By John Agaba
Ugandan higher institutions of learning rank fourth in the region as far as passing out graduates who are ready for the job market is concerned.
A new report into the educational gaps paralyzing higher education in the East African region shows that Uganda, for decades considered a favoured destination by many EA nationals wishing to better their academics for the quality education the higher institutions of learning in the country offered, now ranks fourth, as regards churning out graduates who are well prepared for the job market is concerned.
Many of the graduates, universities and other tertiary institutions in Uganda pass out, according to the report, are not well prepared for the job market. They do not have the practical hands on skills to enable them adapt easily in the work world, the report says.
A work by the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA), the report shows that of the total employers interviewed in Uganda, only 37% were satisfied with Ugandan graduates. The rest 63% faulted the graduates, saying the employees they had hired for the past one year hadn’t been adequately prepared by their pre-hire institutions.
However, 82% of the higher institutions interviewed maintained that they had adequately prepared the graduates for the job market.
According to the report, conducted from December 2012 to January 2014, Kenyan institutions rank first. They produce more graduates who have practical hands on skills necessary for easy adaptability at work. Forty nine percent of the respondents (Kenyan employers) said the employees they had hired the previous year, had the necessary hands on skills to work.
“They didn’t need after-hire training to do what was expected of them,” one of the respondents is quoted in the report. Rwandan institutions rank second. Tanzanian third. After Uganda, it is Burundi institutions that come last.
Prof. Eli Katunguka, the Kyambogo University Ag. Vice Chancellor said many universities and other institutions of higher learning in the country were unable to produce ready-for-the-market graduates because of the poor money allocations given to them.
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“Many subjects have a very big practical component, and practical teaching is very expensive. But how much funding do our universities receive to support practical education? There is no funding,” Katunguka said.
“To produce a good veterinary doctor, for example, a person should have worked with animals for more than 50% of their time at university.
The University should buy the animals, and the student should be taken to the field on a daily basis. But what do we have? Veterinary doctors who have never seen an animal deliver. It is very sad to think that you produce a veterinary doctor when he has never touched an animal,” Katunguka said.
The report, presented on Tuesday during the IUCEA stakeholders meeting at the Entebbe Protea Hotel, also shows that Uganda trails Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi in terms of higher education infrastructure and student enrolment.
It shows that while Uganda has only 47 institutions of higher learning (universities and other degree awarding institutions); Tanzania has 142, Kenya 104, and Burundi 52. The same applies to student enrolment. The report shows that the total number of students in Uganda higher institutions of learning stands at 147,786, while that in Kenya institutions stands at 279,501. Tanzania has a total enrolment of 182,359 students in its higher institutions of learning.
Mary Acan, a master’s student, blamed the report’s findings on commercialization of education. “You find one lecturer teaching in six universities. Where does he get the time? Instead of investing in research, they spend all their time marking students’ scripts,” Acan said.
“We hardly have any graduates that can be readily employable. But this does not mean that they cannot adjust to the job market if the employer takes them through what is required of them,” Prof. John Asibo said. He said that the private sector or the employer in this case too has a role to play to furnish the new-from-university-employee with those additional hands on skills the university might not have taught them to enable them adapt.
“The problem is thinking that every higher institution of learning can be a university. There are institutions that should be training middle level graduates, such as artisans, welders, people who can repair cars. But we all want to produce engineers, engineers who cannot repair anything because they are only taught the science of how an engine operates, not how to repair it,” Katunguka said.
Prof. Eriabu Lugujjo, the Nkumba University Vice Chancellor and chairman Industrial Training Council said “we need to identify programs relevant to our social economic development and prioritize them. If they require much funding, we provide it.”
Only 37% employers satisfied with Uganda’s graduates