic-Christian faith in 1877 and 1879 respectively.1894, saw Uganda declared as a British protectorate. Therefore religion together with colonialism were tools of transformation used by foreigners to elude many Ugandan societies of their traditional cultures to their present state.

Education and Religion brought about social change. Before foreign religions came into play, Ugandans had their traditional gods. After the coming of Islam followed by Christianity, African gods as were branded backwards and satanic. They embarked on naming their God in traditional Ugandan languages, Muslims named their Allah as was in Arabic, Christians interpreted theirs as ‘Katonda’. They used traditional equivalents to portray their great God; this explains a funny moment among the Lugbara, Acholi, Alur and Langi, who had their traditional idea of God to be called ‘Jok’ instead the European missionaries related Jok to evil and hence forcing them to refer to God as ‘Lubanga’ yet it meant devilish spirit in Luo language.

The inaction of Islam & Christianity made communicating with or praying to Allah or God using Arabic, English and Latin. Places of worship drastically changed and traditional shrines were replaced by churches or mosques having seats, organs to replace drums, fire and rattles, as was the case in the traditional modes of worship. Prayers were no longer dependent on particular occurrences of need or trouble. Regular scheduled Prayers got regular, Sundays for Christians and Fridays for Muslims and both had evening prayers. Muslims started praying many times in a day and both Muslims, as well as Christians, embarked fasting e.g the catholic fasted during their lent season.

Religions were not only a belief but with time a life mode too. Subsequently, what to eat got determined by religion, Muslims took on the Arab styles of behaviour and Christians embraced the European model or style. These foreign beliefs or religions together with European colonialism severely undermined African beliefs and values, to a degree that converts to these religions and scholars from this foreign education system trashed their own traditional traits.

Muslims now preferred rice and chapati denounced eating pork plus unhallowed meat. Christians dropped alcoholism as it was perceived satanic. Families began dining together on a table with cutlery as opposed to sitting down in ancient days. The educated Medium earning families today have tea plus bread, jam and butter for brake fast, national public holidays have changed and the modern MP4 music systems have taken the preference over Uganda`s traditional dances and folk songs especially in towns.

The African traditional cultural organization has evolved greatly in that many people especially women resort to turning their skins white by bleaching. Generally, women love their bodies to look like those of Europeans, their hair is curled or elongated by artificial hair, treated and lastly wear hair wigs for a fashionable look.

Despite the high degree of de-culturalisation, there are some Ugandan societies that have maintained their major cultural norms. Although many people resorted to what they term ‘modern culture’, they still have traditions and cultures traits traceable back to their ancestors. A good example is the Baganda ‘Kanzu'(for men) and ‘Busuuti'(for women) that have been maintained to date, the Banyankole’s, Gomesi and a normal suit plus a hat for than women and men respectively. Similarly, Bakiga men have maintained dressing like the Banyankole, and their women put on a ‘Kiteteya’ with a ‘suuka’ wrapped over their shoulders. All regions in Uganda have been affected by this wave of cultural change but embraced with variations according to particular stakeholders. Religious affiliations, however, affected many Ugandans by adding a European or an Arabic (religious)name to their traditional ones.

Uganda turned a republic with a capitalistic and depends on coffee, tea, flowers, fish, cotton, tobacco, maize, groundnuts plus rice for domestic and export. Rural areas grow traditional food crops together with some cash crops. Most societies in Uganda have greatly embraced new cultures but each has maintained some things that trace or connects it back to its ancestral origin

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