When government started Katonga Technical Institute at Nindye Village in Nkozi Sub County, Mpigi District in 2011, it was an opportunity for the then 66-year-old Gerald Kijjambu to acquire skills that would help him upgrade the quality of his tailoring work.
Three years later, he enrolled for a tailoring course at the institute and on Friday, the now 75-year-old Kijjambu, was among the 503 graduands who were awarded certificates in both technical and vocational training including tailoring, plumbing, bricklaying, mechanics and other courses. Other elderly graduands included; Victoria Ntabanzi Lubwama, 61, and Francis Ndugga, 52.
“I could not let this chance go without utilizing it despite my age,” Mr Kijjambu clad in a graduation gown told Daily Monitor.
From a village tailor, Kijjambu has since become a professional who receives orders (tenders) to make uniforms for various schools within the surrounding Sub Counties of Nkozi, Kammengo and Buwama.
“With the professional skills I acquired, I got more orders from various institutions, which gave me a busier schedule, but I employed some young people that would help me deliver the work in time,” he explained.
Hajjat Safina Musenne, the Commissioner for Business Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET) at the Ministry of Education officiated at the ceremony on behalf of State Minister for Higher Education, Mr John Chrysostom Muyingo.
“I am pleased to note that this institution has reached this level of passing out students with commendable grades despite the challenges it has been going through,” Hajjat Safina said.
In his statement, Mr Muyingo said institutions like Katonga Technical Institute are intended to impart skills and competences in the labour market instead of offering education certificates.
“We are looking at that training which caters for all Ugandans and not targeting only school leavers,” he said.
Hajjat Musenne in her remarks commended Mr Kijjambu for confirming government’s strategic plan that looks at skills’ development and acquisition for everyone regardless of age, sex or even level of education.
“As long as you see the need for training, we invite you to come forward and we train you at various levels. Therefore, I would like to thank Mr Kijjambu for walking the talk for us,” she said.
The commissioner was however dismayed by the fact that majority of the graduates were not coming from Mpigi, but from other parts of the country like West Nile.
“Those people have institutions in their areas and the community here should utilize the opportunity they have in this institute,” Hajjat Safina said.
Of all the 503 students who graduated, only 18.3 per cent were females. Katonga Technical Institute was established in 2011 as a presidential pledge to make it act as a monument for the 1986 National Resistance Army guerrilla war heroes.