Is technical and vocational education the optimal path?

Charles Owuor

What you need to know:

The time has come for Uganda to reconsider its educational paradigm and recognize the immense potential of TVET.

I was deeply intrigued by Dr. Muniini Mulera’ s article of September 12 titled, “The Miseducation of Muniini.” It resonates closely with the experiences many face each passing day. It is now high time to reassess our education system and reflect on the quality of education sector outputs emerging from our rapidly expanding universities. Have we given enough thought to the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) pathway for inclusive human capital development?

Uganda takes pride in hosting the world’s youngest population, but if not guided wisely, this demographic could pose inherent risks to national stability, economic viability, and human development. TVET has the potential to substantially increase local production of goods and services, promote self-reliance, reduce crime rates, eradicate poverty, boost exports, stem capital flight, generate ample employment opportunities, raise living standards, mitigate inflation rates, attract more job providers, advocate sustainable development, and catalyze industrial and manufacturing activities within the nation.

When integrated into the educational system, TVET exposes learners at the foundational level to a diverse array of practical activities in vocational fields. This exposure not only acquaints them with vocational subjects but also ignites their interests, providing equal opportunities to choose future careers in either vocational-technical or general fields.  However, a lingering question remains: Are our universities appropriately aligned with this evolving reality? To enhance TVET, several key steps must be taken:

Combat negative stereotyping biases against individuals with TVET qualifications. There is a need to popularise the benefits of TVET training. Additionally, a comprehensive policy framework should be implemented to actively combat discrimination against TVET graduates in the labour market and promote their equal standing in society. The TVET has long been relegated to an inferior position compared to academic education in Uganda.

To rectify this situation the government should prioritize an extensive awareness campaign highlighting the pivotal role of TVET in national development. Furthermore, the remuneration and benefits for TVET professionals should be significantly improved to attract qualified individuals.

Insufficient funding for tertiary and post-secondary education has been a significant challenge. This issue has been further exacerbated by mismanagement, neglect, and the “universitising” strategy that converted some traditional TVET institutions into satellite university campuses with no alternative.

Government must allocate substantial and sustainable funding to support TVET to enhance infrastructure, curriculum development, and the overall quality of TVET programs.  Currently, there is a lack of coordination and consistency between government-owned and private TVET institutions, particularly in terms of curricula and the quality of graduates.

The creation of DIT is a positive step, but it must be enforced to ensure harmonisation and the development of flexible curricula that can adapt to the varying characteristics and abilities of trainees. Moreover, a framework should be established to encourage collaboration and knowledge sharing among TVET stakeholders and universities, fostering a unified approach to TVET education.

Inadequate facilities and deteriorating school infrastructure have hindered the effective delivery of TVET subjects. To promote productivity and enhance the learning process strategically, we must invest in and provide well-equipped, modern, and conducive learning environments that address and meet the demands of high-tech and AI-influenced development.

Continuous training and retraining of TVET staff are equally essential for professional development and productivity.  We must keep teachers updated on new teaching strategies and relevant issues, prioritize the recruitment of qualified personnel and organize regular seminars and workshops.

The time has come for Uganda to reconsider its educational paradigm and recognize the immense potential of TVET. By strategically addressing the challenges and opportunities in this sector, we can pave the way for a brighter future, empower our youth, and contribute to the overall development of our nation. It is a journey that requires the collective effort of policymakers, educators, and the wider society.

Charles Owuor