By Eronie Kamukama
For most students who complete secondary school both at O’ and A’ level, their dream is to go to senior five or university respectively. In this day and age, it might take a lot of courage to decide that they should enroll in a technical, business or vocational institute or also known as BTVET institutions.
Girls learning how to braid hair in a vocational school
This was the case with Princess Namayanja who did not get the chance to enroll in one of the prominent universities in Uganda. Her dream was to do a bachelor’s degree in education and Gulu University offered that opportunity.
Unfortunately, during her senior six vacation, she became pregnant and this news was not well received by her guardian. She could not go to Gulu while pregnant because it was far away from her home in Kampala. Her guardian who she refers to as Aunt Julie asked her to wait and give birth.
After giving birth, her discontented Aunt changed her mind and decided to take her back to school. However, she allowed her to go to YMCA Comprehensive Institute although it took her some time to accept that.
She says, “I spent time pondering over this but because I was torn between studying at YMCA and staying at home, I finally gave in.”
In 2013, she was offered a diploma in Cosmetology. Two years later, a very happy Namayanja does not regret ever making that decision because she has gained many skills.
Despite the benefits of enrolling in these schools which have painted a brighter future for hundreds of Ugandans, the quality and recognition of these institutions continues to dwindle. One would wonder why these schools have failed to pick up.
Why vocational education is not progressing
According to a report published in 2012 by Engineer Henry Francis Okinyal, the Director Industrial Training at the Ministry of Education and Sports, these institutions continue to struggle financially.
By 2012, there were approximately 806 private institutes while 11,100 students were enrolled in 128 public Business , Technical and Vocational Educational and Training institutions.
Students learning tailoring in a vocational school
The BTVET subsector receives the lowest budget in the education sector budget. This makes it hard for trainers to provide, modernize training facilities and improve skills attainment. Worse still, they continue to grapple with poor infrastructure, low enrollment in certain schools, poor quality graduates and low quality trainers.
Viola Naluwooza, a proprietor of Lady Valeria Vocational and Business College confirms this.
Most of us whose schools are purely private struggle financially. We do not get any funding from the government and all our expenses depend on how much tuition students pay. This means that I spend a lot of money on raw materials used by students and more so, I have to enroll small numbers of students. This would be better if I had more funding.
She identifies a negative attitude towards schools as another major challenge. She says both parents and students do not want to consider these schools because they think they are for students who have failed.
Naluwooza affirms that the limited number of teachers hinders progress in this subsector.
Youths get training in mechanics
She says, “For a school of 600-700 students, it is difficult to find trained instructors who are willing to teach courses like tailoring or phone repair. Some of them have limited skills while others are simply target workers whose focus is on the money not the job.”
What parents think
Charles Barigye, a parent from Wakiso district says the degree syndrome has affected this sub-sector.
“Most youths and parents ignore these institutions because they associate status with having a degree. There are very many universities today that provide attractive courses to most of our youths. The downside is that some of these courses do not provide ready jobs on the market which is why we have many unemployed graduates,” he says.
Barigye advises everyone to appreciate these schools because they offer skills ready for the job market and it is easier to create your own employment. We need more job creator than seekers.”