News and Views

Education System/Mentality Must Change if Uganda is to Produce Skilled Workforce

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The best opportunity for an African is in Africa. I have been in Uganda for the last two months and the opportunities are everywhere you look. I have seen business opportunities in Uganda you can start with just £500 capital investment, but in order for Uganda to compete we must invest in skills development of our people.

Uganda works hard towards making a mark both regionally – as a member state of the East African Community (EAC) – and globally; still the country seems ill equipped to compete with neighboring countries such as Kenya.

In the recently held CHOGM Conference, most of the hospitality staff was imported from Kenya showing the lack of faith in the Ugandan skill-based workforce. In fact, majority of the business community believe that it takes 4 Ugandan workers to do what 1 Kenyan worker can do, a clear indication of the need for skills development in a country where 70% of the population is under the age of 18 years and in need of skills both to survive and build the economy.

This problem is however not solely a Ugandan problem, but an African problem which is, consequently, a global problem that needs an urgent remedy if the country’s economy is to benefit from a well equipped skill-based work force.
One such solution would be creating not only a skilled worker, but one who also has developed a good attitude towards work and upholds work ethic. Such a worker can only be produced through an education system that produces products the industry and indeed employers need.
Some Background on the Ugandan Problem
Mr. Kiwanuka of Oscar Industries gave a speech at Uganda Manufacturing Association (UMA) he reminded us that prior to the coming of the British to Uganda, education was entirely vocational and skill based, targeted on preparing the student for a specific occupation. The student was tutored to be first, a good person in the community then a good carpenter, fisherman, medicine-man, or whichever vocation the student chose. Basically, they were equipped with life skills to facilitate their survival and that of the community as a whole. The education system was directly related to the needs of the individual and his/her community.
Education was, in most cases, through attachment to an individual skilled in the discipline. The student learned from a master and was equipped to meet the needs of the entire community. All this however changed with the coming of the British.

The colonial regime changed the system in its entirety. The community had ceased to be the consumer and had been replaced by the colonial interest. The survival and prosperity of the community had been replaced by the survival and prosperity of the colonial system. Furthermore, instead of a student who would soon be a skilled workman, there was now a need for the Administration Clerk who soon became admired by the natives, resulting in an education system that focused on producing clerks and administrators.
The mentality of the Ugandan had changed. Instead of becoming a worker for the benefit of the community, everyone longed to be the Administrative clerk, relegating the community’s needs. The situation was made worse when the British needed a skilled workforce to build roads and railway line and instead of training the natives to do the job, they imported skilled labor from India, further demoting the native to provide manual labor.

Over time, this mentality was progressively structured into the education system changing the system to one focusing on producing clerks and glorified administrators rewarded through higher remuneration than that paid to technical professionals such as engineers, doctors, and surveyors. It had also resulted in a generation of Ugandans that wanted their children to be that administrator, leading some to selling their land or flock so that their children can go to university and not to a technical institution resulting in a generation of university graduates who are not only unemployed, but unemployable due to their lack of practical or relevant skills to meet the needs of the jobs available in the market.

The government seems to have made the situation worst by changing technical institution like those in Busitema or Kyambogo to liberal arts universities, producing more unemployable graduates. Moreover, research institutions crucial to the development of agriculture, a great income provider for the 87% of Ugandans who live in rural areas.

The Future?
There is however a light at the end of the tunnel. For Uganda to rectify this anomaly, every individual has to walk towards changing the already set mentality. This starts by embracing the fact that for 99% of Ugandans, their opportunity is local. This simply means that 99% of Ugandans need to start focusing on serving their immediate community because if their community prospers, they too will prosper. Government policy makers too need to begin to ascribe to this way thinking by envisioning the country 30-50 years from now and aligning policies to meet the demand of skills that will be needed to make Uganda more competitive.

In short, there is great need to refocus and reorient the education system and training to develop people who have acquired knowledge skills demanded and consumed locally. The human resource produced must deliver the desired policy outputs. Integrating the education system with vocational training is bound to create a generation of students who see the need to learn skills, embrace apprenticeship and attachment, and focus on meeting the local needs to build not only themselves, but the country and consequently, Africa and the world.

In words a manufacturer only survives if his products are fit for the market. The school system is only relevant if its products are fit for the market.


The Ten Profitable Business Opportunities you can start in Uganda from anywhere in the world, coming in our next Issue of The Promota.

For more information about the launch of our “Action Wealth Business and Life Skills Centre” in Kampala contact us by Email: info@myactionwealth.com  or Web: www.myactionwealth.com

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