Monday, June 12, 2017

Health Care

After 3 weeks in Uganda, my perspective on health care has changed immensely. To start off, I recognized the savior complex in myself, in which I was just assuming what the problems in Uganda were based on the phrase "developing country." However, after doing research by talking to locals as well as Dr. Isaac and Dr. Dixon, I learned that the two biggest problems with health care in Uganda are that 1) Lack of resources and staff in hospitals and clinics, and 2) people cannot afford health care. Another problem that I saw arise from these previous two is, who is responsible for fixing the health care system? The government seems to be useless in this area, as well as many others, so the question is who steps up?

After talking to MUBS students and locals, it was learned that government hospitals are where people go for services and diagnosis, and private hospitals are where they go to pick up medication. Private hospitals are very expensive, and while government hospitals are supposed to be free, they are not. Wait time at government hospitals are extremely long, unless you have the money to pay your way through. Many of us made observations of back-alley clinics and non-regulated facilities, present because of the expensive costs of medical care. MUBS students also enlightened us about witch-doctors, in which many people prefer the traditional, herbal methods of health care. It is evident that there is a lack of education when it comes to health care, whether it be how to take care of one's body, what rights one holds in a medical facility, and expectations they should have of medical staff.

However, despite these issues, I am quite surprised with health care in Uganda. I thought quality of care was a major problem, but after interviewing locals at Kikandwa, they all seemed to be quite happy with the care received by Dr. Isaac. Some said that the quality of medication was not always the best, but in spite of long waits, they were still happy with the care they received. In regards to affordability, Kikandwa clinic is one of few that offers payment plans for services that are too expensive. When shadowing Dr. Dixon, while a private hospital run by a church, Mukono hospital waves fees for minor services that they can, and offer some kind of payment plan only if the patient suggests it first. Yet, there are times where they have to turn a person away for not being able to afford a service.

Personally, after shadowing Dr. Isaac and Dr. Dixon, I am blown away by their knowledge and creativity. Their ways of accommodating for the lack of technology is absolutely incredible. With Dr. Isaac, he was able to tell the position of the fetus' head, the alignment, the heart placement, and due date, all with his hands and use of one hour-glass shaped object to hear the baby's heart. Dr. Dixon, a general practitioner, allowed us to observe him perform a C-section. It is quite uncommon to witness a general practitioner conduct surgical manners, but doctors are needed to be fairly knowledgeable in Uganda since there is an insufficiency of them. Both experiences were amazing, and makes me wonder if we really need all that we are accustomed to in the U.S. whether it be in health care, or other aspects.


Questions:

How have your personal initial thoughts about Uganda's health care system (or other aspects) changed since your time in Uganda?

Do you think that in the U.S., we rely too heavily on technology for basic check ups and such? Are there any Ugandan methods that should be applied to U.S. medical practices?

Is any part of Uganda's health care system sustainable? Which parts are/are not? Why/ why not? In what ways can it become more sustainable?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gender Issues with David Batema

As our last speaker of this Sustainable Development course, David "Sister" Batema came and spoke to us about the many biases that continue to exist within the Ugandan culture that inevitably lead to the ever-present gender inequalities within the country.  Although human rights are nicely laid out within the Ugandan Constitution, Mr. Batema stated that the issue with upholding these rights comes from the idea that when masses of people deem certain aspects of society as "normal", these traditions become embedded within the culture, then migrate into religion, until finally transpiring into laws.  Such is the issue with the societal construct of gender and the inequalities that exist between the laws and expectations that govern the people.

Throughout Sister Batema's speech, I was able to clearly see the the inequalities that surround the women in Uganda, from the divorce procedure they must follow, to them being expelled if they become pregnant out of wedlock, to female students getting a 1.5 GPA point addition. However, although Batema drew to our attention the many unfair circumstances the women face, I feel that he failed to actually explain what he does to change this, and instead he almost just reinforced some of the traditions that hinder human rights development.  This made me question what progressivism looks like in Uganda vs. the U.S. and I believe that it demonstrates just how powerful an impact culture has when it comes to moving towards sustainability.

Questions for Drake and MUBS students:

How do you think the idea of being "progressive" varies based on the U.S. culture vs. Ugandan culture, and are people like Mr. Batema on the road towards making Uganda sustainable in regards to human rights?

How do you feel about female students getting an automatic 1.5 GPA point increase?  Do you think that this helps the students or does it inherently teach them that they are less and cannot/are not expected to achieve as much as male students can?

What does it say about the current state of gender inequalities that Mr. Batema addressed women in the household for a long period of time, but did not mention women in the workforce until he was asked a question about it?  Can his focus lead us to believe that he may have hidden biases that hinder him from being the best women's rights activist?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Government - Role in Development

Government plays a key role in the development of any community, city, company, or country. In Uganda, the government is often surrounded by controversies of corruption and conflict, but it still is crucial to sustainable development in Uganda.

Our closest experience with the Ugandan government was when we got the opportunity to meet with Parliamentarian Latigo, who is currently involved with the government. According to Mr. Latigo, one of the biggest challenges to sustainable development in government is the lack of functional institutions. When operating efficiently, the Ugandan government has many divisions in place to contribute to sustainable development in its country. Some of these divisions include the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), which help to improve or maintain roads and follow up on spending on construction projects, respectively. From what we have witnessed so far in Uganda, the government seems to have the most influence on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 9, 11, and 16 which are Innovation and Infrastructure, Sustainable Cities and Communities, and Peace and Justice. Not all of these influences are currently positive, and the parliamentarian suggested that the best way for the people to hold their government accountable was to expect things from it and speak out. Our group has identified social media as a powerful tool for facilitating change in this way.

From what we have witnessed so far, what can be done to ensure the successful completion of roads and buildings that have been started years ago but not yet finished? What can be done to eliminate obstacles to peace and justice in the Ugandan judicial system? With the current structure of phone data plans and internet access, are social media movements feasible? If so, will they be effective? Even if the Ugandan parliament could agree on any major changes, could they implement them in the current political environment?

Tourism: Murchison Falls

The last couple days, our group went camping at Red Chilli North in Murchison Falls National Park. We went on a game drive safari looking at elephants, giraffes, monkeys, warthogs, hyenas, various birds and antelopes, and even one female lion. We sat on the top of the tour busses taking pictures, soaking in the environment, and tooling around the (what seemed like) never ending park. Although we would all agree that we're  pretty sore from sitting on the "seats" (which were just bars on top of the bus) for four hours, I think I speak for everyone when I say that our cameras were filled with pictures and our trip yet again exceeded our expectations. We also went on a boat tour down the Nile observing aquatic animals such as hippos, crocodiles, and snake birds, and we even got a fantastic view of the beautiful Murchison Falls from the boat. The next morning we hiked around the Falls and got an even better view close up! We then packed into our busses and drove to a hotel for lunch, still sweaty from the hike, before making the four hour trek back to our hostel in Kampala. Overall, it was an exciting mini vacation within our vacation, and we got to experience many things unique to Uganda.

I was thinking about tourism while we spent the weekend at the park. What kept running through my mind was how Uganda never seemed like a tourist destination to me, but there are so many vibrant tourist destinations throughout the country that really give a taste into the rich and diverse culture of Uganda. Even 3 weeks ago, I never would have thought to promote the tourist industry in Uganda, but now I realize that tourism creates jobs and brings in revenue to Uganda. Creating jobs for Ugandan citizens such as managing, cooking, cleaning, driving, and all other things involved in a tourist resort allows people from all different disciplines to obtain a steady income. This income will in turn be spent in other markets and industries, which will help to develop the economy. Why do you think it's common for people to come to Uganda to volunteer, but not to tour? Do you think that tourism would help the economy more than volunteering would? What things could Ugandans do to promote tourism for their country?





Sure Prospects

A couple of days ago, we went to Sure Prospects, which was a school that is for both students with special needs and without. We went and talked to a head teacher who shared with us the details of Sure Prospects and answered any of our questions.

After that, we went and toured the school. It had many buildings/ classrooms surrounding an open area that was full of students exuberantly running around. We then went around to all of the different classes and got to interact with the kids and see what they were being taught. We went all the way from the first year of primary school class to the last year. On all of the walls, there were posters full of diagrams and information that related to what they would be learning that year in school. The teachers would sometimes point out different kids in the class with certain special needs, and each class had the kids all completely intermixed. The kids with who were differently abled were learning right next to the kids with other different needs and with kids without special needs. All of their needs were accommodated for, and it was really cool to see. In America, kids with disabilities are often separated from the general population of students, which inhibits their learning as they can learn from other students. 

Before lunch, Ellie and I went to do our project, which is to teach 50 girls about reproductive health and how to use the reusable feminine hygiene kits that we would be distributing. We had help from some of the MUBs girls, and it went really well. It is a very good feeling to be able to to give out the products to girls who otherwise wouldn’t have gotten them. 

Later, after lunch, everyone headed down to the fields to play soccer. Some people played some group games like “Little Ball Walker”, and others talked and got to know the student more. These kids were all so happy and energetic, and everyone felt so happy to be able to spend the day with them. One girl came up to us and gave us a note that thanked us for coming and said how much she appreciates us. It was so heartwarming. It was also interesting because I think many of us came in with the presumption that the education here in Uganda would be lacking in many ways, but this school had pretty good classes that were teaching all the children so much.

This school did face its challenges, like funding and having enough staff, but it was also doing so well and providing so much for its students. In regards to sustainable development, I think without the proper funding and resources, it will not be able to continue being sustainable. Even if it continues to be donor funded, that is not reliable, and it needs to shift towards being funded by the government. However, it is doing a good job and the school in general is sustainable, especially socially. 

Questions: 

How do you think that having and integrated class room with multiple students with varying needs may affect the learning environment and atmosphere?

What are some things that you noticed that could be improved in their school?

Why do you think there aren’t more schools like this, in either Uganda or even the U.S.?

How might Sure Prospects strive to be more sustainable?