Embracing skills oriented courses to curb unemployment

By Andrew Masinde

Over more than 40,000 young people graduate from Ugandan universities each year, yet the market can provide only 8,000 jobs annually.

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PIC: Graduates from the slums of Naguru quarters, Acholi quarters, and Luzira-Kirombe. A total of 54 girls graduated with certificates in tailoring. (Credit: Andrew Masinde)


KAMPALA - Uganda, like any other developing countries is currently faced with the burden of youth unemployment and underemployment.

Over 500,000 people are expected to enter the labour market every year, hence the number of new entrants into the labour force will be growing in the next few decades.

Currently, 66% of the unemployed are aged 24 and according to the African Development Bank, it could be as high as 83%.

It is estimated that more than 40,000 young people graduate from Ugandan universities each year, yet the market can provide only 8,000 jobs annually, pausing a serious challenge to the country.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says training institutions continue to produce graduates whose skills do not meet the market standards.

This mismatch makes it harder to tackle youth unemployment.

It is against this background that the deputy lord Mayor, Sarah Kanyike, tasked Ugandans; especially the youths to embrace courses that are skills oriented if they are to curb unemployment.

She explained that Uganda's education system gives a lot of theoretical knowledge which in most cases cannot be found in the job market.

She stressed that, very often, parents force their children to go for theoretical courses because they want them to have degrees in their homes with claims that vocational is for failures.

“These days people take pride in degrees, forgetting that the job world is interested in what you can do and not your qualifications,” she said.

Kanyike was presiding over a graduation at Youth Sport Uganda (YSU) is a sports for development organisation that uses the power of sport to give youth opportunities to learn life skills.

Over 54 girls from the slums of Naguru quarters, Acholi quarters, and Luzira-Kirombe graduated with certificates in tailoring.

Kanyike pointed out that most students today study to pass exams, forgetting that the market needs skills combined with the good performance.

She noted that parents and the youths should stop despising hands-on skills because it is the way to go.

Joshua Opolot, the executive director YSU, noted that youth and women are the most affected by the wrath of unemployment hence requiring urgent interventions.

He noted that many youths are struggling to go for jobs overseas only to find themselves forced into other wrong issues and all  this happens because youths have graduated but they lack jobs to create their own employment.

“If our youths were trained in hands-on, why would they be fighting to go and do petty jobs abroad where they are in most cases abused.

"All that government needs to do is to resort to practical training rather than theory,” Opolot said.

He also explained that due to the rampant unemployment, they decided to select women in slums; especially the school dropouts to train them in skills development.

Opolot notes that they train women to make crafts from local materials, tailoring, sports skills, education among others so that they can be able to create their own jobs.

Mary Awori, a resident of Giza Giza zone said she dropped out of school after losing her parents.

However, with a certificate in tailoring, she already has a job. “People laughed at me because I was doing a certificate, but many are now in senior two yet for me I am already working,” Awori says.

Salma Nagawa, a a single mother of six, says after her husband abandoning them, she decided to train in tailoring. Today she has a tailoring machine and she can afford to take care of her children.