Tuesday November 28 2017

Passion is key in vocational education

Vocational students showcase their skills

Vocational students showcase their skills during an international skills development conference at Nakawa Vocational Training Institute in Kampala recently. Photo by Gillian Nantume 

By Dorcus Murungi

For so long, there is a perception that when one fails to attain better grades in secondary their only option is to join a vocational institution.
This is wrong because the 21st Century dictates that professionals should acquire skills which most theoretical education does not offer.
According to Yahaya Yusufu Walusansa, the academic registrar Uganda Technical College, Kicwamba, a number of Ugandans still do not know the importance of vocational studies and have the perception that it is for those that have performed poorly academically.
On the contrary, Walusansa says, vocational institutions should be only be for competent students that have good grades and are able to execute good skills and good performance even after their studies.
“Vocational studies should not only be for those that have failed to pass their secondary school examinations or have no hope of joining university but those with the passion and good grades which will help us to train people that are able,” he says.
He adds that if anyone wants to get into tertiary education, they have to meet certain entry level requirements and this is not unique to vocational institutions.
“There is a wide range of selection criteria that is used for different courses. Standard selection methods include the typical academic entry requirements, as well as other additional testing criteria for competitive courses or those that require a high degree of talent, cut-off scores, prerequisite studies and academic history,” he observes.

Despised by friends
Lawrence Mukidi says he scored good grades at both O and A-Level and joined vocational training. “I had a first grade in O-Level. In A-Level I scored 13 points in Physics Economics, Mathematics and Entrepreneurship. I had passed well considering my science combination and I was eligible to join any university. However, I joined Uganda Technical College, Kyema in Masindi where I pursued a Diploma in Water and Sanitation Engineering,” he says.
Mukidi says although his decision to join a vocational institution instead of university was first despised by many of his colleagues, what many called ‘weird’ turned out to be one of the best decisions since he never went looking for a job after school because of the skills he attained.

Quick rewards
Just like Mukidi, Raymond Okidi says although he obtained results that could take him to A-Level, after his Uganda Certificate of Education examinations, he decided to go for vocational training.
He reveals that he was the best student at his school and the head teacher was willing to get him sponsorship in A-Level but Okidi declined and insisted on joining vocational studies.
“In 2014, I was the best student at Catongo Home base High School in Agagu District. My head teacher was happy with my performance and offered me a bursary for my A-Level but I could not take the offer because I wanted to get vocational skills that would help me get a job fast,” he says.
Okidi adds that his strategy worked because he already has a job with Roofings Uganda and his employers are happy with his skills.

Change mindset
He observes that to avert the current job scarcity affecting most Ugandan graduates; students who obtain good grades should willingly join vocational institutions so that they can get the knowledge and the skills which will make them job creators and not seekers.
According to Walusana, vocational education is the solution to the big unemployment challenge that Uganda is currently faced with. He also adds that vocational training is also a shortcut for students from needy families to attain decent education.
Amos Okello, a regional technician for Airtel, Mukono, says his diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Kicwamba Technical College in Fort Portal has been of much help.
To him, the training equipped him with skills that have taken him places. “In vocational training institutions, we not only get theory but also hands-on practice which makes us skillful something that most employers are looking out for. I am proud of the skills I obtained. I am not even afraid of losing any job. My skills are my biggest asset,” he says.

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