By Ndinawe Byekwaso
Most people in Uganda talk about practical skills as well as entrepreneurship without understanding how a market economic system works to create employment and promote development.
Under a market economy, our society is largely monetanised.
Capital and most importantly the market for the goods and trained labour to produced, are crucial factors in employment creation.
Unfortunately, many Ugandans think in terms of only training the people to produce goods for consumption, without considering the above factors.
On one of the radio talk show, one caller asserted that if one has skills, he or she cannot fail to get what to do. The assertion made is not borne by empirical evidence. It is applied in a pre-capitalist society that is no longer in existence.
Although it may be argued that there are not enough technical colleges in Uganda, there are some that have existed for a long time, but are less popular than some secondary schools, which are accused of imparting theoretical knowledge.
The technical schools mainly attract students from poor families, who cannot afford school fees for secondary education or those who failed to qualify for admission to institution of higher learning.
Why are technical schools less attractive than secondary schools? Even at a higher level, why do students prefer university theoretical knowledge to practical knowledge from tertiary technical schools?
The education system which was inherited from colonialists, promotes a mind-set of hankering after white-collar jobs. Could the mind-set still be in existence if the trades from technical schools and colleges were gainful?
It seems the graduates from technical schools and colleges do not give a good experience from which other prospective students would draw a lesson.
Students from technical schools in rural areas, who trained in construction, carpentry and electrical wiring, fail to get employment within their community, until they migrate to towns in search for jobs.
Although it is claimed that technical schools and colleges equip their students with practical knowledge, their training is incomplete until they get hands-on experience.
For that matter the graduates from technical colleges are also job-seekers rather than job-creators.
Even if they could create jobs, they have to get experience.
Moreover, job-creation is not only a matter of acquiring skills. One has to have capital and market for the goods and services produced.
Currently, people from rural areas, who train in building from technical schools, rot in villages because they are few people who build permanent houses.
To make matters worse, the rich who build houses in rural areas go with experienced workers from the city.
To be successful entrepreneurs, they have to migrate to urban areas where there is stiff competition.
The competition is worsened by the liberal economic policy of the Government—Indian traders freely import furniture and out-compete local producers.
The problem of unemployment also exists in the developed countries; unemployment is common in most, if not all, capitalistic economies. For instance more than 25% of the youth in Spain are unemployed.
The education system of the developed countries is not different from ours, except that their technical education is market-oriented and their economies have many industries.
Without identifying the market needs, the graduates of the proposed free technical education are most likely to become job-seekers and consequently not solve the problem of unemployment in Uganda.
The state should establish industries using the available engineers and technicians, while investing in rural areas to create market for technical education graduates.
The writer is a university lecturer