Give students life skills, say experts

The executive director of Uwezo Uganda, Dr Mary Goretti Nakabugo (left), and other members of the civil society address the Media in Kampala on May 31, 2022. PHOTO/FRANK BAGUMA

What you need to know:

  • A 2014 study revealed that 63 percent of university graduates in Uganda lacked skills.

Education experts from East Africa have called for an education system that can holistically assess both the learners’ class room acquired knowledge as well as life skills and values competence.

While addressing the media at Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education in Luzira yesterday, the executive director of Uwezo Uganda, Dr Mary Goretti Nakabugo, said life skills and values such as problem solving, collaboration, self-awareness and respect are key in nurturing competent professionals.

“Our education has primarily focused on academic subjects at the expense of holistic growth and development. Academic transcripts or certificates can take you to an interview table and you can get a job, but what will keep you on that job and grow you are the life skills,” Dr Nakabugo said. 

“Employers will always need somebody who is able to work well with others, what we call collaboration. Even when you are going to be self-employed, you need these skills to manage clients,” she added.

Dr Nakabugo revealed that a regional study that was conducted in 2014 showed that 63 percent of university graduates in Uganda lacked the skills needed for employment. A similar study found that about 61 percent of graduates in Tanzania and 51 percent in Kenya lacked the same skills.

She, however, said more than 20 Civil Society Organisations under the umbrella body of the Regional Education Learning Initiative embarked on assessment of life skills and values in East Africa. 

The five year project started in 2020 and focuses on measuring competences and methods that would be used by teachers and parents to nurture students.   

“In 2019, Uganda started implementing a new lower secondary school competence based-curriculum that aims at providing skills such as critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration. But many teachers and parents are not understanding the worth of these competences and there is hardly any evidence on whether our children are acquiring them,”  Dr Nakabugo said.

The executive director of Zizi Afrique Foundation in Tanzania, Dr John Mugo, said: “If we have committed to develop these competences in our children, we must be able to assess them. How else shall we know if we are achieving?”

The head of programmes at Milele Zanzibar Foundation, who doubles as the lead of assessment and of Life Skills and Values in East Africa, Ms Shariff  Khadija, said assessment of life skills should be done from childhood. 

Mr Wilber Wanyama, the principal education officer for pre-primary and primary teacher education and development at the Ministry of Education, said the promotion of life skills is till low.

“Much as these skills are on the curriculum, teachers seem not to have taken them seriously,” he said. 

He said the ministry was developing a policy for holistic assessment. 


A regional study was done in 15 districts in East Africa to listen to how adolescents, their parents and teachers understand competences such as problem solving, collaboration, self-awareness and respect.

The findings have been used to develop tools to assess the competences of close to 40, 000 adolescents aged between 13 and 17 at household level in Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

A large scale assessment that has already been done in Kenya will be extended to Tanzania in July and Uganda during the August holidays. Dr Nakabugo said findings of the assessment will be used to engage policy makers on national curriculum development.