Museveni said it was important to come to the field and see the work talked about and evaluate the progress made.
The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Janet Museveni, together with her colleagues; state ministers Dr JC Muyingo (higher education), Rosemary Seninde (primary education) and Denis Hamson Obua (sports), last Friday visited Bukalasa Agricultural College to assess the progress of activities under the Uganda Skills Development Project (USDP).
Located in Luwero district, the college was designated a centre of excellence for agricultural training under the World Bank-funded project.
The ministers were shown the ongoing civil works which include the construction of farm structures, new toilet blocks, renovation of lecture rooms and laboratories. Others are the construction of a new library and ICT laboratory as well as upgrading and refurbishing of the water system.
Meeting the institute's leadership, alongside the technical team from the ministry and the USDP co-ordination unit, Museveni said it was important to come to the field and see the work talked about and evaluate the progress made.
A release from her office stated that she was happy to visit the 100-year-old college that is committed to providing agricultural skills, adding that she expected the areas around the college to be thriving and prospering with lots of agricultural production, exhibiting the skills adopted from the institution.
She advised that the sizeable number of students at Bukalasa should be the critical mass of skilled personnel to transform the surrounding communities as they learn.
A centre of excellence must be excelling in its own community and passing on the value-addition skills to the community, which skills they need to save much of their produce, the minister added.
She made reference to the Mbarara University of Science and Technology students whom she said work a lot with the communities in the countryside and become skilled doctors before they qualify.
The minister added that if the training at Bukalasa is experiential and not just theoretical, people would be competing to train at the college and finances would not be a problem, because the students would willingly pay for the training.
Therefore, a centre of excellence should be showing its fruits in the neighbouring community.
The education minister pledged the ministry's support in addressing the challenges hindering the smooth running of the project, so that it does not suffer the consequences of failing to get the necessary number of trainers and required funding.
Muyingo pointed out the need for attitude change in the residents of the area so as to embrace what is being taught at Bukalasa.
"You need to improve the community services programme, interest the people in the programmes and market the college so that many more Ugandans benefit from the brains and skills at this institution," he urged.
Relatedly, Obua, tasked the project team with ensuring that they deliver all the components of the project within the scheduled time frame.
The principal of Bukalasa Agricultural College, Gelvan Kisolo Lule, said they have twinned with Dalhousie University of Canada, which has duly supported the development of the
competence-based training curricula.
They also advised on the infrastructure to be developed at the college and the three affiliated vocational training institutes and the workshop equipment to be procured. The staff has already benefitted from skilling in Canada and India.
Haji Abdu Nsubuga, the co-ordinator of USDP, said the project is aimed at enhancing the capacity of institutions to deliver high quality and demand driven training programmes.
Bukalasa is networking with three vocational training institutions such as Kaberamaido Technical Institute, Ssese Farm Institute and Rwentanga Farm Institute.
The key activities in the project include twinning with an international institution to support the training, upgrading infrastructure, purchase of assorted training workshop equipment and training of instructors.
The other institutes benefiting from the USDP are UTC Bushenyi (manufacturing), UTC Lira (road construction), and UTC Elgon (building construction).
Dr Jane Egau, the commissioner in charge of teacher/tutor, instructor education and training (TIET) described the project as part of the BTVET reforms as spelt out in the Skilling Uganda strategic plan.
She said all curricular at Bukalasa Agricultural College are expected to be competence-based and all the people are supposed to be hands on with internship as a compulsory part
of the training.
"We are generally promoting a new paradigm shift meaning that you cannot leave this institution without having something tangible results. It is a practical institution that we really hope will change the landscape of agricultural training in our country," she said.