By Innocent Anguyo and Conan Businge
The government is set to offer at least 600 scholarships in Oil and Gas courses for students from the Albertine region, using funds acquired from the World Bank.
The Albertine Graben in the Western part of Uganda consists of the nine districts of Hoima, Masindi, Buliisa, Fort Portal, Kasese, Bundibujo, Kanungu, Nebbi and Amuru.
Speaking to New Vision in an interview, Education Minister Jessica Alupo said government had obtained a loan of $28m (approximately sh72b) from the World Bank, part of which would be used to bankroll the scholarships.
“These scholarships are ring-fenced for students from the Albertine region so that they can start reaping the benefits of oil and gas as the host communities,” said Alupo. The scholarships will be offered starting in the next academic year.
Alupo noted that the scholarships would help the host communities to develop the capacity to meet the skills demands of oil and gas production.
The courses will be taken at Uganda Technical College, Kicwamba and Uganda Petroleum Institute, Kigumba (UPIK).
The scholarships will be at the levels of certificate, diploma and degree. Alupo said UPIK will soon introduce degree courses for oil and gas.
Students will apply for the scholarships once the ministry of education makes an announcement in the media.
The scholarship covers tuition fees, accommodation, feeding and living stipend. O’ level and A’ level leavers will benefit from the scheme.
The scholarships come at a time when people remain pessimistic about the readiness of the Albertine region to meet the skills needs of oil production.
Ronald Kwesiga, a senior six student from Masindi district commended government for introducing the scholarship, saying as much as their region is the source of oil; they do not have the necessary skills to occupy jobs in the industry.
“I wanted to work for an oil company but they said they wanted skilled people. I will apply for this scholarship so that I can later work in the oil industry,” said Kwesiga.
Ernest Kiiza Monday Apuuli, the Bunyoro Minister welcomed the scholarship scheme, saying it had come at a time when the host communities needed to prepare for the countless jobs that will be created by oil production.
“These scholarships will help the host communities to build the much needed capacity to work in the oil industry,” explained Kiiza. Currently, a good number of technical positions in the oil and gas exploration region are occupied by expatriates and people who don’t hail from the host communities.
Using the World Bank loan, a new technical school for training oil and gas personnel will also be built in Nwoya district, to increase intake for oil and gas courses. Construction of the facility will kick-off in the next financial year.
The same money will be used to upgrade the facilities of the three Oil and Gas technical institutions to meet international standards. Government, Alupo noted was in advanced stages of procuring international accreditation for the three institutions.
“Very soon we will invite international oil and gas institutions to collaborate with our institutes. This way, our students can acquire training of global standards,” said Alupo.
Commercial oil production is expected to begin in 2016 at the earliest.
Uganda first discovered crude deposits in the Albertine rift basin along its border with Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006 and reserves are estimated by the government at 3.5 billion barrels.
However, reserves could grow in coming years because about 60% of the Albertine graben, which measures about 23,000 square kilometres, remains unlicensed, according to the energy ministry's petroleum exploration and production department.
Uganda plans to start with a refinery with capacity of 30,000 barrels per day (bpd), gradually rising to 60,000 bpd. The country initially wanted a plant that could process 120,000 bpd but oil firms argued that would not be commercially viable.
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