Thursday March 13 2014

We need an education system that imparts life-changing skills

By Augustus Nuwagaba

I wish to congratulate all Ugandan parents for the continued sacrifice to pay fees of their children in various education and training institutions. I also thank students for the effort they put in their studies and their struggle to attain education and other relevant trainings. To mark their achievement, graduands usually don beautiful gowns and everyone would wish to be one of them.

Indeed, it feels good to attain training qualifications in various fields. However, the major question to ask is: What next after one graduates from a training institution? For a whole week at Makerere University, we celebrate, eat and drink but after that, what lies ahead for the graduands? There are two words I need every student and those who have graduated from various training institutions to understand: Achievement and success.

Achievement is eventful. It is an event that, for instance, one has studied hard and graduated. Huge parties are thrown and we usually attend the parties, give speeches, dance and make merry. This is absolutely in order because every achievement, whether big or small, should be celebrated. However, the next step that awaits those who complete their courses is what matters. This is where success comes in. Every person who completes any level of education and training must ensure that he or she understands the meaning of being a graduate of a training institution.

One must also recognise that where you come from, people, especially close relatives, will now require your help. Those who come from peasant households fully understand what I mean. You will be looked at as the sole salvation for your relatives. The younger siblings will be looking up to you as their source of livelihood. There is no way you will tell them that you are incapable of solving their problems - largely financial. What does this mean? It implies that you must find means of eking out your own living but more importantly, you must provide assistance for your wider family. In order to be successful, one must understand the following:

Do not undermine any job. What matters is money and even if you earn from small jobs, the money you earn will be legal tender, so get out and work for it.
Learn to live within your means. Many young people are suffering from ‘shifting the middle age crisis’. They crave expensive, flashy things that are not important for someone beginning life. It is, therefore, important to ask yourself whether it is worthwhile to buy flashy cars, rent expensive apartments, buy expensive gadgets, etc. Wisdom dictates that all these things are good but only if one can acquire them at an appropriate time. Imagine being evicted from the house you are renting because you have failed to pay rent, yet, you have a Mercedes Benz that you park in a private car park and you pay daily for such parking. These things do not add up.
Also, people need to evaluate how they can enhance their individual competitiveness. Some people graduate with degrees that are not competitive in the current private sector-led economy. If you are in this category, you can enhance your skills by undertaking further studies in lucrative courses such as project design and implementation, financial management, research methods and data analysis, monitoring and Evaluation, life skills development, career development and competitiveness, hence increasing your employability.

These courses are crucial as they inculcate skills that help individuals to conduct business and implement projects that enhance their earning capacity, therefore contributing significantly to Uganda’s economic growth.
All countries that have transformed their economies have followed this principle. I encourage students to adopt this approach.

Prof Nuwagaba is a development consultant.