Wednesday, 3 September 2014


For those of us who were at University in the 1980’s or earlier, it may look like the University is easier today.  The University is a big head ache to a number of privately sponsored students who have to struggle to look for money as they study.  In many instances, a number of such students are unable to attend a number of lectures as they make ends meet to have money to meet their upkeep, tuition just to mention a few.

The reduced time spent on University work, and where in some instances some other party do course work for the student is one reason that the quality of graduates keeps deteriorating.
There is need to see that the quality of graduates does not deteriorate that much.  This calls for looking into ways in which tuition can be made manageable among other things.  Otherwise, it will remain a fact that in an attempt to see the student able to make ends meet, the opportunity cost is the poor graduate at the end of the day.

William Kituuka

A recent report on output of workers in Uganda showed that the work which can be done by one Kenyan is done by six Ugandans! Thus employing one Kenyan national saves the employer approximately 80% on employee emoluments. This raised concern to the president of Uganda and he did not fail to account for his fear on the May 1st 2011 Labour Day celebrations held at Entebbe. He kept on wondering whether it is the poor quality of education Uganda offers or that Ugandans are merely lazy.

An employer needs a kind of worker who has a high level of competence that is able to take the organization to a better level. An investor’s dream is a high return on his investments. Returns result from a combination of different factors of production and labour forms the mantle. The higher the productivity labourforce, the higher the returns, other factors held constant. Many Asian countries eg Japan, have adapted to new methods of production like Just in Time, Kaizen, etc which have proved to be saving schemes for their firms. Competence is a mixture of technical skills acquired through training and a strong desire for creativity, innovation and integrity. As long as the employer does not see the above attributes in the worker, the worker is a liability to the organization.

The nature of training
Uganda, being a Third World Country, has emphasized a training which grooms students into office white color jobs. Surely these jobs were there in plenty during the late colonial regime of the British because they were preparing Ugandans to take on offices which had been predominantly occupied by the Whites. This trend continued even in early days of post independence and Uganda’s education has been designed to fill as many such vacancies as not available. The technical education, which I believe imparts technical competences in learners, has been for long dubbed as the education for school drop-outs. Technical schools have produced able-to-do graduates, while other colleges have graduated able-to-look on man power. This tempts people to think that schools and universities are graduating half-baked labour whose biggest specialization is job hunting.

Inadequacy of professional bodies In August 2009, UNABCEC complained of poor quality engineers joining the field as a result of transforming Kyambogo Polytechnic into a University (New Vision 12 August 2009). Similarly, in the same year, one Ronald Luberenga complained to the Uganda Surveyors Registration Board that their registration standards were too stringent which limited the number of registered surveyors to 84 (2009) in Uganda. The Board responded by citing poor quality of teaching graduates of surveying courses from Universities ( 12th August 2009). The above two examples presuppose that if Ugandan graduates can get registered with professional bodies, the quality of work can be measured to certain standards.

Each professional body has a code of conduct which acts as a tool for integrity, adherence to professional standards and basis for disciplinary action. Some professions have registered their bodies, for example, Accountants and Auditors, Builders, Doctors, Lawyers, and others. Where graduates are not attached to any professional body, their level of integrity and professional competence is highly doubted. This is so because many people who fear to join professionals associations are hiding their incompetence since a professional body requires any member to have particular standards.

Absence of professionalism in business
In Uganda, going to school or not is not a guarantee for your future job career. Majority of workers are employed on “know-who” basis. Competence, in many organizations, is not a prerequisite for employability especially in the public sector where it is either ‘your face’ or ‘pocket size’ that determines what job you do. To make matters worse, Uganda is a predominantly informal economy where training for traditional informal jobs is a luxury rather than necessity. Those who trained in agriculture prefer working in urban centres, yet farms, according to Uganda standards, are found in rural areas. If all employers enforce professional standards at their places of work and avoid unjust practices in recruiting employees, the trend of workers with poor skills will gradually reduce.

Lack of exposure
About more than 60% of all graduates have studied in rural areas where they are not exposed to modern facilities. It is not un usual to train fresh under graduates to flash toilets. Nor is it un common for one to pass an IT test without touching a mouse. Due to the nature of environment rural schools operate, I am tempted to believe rural schools have better quality students than their urban counterparts. However, they can fail to cope with the modernity in town because they lacked exposure to certain facilities and knowledge.

Employers expect the graduates to know every thing concerning their career. On the contrary, schools graduate from average to super students. It follows that when these graduates are engaged by the respective employer, they should be given further ‘on job training’ which many employers do not offer (except the established ones). Surely, different organizations have different procedures of conducting business which may diverge from the general application derived from school. This means if the employer does not carry an induction for new employees, they are likely to be regarded as ‘poor quality graduates’.

Strong attachment to cultural practices & social values
Uganda is one of the countries that have a very strong attachment to cultural practices and values. Most of the practices are time consuming with neither commercial sense nor tangible output. For instance, one employee has a birth day party on Monday and will spend the whole day looking ‘young’ let alone spending lavishly on that celebration. With a sure hangover, on Tuesday she will be weak. Wednesday, one of her grand father’s friends’ friend’s daughters dies. Thursday is burial. Saturday, she has to attend the last funeral rites of one of her friend’s mother-in-law! The story continues the following week.
Following the social practices above, which some foreigners do not have, the productivity of one Ugandan employee must be grossly low.

Absence of minimum wage
Since time immemorial government has turned a deaf ear to minimum wage for workers, despite the thunderous outcry from workers’ unions. The wages some employers pay are miserably low and quite de-motivating. Many employees hold their current jobs alongside a search for better paying jobs. So, they will not dedicate all their efforts to their current job thus affecting their productivity.

In view of all the above, it attracts a duo collabo between government and the workers themselves to improve their out put. With the East African Community on its offing, unless the current trend changes, many Ugandans are to remain unemployed since employers have developed a feeling that they are ‘lazy’ workers.

Mugagga Joseph Ssengendo is a Certified Public Accountant and Head, Department of Professional Studies, Multitech Business School and Senior Management Consultant of MJ Consult.
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