A quick look at the list of accredited programmes on the Uganda National Council of Higher Education website shows that teaching undergraduate computer science and IT has become affordable in almost all institutions of higher learning in Uganda. At the same time, there are efforts to show ICT as a long-term national interest.
The private sector, including banks and other service sectors, are increasingly automating their processes. All these portray a demand for computer science graduates to sustain these developments. Surprisingly, however, a quick scan around the ICT sector shows very little evidence of local products and manpower playing technical roles in this transition.
Assuming we have a focused free job market to meet the demand, the first point should be a look into our university curriculum as a mirror of the desired computer graduate. Secondly, we should remove the market myths around computer-related jobs in the country. University computer curricula are designed and implemented with no evidence of observable group work practice by students.
Computer graduates must be able to turn basic needs of clients into concrete specifications that can be implemented. Communication skills must also be adequate to enable the graduate handle real user suggestions and complaints to manage system requirements within expected scope.
Core engineering technics in computer studies must be evident in the graduate’s day-to-day work. Their satisfaction level should be from system installation and usage, not just development. An even bigger industry challenge is that many of our universities reward their best students by offering them postgraduate opportunities to become academicians and professors in universities, thereby denying the industry these sharp brains.
When the new graduate joins the job market, the myth that it is almost impossible for a new graduate of computer science to fail to get a job is uncovered. The assumption that they will replace old employees because of their computer knowledge starts to fade. The job satisfaction level, autonomy, job security and responsibility tend to decrease because solution production units still follow rules by marketing and quality control units largely under managers that are of different training.
Therefore, with curricula challenges and market myths, universities must work even harder to produce computer graduates who are able to filter which problems to attack, contribute to discussions with decision makers, rich with domain knowledge and armed with systems engineering designs of workflow and service delivery processes.
Faculties should do more coaching than evaluating student work as seen in internships.
Hussein Sseggujja, Computer science researcher