By Grace Amme and John Agaba
A lot has been said regarding Uganda’s Universities. Right from the quality of education to churning out of graduates ill prepared for the job market, the institutions have been criticized.
Kamanda Bataringaya, the state minister for primary education, punched more holes in the country’s higher institutions of learning when he said they were duplicating courses, all in the name of attracting students, but not necessarily adding the learners anything new — and relevant to Uganda’s needs.
The physician turned politician said many of the country’s 34 universities (six public, the rest private) were practicing the ‘vice’.
“You have universities offering Bachelors of Commerce (BCOM), Bachelors of Business Administration (BBA), and Bachelors of Logistics. But when you go deeper, you find they are offering the same thing, the same subjects. There is no difference between BCOM and BBA. Yet, this should not be the case,” Bataringaya said.
“We need programs that are relevant to the needs of society. If BCOM should be different from BBA, it should be different in terms of the content studied under each discipline, and this content should be selected basing on the market needs,” Bataringaya said.
This was during Mildmay Uganda’s 5th graduation ceremony at the health organization’s headquarters on Entebbe Road where a group of 51 HIV/Aids healthcare workers graduated with degrees ad diplomas in various fields of HIV care, counselling and testing and management.
Universities in Uganda have for some time coped a lot of stick, with many an expert accusing them of producing graduates not relevant to the job market and to the country’s development agenda.
As a result, the experts say, the universities churn out graduates who only succeed in walking their shoe soles off because they can’t find job placements after school.
A recent study by Action Aid International Uganda (AAIU) titled “Lost Opportunity?” indicates that 62% of Uganda’s youth are unemployed.
But, Bataringaya reasoned that focusing on disciplines that are tailored towards Uganda’s needs would come in handy to at least halve the ‘vicious circle category’ problem.
“The reason today we are emphasizing the skilling Uganda program,” Bataringaya said.
“Instead of going to university to study a Bachelors of Arts in Arts and you are not sure what job you are going to do after completing the course, we are advising you to go to a vocational institution and learn baking, tailoring, welding. These are services Ugandans are demanding.”
During the ceremony, graced by, mainly health professionals and the Centre’s directors, Edith Akankwasa, the director in charge training and education (at the centre) said their mode of training was unique and strictly leaned towards learners needs.
“Students identify a problem, communicate it to their lecturers and lecturers guide them on how to intervene,” Akankwasa said.
She said the organization, which is accredited by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) to offer the disciplines, was also planning on starting a two-year diploma program in laboratory technology, awaiting accreditation from NCHE.
The organization, which started in 1998 as a model centre for quality HIV care and treatment, has over the years grown and started offering disciplines especially those tailored towards improving quality in health care systems and management.
The centre is affiliated to the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom and the Mbarara University of Science and Technology.
Emmanuel Muwonge Mukisa, the Wakiso District Health Officer, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Health Systems Approach to HIV and Aids Care management, praised the program saying it was different and based on the students and community’s needs.
Bataringaya commended the model of health system implemented at the HIV care centre.
“I have moved around all the wards and the laboratories. All the doctors were there. All the nurses and clinical officers were there,” he said.
“But if you go to a public health facility. Where there is supposed to be four doctors, you will find one. Where there is supposed to be eight nurses, you will find two,” Bataringaya added.