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‘VOCATIONAL TRAINING THE ENGINE OF OUR ECONOMY’

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th October 2008 03:00 AM

THE closure of Uganda Martyrs’ Primary School in Ggaba, Kampala in 1997 was sad news to its teachers, pupils and other employees. Many teachers contemplated what their next step would be after losing their jobs.

THE closure of Uganda Martyrs’ Primary School in Ggaba, Kampala in 1997 was sad news to its teachers, pupils and other employees. Many teachers contemplated what their next step would be after losing their jobs.

HANDS-ON

IDENTIFY YOUR CHILDREN’S TALENTS TO ENABLE THEM GET THE RIGHT TRAINING. THIS WILL SAVES THEM THE BURDEN OF WALKING STREETS IN SEARCH OF EMPLOYMENT

By John Kasozi

THE closure of Uganda Martyrs’ Primary School in Ggaba, Kampala in 1997 was sad news to its teachers, pupils and other employees. Many teachers contemplated what their next step would be after losing their jobs.

To Grace Tukahebwa, a Grade Three teacher, the loss of her job was a shock, but at the same time a blessing in disguise.

Her job at the school was her only means of survival. She thought of looking for another school to teach, but the previous salary discouraged her from continuing with the profession.

“The remuneration I took home could not even push me half way through the month,” Tukahebwa says.

“At first, my brother employed me in his shop. Later, he asked me if I could take up a course in leather craft and shoe making. I accepted the offer because he was in the same industry and was earning some good money.”

In 2002, Tukahebwa joined Crane Shoes and Crafts Training and Common Facility Centre in Kampala’s Industrial Area. After the training, she applied to rent part of the facility.

“I did not have funds to buy machinery and tools. They are expensive,” she says.

Today, Tukahebwa does not have any regrets. She specialised in making belts, sandals, bags, keyholders and wallets.

“These products have quick returns, unlike the shoes. The materials for making shoes are expensive,” she says.

“Since the Government wants value-addition and women’s emancipation, it should consider helping us in this male-dominated sector. We need machinery to expand,” Tukahebwa says.

Innocent Rwabukye, another crafts and shoe-maker renting space at the centre, has no kind words for parents who discourage their children from doing vocational courses.

“Joining this industry was not accidental. I wanted to be a shoe-maker. As I grew up, I developed a chest problem and I could not do menial work. However, after realising that shoe-making required little energy, I went for it,” Rwabukye explains.

“Ever since I left school in 1989, I have never undermined vocational training. I am always busy and most times, my pockets are well-oiled,” he says.

Rwabukye adds that his six children have never slept on empty stomachs.

“I meet all my family needs and I have built a house.

“My first employment was in Mbarara. In 1994, I decided to go it alone until 1999, when the demand for locally-made shoes increased. Unfortunately, I did not have the machinery and tools to make them.

“In 2000, I joined Crane Shoes in Kampala to increase the quality and quantity of my products. The centre had machines and tools similar to what we used in school,” he adds.

Rwabukye says it took him six to 12 months to get re-acquainted with the machinery. Thereafter, he started producing products for sale.

“I am now an entrepreneur. I pay rent for using the centre’s machinery and space.

Although I was trained to make shoes, bags, wallets, belts, table mats and carpets, I have specialised in making sandals,” he explains.

He says self-employment is prestigious. “You have no time to waste.”

Rwabukye’s children are also following in his footsteps.

“I identify my children’s talents to ensure that they get the right vocational training. This saves them the burden of walking Kampala streets in search of employment,” Rwabukye says.

Three of his children took up nursing, catering and computer servicing and are all employed.

“If you do not plan with your children, you are leading them to a dungeon. The Government is the least employer and the remuneration cannot sustain its workers.”

He appeals to the Government to set up more vocational schools and give capital to young people to start their own jobs.

“Vocational training is the engine of our economy.”

Jovia Kamukama, a trainer at TCFC, says she joined the centre in 2001 for a course in making shoes and crafts. In 2005, she was taken on as a trainer.

Kamukama says since 2005, the centre has trained over 2,000 people. The unisex centre admits abled and disabled people, above 18 years, from Uganda and the neighbouring countries.

Companies also take their staff to the centre for training. Its training module includes skills on how to run a small-scale industry.

However, Tom Mukiibi, the administrative assistant, says, the centre is faced with many problems, especially high taxes.

“The taxes on raw materials should be reduced because this increases the price of our products.”

“Many students walk away after paying half the fees, while others default.”

The centre also lacks tools and machinery such as the scoring and stitching machines. The scoring machine, which costs sh1.5m, is used to make finishing or smoothening of shoes.

Mukiibi urges the Government to ban synthetic shoes and bags, especially those that are imported from China.

“They are below standard. Surprisingly, when the Chinese are leaving this country, they come here to buy assorted leather products.”

Funded by the Austrian Government, TCFC was established in 1997 by the Uganda Leather and Allied Industries Association, under the United Nation Industrial Development Organisation.

The Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry has supported the centre since 2000 by offering the premises where they operate.

The centre’s product profile is made up of leather uppers, stitch down footwear, leather goods and handcrafted leather products.

Its finished products are sold to Shoprite, Garden City, Banana Boat, National Theatre and other areas throughout the country.

‘VOCATIONAL TRAINING THE ENGINE OF OUR ECONOMY’

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