By Timothy Mugerwa
It is exciting to know that Uganda was named a top tourist destination by Lonely Planet, the world’s largest travel guide book and digital media publisher. As a teacher of entrepreneurship who has been lucky to be the patron of the Junior Achievement Company Programme in Kololo SSS, I am elated by this recognition. Being a teacher gives one an attachment to your students, often wishing for their success. Among the students I helped recently was one whose business idea was tourism based. The company– Educative Tours JA– exposed me to tourism envisaged from young peoples’ perspective. I am now becoming more and more interested in tourism and realizing just how much potential the sector holds, especially for the youth.
My concern, however, is: Have we done our part as teachers, parents or citizens? Uganda is home to spectacular tourist attractions ranging from fresh water lakes, variety of organic and delicious foods, rivers, mountains, waterfalls, hot springs, fresh and unique climate, rich and varied biodiversity, primates and birds. According to Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda has 11 per cent out of about 10,000 bird species across the world. Up to $5,000 can be spent by, say, one tourist bird watcher on a tour across the country! This is testimony that tourism in Uganda is an important generator of foreign exchange, employment and investment. From a teacher’s perspective, bearing in mind that my job is to nurture young minds and channel them to successful livelihoods, how about actively getting the biggest percentage of Uganda’s population involved in this viable field of income generation and employment. We owe it to them. They must be exposed to what tourism can offer to redress the growing social and economic challenges so as to tap into their creativity in that area.
It is important to educate them about what tourism means because this sector is not currently appreciated by locals. We need to expose Ugandans to the available tourism resources. It is time we started counting our blessings and move from lamenting about what we don’t have. Let us see to it that young people grow to appreciate what we have and exploit the opportunities therein by making purposeful career choices and developing a passion in what they learn and will do in the near future. I must confess as a patron of such initiatives at Kololo SSS, I have been captivated by the creativity and potential of the people we are nurturing. They have inspired me to see a lot of opportunities I had not seen before getting involved in this alternative learning that gives young people opportunity to think on their own, come up with business ideas and managing it.
Based on the philosophy of “let them own what they have chosen to do”, young people are now starting businesses. Among the 10 business category awards, Junior Achievement Uganda students’ company of the year competitions, Educative Tours JA came top in the community tourism category. Even more exciting is that the award was sponsored by the UWA and members of this company have been offered a trip to visit one of the best tourism sites of Uganda to further expose them to this country’s vast tourism potential. These students have also started interesting students in the JA network within Uganda and across the world to visit Uganda. This, to me, is a great initiative other schools should start in order to promote Uganda’s tourism. And it would be successful if young people are made aware of this sector’s potential. Let us join hands and exploit the potential we have in our youth and our motherland Uganda.
Mr Mugerwa is a teacher