Among the concerns raised about vocational and technical studies is the quality of skills of the students produced in these institutions. And indeed, this is hindering many parents from sending their children to these institutions.
“When I enrolled for vocational studies, a man in my village advised that I should gain useful skills unlike some people he knows who had been to technical schools,” Solomon Mukisa, a student at Kabasanda Technical Institute, says.
This, therefore, pauses the question of how quality can be checked so students of vocational and technical training gain useful, relevant and quality skills at end of their studies.
Indeed, like there is no journey without challenges, Naome Ninsiima, a salon and hair dressing student at Rukore Community Polytechnic Kabale, notes that some of the challenges that may hinder one from gaining the necessary skills is the limited learning materials.
“My course, for example, requires materials to use because it is very practical. So, in the event that a student does not have some of the materials, they miss gaining such a skill through practical lessons,” she says adding that though the institution provides some materials, they are often not sufficient for all students.
Furthermore, Patrick Ejom, an instructor and principal of Hakitengya Community Polytechnic in Bundibugyo, notes that quality comes at a cost.
“Though we have a challenge of equipment, the other challenge is the attitude of the trainers that have no sufficient time for the learners. They give in little time for training, after which, they go to look for extra income,” he says. Nevertheless, Ejom insists quality is still achievable.
“As we train, we focus on different ways of assessment. As we train, we are training for production – students are tasked to produce items or offer services that can be marketed,” he says, adding that; “a carpentry student is tasked to produce furniture, and a reward is given.”
“That way, we ensure quality but also guide students accordingly, pointing out their weak areas, the mistakes and encouraging their strong points,” says Ejom.
“This contributes and is part of the examination. Students are tasked to handle projects according to their different courses,” Ejom explains adding that, students studying construction for example work on a project of building a whole house. Throughout the project, the students are supervised, monitored and advised accordingly.
“So at the end of the three years of training, surely, they have gained a number of relevant skills and are able to carry out any task in their field of training. For instance; a builder is able to make the foundation, raise the walls, roof, and do the finishing,” Ejom says.
Furthermore, Onesmus Oyesigye, the executive secretary of Uganda Business and Technical Examinations Board (UBTEB), the statutory national assessment body for business, technical and vocational professions notes that, bringing all vocational schools under the body’s assessment is one way of ensuring quality.
“The public should know that some students are graduating from institutions that we do not assess.
Therefore, some of these students undergo training for just a few months and are awarded documents, whereas others forge their documents,” he says.
He explains that some of the assessment tools used for students in institutions under UBTEB assessment are real life projects.
“Here students do real life projects in their different fields. I do not believe that at the end of these projects, students can produce substandard work. I have a feeling that students producing substandard work are not graduates from institutions under our assessment,” Oyesigye says.
He concludes that amid these hiccups institutions assessed by UBTEB have in the past, and still are producing students with quality skills that have made them stand out in the job market. Some, he concludes have become trainers.