University course re-design could solve high unemployment rate

In 2016, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics revealed that 90 per cent of Ugandans under 25 years were unemployed and 58 per cent of total population unemployed. FILE PHOTO

According to National Planning Authority (NPA) statistics released in 2017, at least nine in every 10 Ugandans who have completed any form of education are unemployed.

Experts believe that despite having many sectors with huge employment potential, the big skills gap is partly responsible for the high unemployment rate in the country.
In 2013, while at centennial celebrations for Ibanda Kibubura Integrated Primary School in Ibanda Town, President Museveni criticised educationalists for promoting arts courses which he said are responsible for the high level of unemployment among university graduates.
This year while at Gulu University’s 15th graduation, the President warned public universities against wasting time and resources on what he called ‘meaningless courses’ and instead focus on sciences and research.

“The courses you are running here at the university, which problems of the society will you solve? If you answer this question carefully, you will appreciate the courses you are giving to learners here. Don’t train people just because we have a university, but they should be able to solve society problems,” the President said.

Transformative learning
In a bid to address the rising unemployment crisis, some institutions for example Gulu University have adopted transformative learning methods as a model of preparing students being implemented under project called Transforming Employability for Social Change in East Africa (TESCEA)

The four-year project is being implemented by International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications in four partner universities with the aim of improving learning experiences for as many as 3,000 graduates by 2022.

Course redesign
The initiative looks at re-designing courses to suit societal challenges and scale up development in the country.
Education expert based at Aga Khan University, Kenya Edward Misava Omabajo says graduates’ unemployment crisis has persisted because most universities have failed to cope with rising pace in skills development required in the competitive job market.
“Our higher education is really suffering in terms of faculty development, teaching and learning and that is why it is important to re-design courses that will enhance skills in terms of faculty understanding,” Omabajo says.
He notes that many universities don’t have a link to the job market and do not even know what skills are expected of graduates.

Teaching model
Gulu University Vice Chancellor Prof George Openjuru Ladaah says the model of teaching in Uganda is partly to be blamed for the increasing graduates’ unemployment.

“The economy is expanding at five per cent but we the education sectors are expanding at 15 per cent and worst of it all the kind of graduates we are sending out can’t expand the economy to solve its problems,” Mr Openjuru says.

TESCEA project coordinator Gloria Lamara who also double as Head of Department Education Management Gulu University says the course redesign at the university could offer a solution to the crisis
“Many graduates in East Africa have been ill-prepared to address the challenges they encounter in the workplace or leverage their skills and ideas to meet social needs. One of the key factors contributing to this is the lack of focus on critical thinking and problem solving within university teaching and learning,” Lamara notes.
She adds that “Students need to learn “how to think”, instead of “what to think”.

According to Higher Education consultant Dr Mary Omingo, many lecturers lack teaching skills arguing that they are teaching the way they were taught.
“A course redesign enables the lecturer to conceptualise the content in concept map and they come out with learning outcomes that pre-assess what the students should be able to learn and become after the course and this in our current courses is lacking,”
She adds that assessment of learners should be both formative and summative to assess the readiness for employment

“When we change the way we teach from the University then chances are high that we shall have more job creators than job seekers besides meeting the demand of the different employers,” she asserts
In 2016, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) revealed that 90 per cent of Ugandans under 25 years of age were unemployed and 58 per cent of total population unemployed. Whereas it had dropped from 5.9 per cent in 2010 to 2.7 per cent in 2013 and 2014, it rose to 2.71 per cent in 2015, 2.82 in 2016 and 2.91 per cent in 2017

In the run up to the 2011 General Election, President Museveni came up with a comprehensive job creation strategy for implementation in the period between 2011 and 2015 if it was handed another mandate to manage matters of State.

The aim of the strategy was routed for “Peace, Unity and Transformation for Prosperity” manifesto, which the president released in October 2010, was to ensure that “all Ugandans are gainfully employed”.

This was meant to be achieved by way of implementing a 10-action point plan, which specifically targeted the youth, who the party claimed were at the centre of its thinking, policy formulation and programmes. Among the specific activities that government listed for action was the signing of a pact with Enterprise Uganda to provide skills training in the area of business.

Other youth-centered activities planned for implementation included, among others, attraction of more investors, creation and opening of business parks in various parts of the country and opening up a youth enterprise start-up fund.