By Anne Mugisa and John Agaba
The Ministry of Education needs sh200bn annually to implement the newly introduced ambitious government plan of skills education.
A sum of sh500m was budgeted for the activities of skilling reform task force which is overseeing the implementation of the new plan currently, according to the Director of Industrial Training in the Ministry of Education and Sports, Eng. Henry Okinyal. He added that in three years, the Task Force will give way to a Skills Development Authority.
He said that the World Bank has earmarked $75m for the skilling Uganda plan, but it is yet to decide on the areas to be funded. “We cannot put a figure to what the donors are going to give, but the World Bank has put a side $75m. A consultative meeting of stakeholders has already taken place. The decision now lies with the World Bank…,” Okinyal said.
He said that the problem of lack of skills in Uganda is very big and still growing. He said that there is need to develop skills in Uganda and set respectable standards that would be make Ugandans competent in the region.
According to Okinyal, about 390,000 youth enter the labour market yearly but only 130,000 of them get absorbed into formal employment leaving out the remaining sh260,000.
“This shows the magnitude of our problem,” Okinyal said about the problem of lack of skills in Uganda. He noted that the Ugandan population is growing at a fast rate of 3.3% with the national population standing at 33.6million people now.
Most of these are young people who make up a big chunk of the 13.4 labour force in the country. The labour force, he said, is expected to balloon to 14.5million in only two years and rise even further than that in the following years.
He explained that for example the youth aged between 18 and 30 years grew from 4.2million to 5.5million in 2009 and 2010 and the numbers are much higher now given the country’s population growth rates.
Eng. Okinyal was addressing journalists during a press briefing on the ongoing vocational qualifications framework level 11 competence based assessment. The assessment is taking place at the Lugogo Vocational training centre where vocational students in different disciplines are doing exams.
Those being assessed, include those doing carpentry and joinery, construction and bricklaying, metal works and fabrication, tailoring, painting, motor vehicle mechanics and motor vehicle electrical engineering, computer applications, domestic electricians, fitter mechanists and plumbers among others.
The new skilling Uganda programme started last year. Currently standards are being set for all skills fields. According to Okinyal, so far standards for 93 occupations have been set, though he did not name them. He explained that the Directorate together with experts sent the lowest as well as the highest required standards for a given occupation.
He said that they also set the assessment and training packages which also the trainees could use to gauge themselves sand aspire for more skills. “We want to ensure that our people can compete favourably in the East African community context,” Okinyal said.
He said that up to now skills education had been considered a dumping ground for those who could not be taken further up on the formal education ladder.
He also blamed the mentality of Ugandans which prefer formal education which runs from primary one to university level even when some of the courses may not have a ready market.
“But we are not interested in certificates or degrees. What matters is what can you do? The competence, can you perform at work?...,” Okinyal said.