Here Is Why Youth Skilling Won’t Happen [opinion]

In mid-2013 a close relative, a young man, jokingly lost his job as we say in Luganda.

Joking aside – in Luganda again – he has failed to find another job!

And he has no skills.

On the other hand, I know of a young S6 leaver awaiting university in September who has been called up by her former school to help out with practical lessons as a teaching assistant in a vocational subject.

The call came out of the blue at the beginning of the year, unexpected. She is now earning pocket money for her campus days because she has skills.

Uganda is sitting on a youth unemployment crisis.

Indeed we are not Spain as the Spanish prime minister once disparagingly put us down when begging for a bailout for his country from the European Union in 2012. Youth unemployment here is estimated at 80% unlike Spain’s 25% which had annoyed their citizens into demonstrations.

We must be grateful for the thriving boda boda industry. The inventor of this unique workhorse motorcycle should be a candidate for a hero’s award in Uganda at some point. I suspect that for every five boda boda riders, four are school dropouts or never went to school at all.

It is reasonable to believe that these riders do not have any skills. Boda boda and taxi touting has mainly kept Uganda’s unemployable in work. We should worry whenever they are hounded out of their areasstages because if they were to lose this riding work, we may not like it – Luganda slang!

Robert Kabushenga, CEO of New Vision group, commented on this in a feature article last year. His view was that unemployment is capable of turning our youths into marauding thugs ready to attack the haves of our society for cash and property. He said the youths need vocational education urgently, not cash handouts which cannot be sustained.

At the launch of the Skilling Uganda strategic plan in October 2012 at the Jinja Vocational Training Institute, President Museveni acknowledged the negative mentality that Ugandans have about vocational education. He also lamented that existing training is theoretical and irrelevant. It is very difficult to disagree with this position.

The Business, Technical and Vocational Education and Training Act 2008 seeks to improve the image of vocational education. Its new strategic plan, Skilling Uganda, is fantastic. It is ambitious and if implemented, youth unemployment could be history. Certainly a must read: http:lanipolis.iiep.unesco.orguploadUgandaUganda_BTVET_Strategic_Plan_Final%20Draft_8July2011.pdf

Mission impossible?

Unfortunately, Uganda cannot meet its ambition of skilling her youths. The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) is mandated to monitor, evaluate and regulate institutions of higher education. For as long as the NCHE is responsible for oversight of vocational institutions, we are doomed and the youth unemployment crisis will continue to escalate.

I know of a group that had set up a facility to begin a modern vocational institution offering the traditional courses, including plumbing, brick laying, etc. It was set up and packaged in a way that would attract first choices from high school leavers.

For a year and a half, the NCHE delayed to award them a provisional licence for reasons that included lack of knowledge about the international City and Guilds programme. This group abandoned their project in frustration and with a big financial loss. Many of the vocational institutions in this country are in a sorry state and would not inspire any ambitious youngster.

Professor Venansius Baryamureeba, former Makerere University Vice Chancellor, believes that NCHE is not doing a good job of supervising universities mainly because of its structure and composition, yet it is also responsible for monitoring vocational institutions.

He recommends that the NCHE should be split to create a National Council for Tertiary Institutions (NCTI). I wholly agree with him.

The writer is one of the founding Kigo thinkers.

Source : The Observer

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