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This pattern is inspired by the work of artist Dr. Ester Mahlangu of the Ndebele nation in South Africa, Source - The Open Notebook


Educational institutions, such as universities, have always divided between sciences and arts and even though some crossovers can be pointed out, a particular field will either fall under the sciences or the arts. Although it makes sense to appreciate either field separately, arts and sciences are not mutually exclusive in their contribution to development. Take for example the Coronavirus pandemic, on one side scientists are working overtime to find a cure, offer treatment to people and come up with guidelines on how to survive. The media on the other hand, which is essentially an arts field, is working overtime to make sure information flow is constant. While people were on lock-down and waiting on the scientists to find ways to tackle the virus, the arts kept them sane long enough for nations to figure out a way forward. Think about it this way, when you went into lock-down what were you doing? Most people were watching movies, reading books, watching the news, and listening to music. All of this entertainment would not have been possible without the arts. So if you took the arts out, imagine how bored you would have been. And if we took sciences out of the equation, this pandemic would have made us go insane or even extinct. Science is dealing with the cure side of it, while arts is keeping people sane in their own homes.

If you remove the arts from homes, by the time the virus withers, you will have people suffering from depression but free from Coronavirus.” Said Dr. Brian Semujju, a lecturer at Makerere University.

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Medical students at the Mildmay Institute for Health and Sciences

Understanding the need for arts and sciences will allow society to appreciate that it’s not arts versus sciences or vice versa- a notion that is misleading and results in neglecting of either field. When asked if it’s a valid argument, Dr. Brian Semujju said, “the comparison, I would imagine, comes from the need to understand each of them. If you have no arts, then the sciences are not what you think they are. The opposite of that is true. But away from that binary opposition, the trendy way now is to find intersections between the arts and the sciences.” Essentially, arts and sciences are related and use the same kind of approach. If you pick a field like engineering, it is highly deductive which means you must be able to move from a big problem to a smaller problem which is usually done by coming up with a formula that is broken down to give a particular answer. The same goes for the execution of arts, in this case, media, which has the same approach when it comes to processing stories from events.

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Ugandan Engineers at Work, Source - Studenthub 

With a background in environmental sciences, Omnia Shawkat, the co-founder of Andariya agrees the overlap is advantageous in how she manages a creative enterprise. She explained that her scientific background enabled her to be “methodical in my approach; with clearly laid steps in a way that they can be traced backward and organize work in a way that is referenced, factual, and based on actual research”

Knowing that both arts and sciences are related, the difference comes in application; you are applying the same skill but in a different body of knowledge. “The intersection makes more sense to me. Consider a journey to planet mars that might take two years. In the middle of the journey, the arts such as film, are essential to entertain the scientists and keep them from utter boredom” said Dr. Brian Semujju.

Earlier this year, President Museveni commented that science teachers should be paid more. In fact, when you scrutinize the salary structure of government bodies, scientists are paid more than artists. I have witnessed this sort of discrimination second hand. My sister along with her friend applied for a full-time job in different ministries. They both had the same salary U4 status, however, my sister was paid more than her friend. It turned out this is because she was a science major, while her friend was an arts graduate. I have to admit, though, it is not without its basis. While speaking to a friend who excelled in both engineering and law, I came to understand that there is a justification for paying scientists more, because of the context we find ourselves in as a developing third world country. In a country like Uganda that is still dealing with infrastructure and health care that are supported by engineers, doctors, and the like it seems reasonable to have engineers and scientists paid more in order to improve these facilities.

There are few engineers, doctors, and scientists in Uganda because of the common misconception that any science field is hard to pursue. And unfortunately, the education system made it seem even harder to do so. The justification is simply a demand and supply issue- there are fewer scientists and yet many are needed in developing countries such as Uganda, especially to counter the immigration and brain drainage. It makes sense that they are paid better because at this particular point we need more of them. However, I’m conscious to point out that paying scientists more creates the mentality that sciences are more promising than the arts.

Dr. Brian Semujju exclaimed that “in a country where creativity is never understood, of course, money is the only solution left to inspire people to join the sciences. Every university course choice in Uganda is mostly based on whether or not someone will get money out of it. The policy on who gets paid what needs to change so that creative people get paid for their original ideas. It doesn’t help anyone if some docile scientist, who has never produced a single original idea, gets paid more money because of membership to the club.”

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Music Festival in South Korea, Source - Trazy

The truth is, this institutionalized system exposes us to miss the opportunity to reap from the arts and limits creativity which should be the guiding principle. Creativity, which is the notion of doing what’s not been done, is needed in sciences and the arts. But because the thinking is so stuck up, people feel that they need to study what is already there because that is where they see money yet creativity is really what will take us to the promised land. Take for example the creative culture in South Korea which has contributed greatly to the country’s economy where according to Martin Roll, Korean pop culture contributed an estimate of USD 11.6 billion in 2014. According to the united nations report on strengthening the creative industries for development in the Republic of Korea in 2017 (hereafter referred to as the UN report), Hallyu, a wave of Korean entertainment of pop music, T.V dramas, and movies is highly consumed in Asia and worldwide. An easy example here is the ‘Gangnam style’ song by PSY which literally broke the internet and set a world record with billions of views on Youtube. According to the report, Hallyu in an integral part of Korea’s economy, and from the obsession of fans drives sales to other Korean products. The country’s success story came from “a top-down approach where for example, President Park Geun-Hye placed a top priority on the creative economy when she took office in 2013” as asserted by the UN report. Martin Roll explains that “South Korea has dedicated itself to become a lead exporter of popular culture.” The country has mind-blowingly gone from being one of the poorest countries to very rich making it the world’s 12th largest economy. Today, one of the major terms in entertainment is K-pop, which refers to Korean pop music, which features worldwide sensations like BTS and Blackpink. The ministry of culture in South Korea invests greatly in a Pop culture that focuses on Hallyu. Additionally, the government itself contributes almost a third of a USD 1 billion investment fund, earmarked to nurture and export pop culture on top of which the government creates cultural festivals that increase the visibility of Korean popular culture.

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Psy, Source - Spin

As explained earlier, demand and supply play a big role. Right now there is more demand for scientists in Uganda. The argument made by my friend who was the best student in both law and engineering in his class is that “if you are going to industrialize the country, most of the work will be in power, roads, structures etc. For the countries where the basics have been sorted, opportunities are competitive either way for arts and sciences." For the sake of the demand and supply argument, as a nation, we have to create demand for the arts too. Take a festival like Nyege-Nyege which brings in an influx of revelers and money In order to create demand in the arts, we need to invest in local artists and create avenues and events dedicated to local culture.

 Omnia, the co-founder of Andariya magazine explained that “I really think we are missing a huge opportunity by not treating people in the arts with respect. I love to travel to countries that have an arts scene. Egypt is huge on arts and culture which draws a lot of crowds. I believe the arts can be profitable if we involve research and make it dynamic.” She went on to tell the story of why she started Andariya in the first place, “our image (Sudan and Africa essentially) was so distorted and I felt we needed to do something about it.”

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Bobi Wine performs in Busabala, Source - The Independent

Science and arts each have a contribution to society and we cannot downplay either. In the case of Covid-19, the Ugandan government emphasized the importance of scientists through a high pay, unlike South Korea, they had not given a chance for the arts to prove they are an equally important contributor. By the end of the day, we shouldn't be voting arts over science and vice versa, because both are two ends of the spectrum of knowledge that intersects. Both are just as equally important and vital for society to thrive and grow, and the education system should reflect that.

 

 
 

This post is also available in: Arabic


Tusiime Tutu

Tusiime Tutu is a Ugandan writer, blogger, social media enthusiast, trainer and poet. Tusiime is an ambiverted high-spirited person. She is an obsessive reader, enjoys a bit of dancing and worships art She is a digital content producer at Andariya, and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communication from Makerere university and holds a diploma in law from LDC.