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Policymakers urgently need a lot of reverse mentoring

When we were younger we often heard phrases like, 'education is the key to success.' Another common one was, 'knowledge is power.' The weak point of our education system has often been the inability of educators to break down the why and how of some of these things.

When we were younger we often heard phrases like, ‘education is the key to success.’ Another common one was, ‘knowledge is power.’ The weak point of our education system has often been the inability of educators to break down the why and how of some of these things. Why is education the key to success? How does this key work? Does everyone with the key have access to the same doors?

More importantly, if the locks to the doors are changed, how do the holders of old keys get access to new keys so that they can open the new door locks? Let me give you an example. When Ugandan Members of Parliament exchanged blows on the floor of parliament for the first day, the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) reacted by warning TV stations against broadcasting the parliamentary fights (or session) live on TV because it would allegedly incite the viewers.


While the stations did obey the directive from UCC and switched off their live feeds, we still got to see the action the next day when round two of the fights happened. From my comfort on one of the hills of Kigali, I managed to watch it live via Facebook pages of digital news sites and also on Twitter’s Periscope app complete with weird commentaries from those holding up their phones to capture the action.


Around the same time, I saw somewhere that BBC had embarked on reverse mentoring some of its staff members. What this essentially means is that older workers are paired with younger ones who then mentor the old ones on things to do with technology, social media and current trends. I am bringing this up because I feel that the people at UCC urgently need this kind of mentoring for them to understand how information moves around in this era.


The advent of social media has eaten the huge attention pie that platforms like TV had in the past. To stay afloat most of them rely on broadcasting live events. When this is taken away by UCC they lose the eyeballs to social media platforms real quick. To stop this, one may suggest that the internet be shut down for a while to avoid the dissemination of such footage. However this hits the economy even harder given how much business is now conducted online.

The guys at UCC urgently need to be reverse-mentored so they can know how things work and how each one affects the other. And it is younger people who are best suited to help the old ones out of this. The same applies to audio as well. You ban it from being on mainstream media and we all wake up with segments of it in our Whatsapp folders travelling much faster and even doing more than one round.

Even when you step away from Uganda you will still find people who need to be reverse-mentored. Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko for example used his Twitter account to inform photographers that they will no longer be harassed when taking pictures of the famous city. The harassment continued since the enforcers on the ground were probably not Sonko’s followers on Twitter. I do own a camera myself and I have always found it disturbing that a security officer can be so keen on stopping you from taking a picture when he is not even going to appear in it.

Such people forget that the internet has given some of our communities an opportunity to showcase our place, people and cultures. Why do you stop and harass someone who just wants to take a photo of a public building or of a friend. What secret are we trying to keep from people who see these building everyday and for free? And yet if someone from Europe or US with a skin lighter than mine did the same, the local officials will even smile and want to be friends with the photographer.

Can we get young people to reverse mentor the older policymakers and show them that the world we live in today is marketed using images and videos on line and if young people are doing this, please do not stand in their way. It is clearly pointless for one to always only think of stopping the flow of information.

Information is like a meandering river. If you do not understand why and how it flows the way it does then I suggest you find a younger person and then learn from him/her as part of reverse mentoring.

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