Uganda Starts New Education Programme dubbed, ‘Skilling Uganda’

(New Vision) - Uganda has unveiled a new education programme dubbed, 'Skilling Uganda' meant to introduce short courses for school leavers at Primary Seven, Senior Four and Six, school dropouts and graduates.

These courses will lead to the award of certificates recognised by the Government and other countries. It will also give learners an opportunity to go through a parallel education programme to that of formal education, meaning learners under 'Skilling Uganda' can also be awarded certificates, diplomas, or bachelors' and masters' degrees.

This implies that one can become a mechanic, agriculturalist, florist, fashion designer, machinist, architect, chef, veterinerian, soil scientist or a technician without necessarily going through the formal education system. The programme was launched on Tuesday by President Yoweri Museveni at Jinja Vocational Training Institute.

The education minister, Jessica Alupo, confirmed that there will be a special examination body to assess whoever will be attending these short courses. Learners will be assessed on what they can do, other than what they can recall as it is for most examinations under formal education. It will cost the Government about sh2trillion in a period of 10 years to have the new system of education implemented. Almost 41,927 students will be admitted in various institutions by 2016/2017.

This will be an alternative to be reliance on formal education for one to get official internationally recognised certificates.

The new education system will be for short courses, individualised, practical and flexible, compared to the current long-term, credential-based, full-time and rigidly structured system.

"All Senior Four leavers and those who dropped out will be enrolled at various levels in the new skills development system of education. Graduates will also be accommodated," the education ministry's permanent secretary, Francis-Xavier Lubanga, said.

He said the move is aimed at making sure that most Ugandans attain skills meant for the country's development.

There has always been a negative perception about business, technical and vocational education and training plus low funding; a move that will change with the new system.

The Government plans to hire temporary assessors to examine leaners under the revised system of education, build and renovate more institutions all over the country as well as hire more staff for its effective implementation. Currently, the Government has already identified and developed 61 occupational profiles and training packages, basing on what the job market requires and the quantity of graduates. Meanwhile, the Government plans to establish a Skills Development Fund to co-ordinate the public, private and informal sector in strengthening the new education system.

'Skilling Uganda' is meant to reduce unemployment and increase entrepreneurship in the country. Youth unemployment has been increasing over the years.

In 2005/6, 7.8% of the youth were unemployed and the figure had gone up to 10.1% by 2009/2010. Skilling of Ugandans is expected to bridge the gap of youth unemployment.

The Uganda business, technical and vocational system is relevant to economic growth. This is because it equips Ugandans with the right set of skills to make a living through self-employment and enables companies to compete in domestic, regional and international markets.

The deputy principal, Lugogo Vocational Training Institute, Olam Omita, says 'Skilling Uganda' is, "The way forward if we want Uganda to grow."

"The public should join us and promote it because the majority of our people do not know what vocational training is. I wish the Government had made it compulsory after, say Senior Four, for a year before one continues with formal education," he added.

Mauda Rutaremwa, the principal of Rukingiri Technical Institute, said the Government has made a giant leap forward. Hiram Mwalye Musungu, who heads Kibatsi Technical Institute, said it is a positive development because the formal education institutions could absorb all the country's young people. David Iga of Kisubi Technical Institute, however, says there is nothing new about the programme.

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