Cultural heritage education in institutions of higher learning in Uganda. What relevance? What prospects?
On 12th November 2020, over 100 academicians, cultural heritage specialists, representatives from UNESCO, concerned ministries and government agencies; youth representatives, and resource persons from the cultural and education sectors met at Kyambogo University to discuss the relevance and prospects for cultural heritage education in institutions of higher learning in Uganda.
This national symposium was held to mark the efforts of 4 universities to develop an undergraduate programme (Bachelor of Cultural Heritage Studies) which will be soon launched in their respective institutions.
Since mid-2017, the 4 universities (Uganda Martyrs’ University, Kabale University, Kyambogo University, and the Islamic University in Uganda) have worked together on this initiative, largely funded by UNESCO, and coordinated by the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda.
These efforts reflect a situation where Ugandan students – our future policy makers, technocrats and political leaders – often do not have an opportunity to learn about and appreciate cultural heritage for its intrinsic value, as a source of social cohesion, or as a source of employment through cultural tourism, the arts and creative industries, and other development prescriptions.
Further, there is a general lack of awareness of the importance of cultural heritage amongst the general public, there is limited media coverage of cultural heritage matters, and cultural tourism (as opposed to wildlife tourism) is at an embryonic stage.
The Symposium was meant to interest other universities in this initiative, to debate its relevance in a context where culture and social sciences are often seen as “less important” as university subjects than the pure sciences.
The programme included interventions by the participating universities and by UNESCO, a panel to discuss “Humanities vs. Science subjects”, a short film on this project and a discussion on the changing policy context and opportunities for heritage education therein. Check out a broadcast of the event https://fb.watch/1NLQGcJ7Pw/
The Bachelor of Cultural Heritage Studies programme (“BCH”) is aimed at training learners to safeguard and promote cultural heritage, both intangible and tangible. Considering cultural heritage as a driving force towards sustainable development, the BCH will address areas such as identity and cultural diversity, cultural heritage protection, safeguarding and promotion; as well as emerging contemporary issues in cultural heritage (including decolonisation of minds, stereotypes, and attitudes towards cultural heritage promotion exhibited by the youth).
The BCH will also provide the students with an understanding of cultural rights and the role that both intangible and tangible cultural heritage and proper management systems play in safeguarding the built environment, values, skills, artefacts, archives, cultural landscapes, habitats, flora and fauna. Students will be exposed to effective methods of stewardship which anchor state policies on cultural heritage. The BCH will use a multi-disciplinary approach to address real life situations relevant to the Sustainable Development Goals (“SDGs”).