When Justin (not real name) completed senior six, her dream was to join the University to do a bachelor’s degree in human resource management. However, after getting her results, her dreams were shattered after her parents told her they could not afford to pay her tuition.
“They promised to pay for my tuition the following year since they had to first push my sibling who was completing senior six the following year,” she narrates.
Justin who now operates a saloon in Kitintale was advised to go for vocational studies as she waited to join the University.
“When I completed a hair dressing course, my parents got for me money that I used to start a small saloon. I have been earning and most of my friends who joined university are still unemployed. Some come to my saloon and I make money from them,” she notes.
Today she is paying tuition for herself and pursuing a diploma in cosmetology in one of the institutes in Kampala and has no regrets of not joining University. She has a dream of completing a degree.
“I think those who are waiting to go to universities to acquire degrees that won’t get them jobs immediately, should join the vocational world,” Justin advises.
Like Justin, many senior six leavers think their future is no more once they fail to join the university, they do not know that completing senior six and marching straight into university is not for everyone. For those looking to further their education or join the workforce, there are a number of paths to explore.
Racheal Aguti, a human resource officer, says that employers today are not only looking for that super qualification or how many degrees one has acquired, but the skills that someone has.
Aguti notes that as more industries and hands-on opportunities emerge, the majority of the people still want to go to the university where they do courses that will keep them unemployed for years.
She said if people look around themselves, they would realize a number of people mismanaging big investments as if they don’t have any qualifications.
“This is because they are doing hands-on jobs that don’t require spending a lot of money to acquire the skills. So if you fail to join the university, why not join vocational education,” Aguti advises.
Aguti who also does crafts as a side business says after failing to get a job immediately after university, she went to a vocational school in Jinja where she got skills to make crafts.
David Iga, the principal St. Peters Bukalagi Technical Institute says there are vast opportunities in the technical and vocational that can help someone get skills as they are earning.
Iga notes that technical institutes can admit students with qualifications right from primary seven and at all these levels you will spend less time and less money to achieve a qualification that will open doors for employment.
He adds that if you missed joining university because of lack of tuition, technical institutes can also offer you an avenue to further your studies as you are working.
Jane Nansubuga, a teacher at Mengo Senior School says being at the university premise physically is not the only option, she advises that you can opt for online courses which may offer opportunities that supplement your education. Through online, you can also gain new knowledge and expand your skills all from the comfort of your home.
“There are literally millions of courses available online. Depending on the course provider, and your course choice. You will be able to gain a diploma or certification upon completion. Most of these usually take less time to complete than degree courses and are much cheaper in the long run,” she advises.
Nansubuga also suggests that some students opt for an advanced apprenticeship programme where they will be getting training as they are working for the employer.
“As an apprentice, you will complete qualifications and develop skills through on-the-job training with a company,” she notes.
James Mugerwa - Assistant Commissioner, Vocational Education says not all senior six leavers fit in all universities, so those who have missed have other options such as vocational and technical institutes where they can join and attain an even more valuable qualification.
Mugerwa explains that vocational and technical courses are offered at a number of levels from very basic courses at certificate to diplomas and advanced diplomas, which are often equivalent in complexity to first-year university study.
“Most of these institutions admit students even with low entry requirements so they are suitable for just about anyone. They admit students who did not even finish high school or get the grades to start the university course,” he advises.
He highlights that vocational education has a variety of fields and can allow one to get a qualification in management and business, technical, information technology, tourism, retail, cosmetics, healthcare, and childcare, among others.
Mugerwa notes that government has set up a system which is capturing every candidate at any level, for those who have completed primary seven can join community polytechnic and technical schools, for O-levels, can go to technical institutes, farm institutes, clinical schools, after senior six, there are five centres of excellence in the form of technical colleges and all are spread all over the country.
“We have 146 vocational institutions all over the country. Our plan is to establish one vocational institution in every district,” he stressed.