I write this open letter in good faith, guided by patriotic conviction that these ideas and others like them may save us from the dangerous trajectory I think we are taking.
As an A-class Science student, who studied electrical engineering at Makerere University at the expense of the taxpayer, I am convicted that scientific principles cannot be understood by everyone, however good the training or environment.
One vivid example comes to mind: In Senior Five when we split into Science and Arts groupings at A-level, one young man joined us for Physics, Chemistry and Biology (PCB).
The fellow mostly flanked all the way to Senior Six and at the end of A-level went to another school, restarted A-level with an Arts combination and passed with flying colours.
He joined university where he studied law and is one of the brilliant lawyers in town. This young man was being forced to do Sciences against his capabilities because the uncle (an Engineer) thought Sciences was the way.
We had lost an otherwise brilliant lawyer in a warped family policy that wanted everyone to do Sciences – their abilities notwithstanding.
I agree with you that our technological inferiority in Africa has dealt us an unfortunately big blow over the years so much so that, as we speak, 99 percent of us are wearing clothes made outside Uganda.
We can leapfrog through this quagmire, not in the brute force approach you are suggesting but through selective action which will cost us 10 percent of what you want to spend and yield possible 100 percent or even more.
Scientific brains are not hard to find! Get them at O-level and A- level, sponsor more of them at the universities, create technical institutes aligned to the military and give them those long term five to 10 year local projects with classified expenditure and measurable targets.
The Internet was birthed by DARPA in the US under similar arrangements and is now a big time trillion dollar industry globally. Many DARPA – projects have since made the US military superior and spurred arms sales, we can do the same for our health and other sectors.
All we need is guided commitment, operation away from public eyes and feverish patriotism. Some of the projects you tried to push with similar ideas in mind like the KIRA EV & PIBID can give the initial blueprint, tweaked and scaled to key sectors.
Instead of the push for extreme salary increment for Science teachers, aim to train 2,000 more scientists at technical colleges and university level annually (this can cost about Shs5 Billion every year). Let the Planning, Education, Defense and Finance ministries develop a 10-year actionable strategy to make our local scientists feed into the local manufacturing and production equation at a cost of about Shs50b annually for starters.
To further fan interest in Science at a younger age, let there be an endowment fund that facilitates young bright scientists for presidential hand shakes and knowledge exchange with willing countries that have in the recent past fast tracked scientific growth like China, South Korea and India.
The situation is very ripe because we have oil coming online, soon with its attendant Petro-Chemical Industry opportunity which, if well handled, can push us years ahead in our region. You do not have to haggle with UNATU or any one on this, in fact for all teachers, let there be a modest pay rise instead of creating another centre of opposition to contend with.
We can all move harmoniously forward together with less acrimony and more development because not everyone has the eyes or patience to see beyond now.