Since 1960, Uganda’s education sector has undergone several reforms geared towards making the system better. Like any other sector, education was seriously affected by the political turbulences between 1971 and 1986.
In 1989, government set up an Education Policy Review Commission to diagnose the state of the education service delivery in the country.
Later in 1992, a government white paper on education was formulated and five years later, the Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme was launched.
In 2007, the Universal Secondary Education (USE) was introduced and the Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) Act passed by Parliament in 2008.
As a result of all these efforts, the country’s literacy rate has improved from 43 percent in 1986 to 75 percent with nearly 90 percent of all parishes having a primary school, 80 per cent of which are government- aided.
Currently, the number of universities countrywide has increased to 53. These universities pass out more than 40,000 graduates every single year that compete for about 9,000 jobs existing on market.
It’s estimated that more than 70 percent of Uganda’s population are young people some of whom are well trained but with no jobs.
However, the challenge of unemployment among the young people cannot entirely be blamed on the government. The blame is shared among all past leaders whose visions didn’t study the market demands and kept producing graduates who are not employable or market driven.
Secondly, unemployment is a global challenge as many countries are still stuck with the colonial education system.
Uganda has found a partial solution through the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) which is supervised by the Ministry of Education and sports. In 2020, the Education ministry launched a new curriculum for lower secondary schools that emphasizes teaching students how to learn and not just reading to pass exams.
Students in Senior One and Senior Two will now have to do at least one mandatory pre-vocational elective subject examinable by DIT in Senior Three. If the student merits on assessment, they will be awarded a certificate in that particular vocational occupation.
This directorate has already developed several Assessment and Training Packages (ATP) which are being used by trainers and those who wish to present themselves for occupational assessment and certification.
A good number of Ugandans are involved in vocational occupations on Practically Acquired Skills (PAS) without formal training. These youth are most times despised by others as being ‘uneducated’ yet they make key contributions to the country’s economy.
These youth build for the city tycoons, curve wood logs to produce quality furniture, make glittering crafts for the tourists, hair style the great ladies, use their sewing machines to make suits and even repair our cars.
The government through the education ministry has embarked on the strategy to fully recognise such categories and award them certificates.
Important to note is that there are more than 70 vocational occupations under the new curriculum which among others include carpentry, building, electronics mechanics, biogas technicians, metal fabricators, hair dressers, instrumentalists, comedians, musicians, tailors, cartoonists, beauticians, sculptors, potters and visual painters.
This arrangement allows learners to acquire specific job skills as demanded by the market. It commendable having a DIT level one certificate than priding in a bachelor’s degree without employable skills.
This should not however demoralise those pursuing the formal education but it’s an alternative that can reduce the rate of unemployment among the youths in our country.
The writer is a senior communications manager of at the NRM secretariat