28 February 2010
Kampala — In recent years, a lot has been done to redress inequities that exist in Uganda, particularly in the education system where vocational and technical education have not been given appropriate recognition and support.
Against this background, in 1998, through the Education Sector Strategic Plan, the education ministry initiated a sector-wide approach to guide reforms that would promote business technical vocational education and training.
All pupils successfully completing either primary or secondary education should have access to vocational education and training.
Notwithstanding the progress made by Uganda's education reforms, major gaps remain. The country lacks an adequately skilled workforce and also suffers from high rates of unemployment and underemployment.
Problems associated with relevance, equal opportunities, rural-urban migration, stigma and lack of career guidance continue to deter young people from taking advantage of the limited vocational training opportunities that exist.
Overall, training does not match the skills required by the labour market which prompted a shift in policy towards vocational education and training.
Recently, The New Vision reported that about 142,000 students would miss S5 this year. But those who miss should not despair. There are many opportunities in institutions across the country. This is the reason, technical and vocational education should be supported so as to have a significant impact on poverty eradication.
The Government will sponsor about 8,000 students who will join teacher training colleges and 47,600 who join technical schools. Under the Universal Post Primary Education Training (UPPET) programme, 10% of all those who successfully complete Primary Seven have an opportunity to pursue vocational courses in 46 government post primary vocational training institutions. Since vocational training is linked to human and economic development, it can improve economic competitiveness and capacity. This, in turn, will lead to increased employment opportunities and alleviation of poverty.
There are about 600 of such institutions compared to the Government's 144 which demonstrates the role of the private sector in education.
It is against this background that the vocational education and training for both O'level and post primary students is being strengthened.
Uganda needs more citizens qualified in carpentry and joinery, cabinet making, painting and decorating, bricklaying, industrial control, electrical installations, plumbing, heating and other technical studies.
The chances of technicians getting jobs are higher than those of graduates who have studied humanities.
Over the years, the education sector has realised the importance of vocational training to both the formal and informal sectors.
Parents should encourage their children to pursue vocational training since there is Government sponsorship for them.
Although, vocational training has recorded an increase in student enrolment numbers over the years, there are still many people obsessed with going to university irrespective of which course they are going to study.
If we break this culture and more students take up vocational training we will be able to tackle unemployment in Uganda.
The writer is a communications officer for the World Bank/UPPET project, education ministry