One of the revelations that came with last week’s release of the Uganda Business and Technical Examinations’ Board (UBTEB) results for 2018 was that there has been a decline in the numbers of those who have been taking up enrolment in community polytechnics and later seating for polytechnic examinations. Community polytechnics admit Primary Seven leavers.
The executive secretary of UBTEB, Mr Onesmus Oyesigye, revealed that the number of people who sat for the exams in 2018 dropped to 4,254 down from 4,647 in 2017, with fewer candidates taking up business and secretarial education courses. Others which candidates are shunning include shoemaking, leather works and accountancy. This is sad.
One of the biggest challenges that vocational education has been faced with over the years is the way the public perceives it. Most people out there believe that it is designed to absorb those who are academically weak. It gets even worse when primary schools under the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme have been perennially posting poor grades in national examinations.
As Mr James Mugerwa, the commissioner in charge of Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) in the Ministry of Education and Sports, pointed out, there is need for government to embark on an aggressive campaign to sensitise the public to appreciate the very important role that vocational education can play in national development.
This assumes greater emergency given the fact that the economy is not generating so many jobs and youth unemployment has been growing. The economics’ website www.tradingeconomics.com says that the unemployment rate increased to 2.10 per cent in 2017 up from 2 per cent in 2016. Unemployment rate in Uganda averaged 2.38 per cent from 1991 until 2017. It reached an all-time high of 3.50 per cent in 2002 and a record low of 0.94 per cent in 1991.
One of the ways through which we can tackle this sad state of affairs is by placing more emphasis on vocational education as it helps the learners to immediately acquire skills and most times get immediately absorbed into the job market.
That emphasis becomes even more necessary if we are to achieve the BTVET goal of training Ugandans to participate in sustainable growth and poverty reduction and providing the economy with qualified and competitive workers. However, even as we work to popularise vocational education, we should be working to ensure that we address the shortage of tutors/trainers, inadequate teaching and training materials and lack of accommodation for both tutors/trainers and students.