Vocational and technical education is still considered second-class education in Uganda.
A Ministry of Education head count technical and vocational schools in Uganda found that in 2008 only 4,000 students enrolled in vocational schools. This year, the four Uganda Technical Colleges have a total enrolment of only 1,200 students.
Rose Nakato, a recent graduate of Nakawa Vocational Training Institute in Kampala, says attitudes towards vocational education need to change. She says people, like her, receive training in real skills that prepare them for the job market, unlike graduates from academic colleges who usually have nothing more than theoretical knowledge.
Nakato just completed her final exams in Fitting and Machining. She boasts that she can now make vehicle gears and shafts; she can create nuts, bolts and even pulleys. She says she is ready for anything that the job market throws her way.
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Vocational technical training in Uganda dates back to 1911 with the establishment of St Joseph Technical Institute. The school located in Kisubi along Entebbe Road, offered brick laying, carpentry, joinery and shoemaking studies. Today there are more than 400 private and government-aided vocational schools in the country.
Henry Okinyal, the head of the Directorate of Industrial Training at the Ministry of Education, says technical education is unpopular because it is misunderstood. He explains that it involves hands-on training in specific trades or occupations.
Learners directly develop expertise in a particular group of techniques or technology.
The four Uganda Technical Colleges are Kichwamba in Fort Portal, Elgon in Mbale, Lira and Kahaya in Bushenyi. The students must have an O-level certificate in order to enroll in the colleges.
Kiwanuka Makumbi, the Deputy Principal at Nakawa Vocational Training Institute, says that like the rest of the education sector, vocational schools are grappling with how to adapt to the dynamic job market. He says many Ugandan industries that provided apprenticeship for trainees have collapsed.
Colleges now have to devise in-house ways of providing the same practical skills training to mimic the needs of employers.
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Henry Okinyal says that in addition to this, the few private industries in Uganda are unwilling to take on apprentices. He accuses them of being more focused on making a profit than on investing time and a little bit of money on training future workers.
In order to attract more people to their schools, some colleges like that in Nakawa, have started visiting secondary schools to educate students about the options available for them. The Ministry of Education is also profiling all vocational courses to set standards for training based on market trends.
ministry of education