LAST weekend’s solar eclipse somewhat overshadowed the graduation ceremony that took place in Kampala at around the same time, and as I was driving back from Masindi I laughed at how similar both events are in Uganda.
I expect that the graduand with the hangover the morning after normally sits down to ponder the expense and activities of the night before and asks whether the party was really worth it.
Uganda knows that the money spent on the eclipse activities in Pakwach itself was worth it in terms of the publicity we received from it alone – including publicity driven through people’s personal tweets, emails, blogposts and whatnot.
Of course, the graduand might stop and think how much more benefit he would have gotten out of his party if he had taken the money for food, drinks, venue hire and whatnot, and used that to spruce up his wardrobe, buy a laptop, pay for a short course in project management, and other such things.
The government might be doing just that roundabout now, at the post-Eclipse Committee Meeting.
During the ‘Lessons Learned’ or ‘What Could Have Been Done Better’ segment of the meeting, some Commissioner from the Ministry of Tourism has probably asked, “Madame Chair, maybe next time we should start publicity efforts earlier for such events so that we get very many people to come and visit the country?”
Because, that could have brought in more benefit for Uganda overall, besides the hiring of tents, chairs and so on and so forth.
I asked one graduand last week why he had to throw a party and fund-raise to fund it when he didn’t even have a personal laptop off which to write his own CV or use for research to make himself the most attractive candidate for any job he would be applying for, and he was licked.
But I couldn’t begrudge him his celebration, so I gave him moral support and wished him on his good way; a few days later I realised that I should have advised him to go ahead with his party but use it as a campaign rally for a job.
See, that’s what the eclipse was for Uganda; a campaign rally for northern Uganda as a tourism destination – which we hope the world saw in one way or another as they made their way there to catch the eclipse, even just because they could get there.
I should have told my graduand pal to go ahead with his party but ensure that he dresses up as the smartest guy in the room. And not to host too many relatives, but instead invite people who are likely to offer him a job or recommend him to people who offer jobs.
Then, pack a solid speech that blows everybody away and makes them all talk about him for the next few months or so with everybody they meet, so that people try to meet him just to get a feel of this amazingly impressive chap.
If he had been a Comms Graduate, for instance, he’d write out his invitation cards in flowing prose so that all the invitees know that he is a good communicator; a lawyer should invite people in legalese or, better still, have them sign indemnities as they walk into the party venue, saying they won’t blame him for their eventual hangover the next morning.
That’s what the eclipse was or should have been for us.
The surface-thinkers among us thought only of the ten-second or one-hour event that the actual eclipse is, just as they do graduation ceremonies, making them the highlight of one’s education, instead of considering the education itself.
See, even the eclipse itself, the act of one orb obscuring the sight of the other, was viewed differently by different people. Where I was, in Masindi, some people were waiting for the few seconds when the moon was over the Sun, while others enjoyed the entire cycle from the time the moon began to overshadow the Sun from the bottom right hand corner.
Same as graduation – many people find it interesting from the time the first drink is popped open, yet it begins with you going to primary one twenty years before…
The gradation is a one-off event after years of study and work, as the eclipse should have been; and it isn’t the end of everything. Even today, we should go on showing the world images of Uganda from last week and going forward because we are now on the map for this.