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Time to emphasise vocational training among learners

For the last seven years, the government has been preaching vocational training.

The argument has been that not everyone could get a degree at university, and not everyone should aspire for it in the first place.

First on the scene were engineering experts such as Prof Eriab Lugujjo, who argued that the whole world did not survive off degrees alone, but also on the knowledge and skill of artisans.

He cited virtually illiterate boat makers, who manufactured boats that could float, even when they had never heard of the scientific laws of flotation.

Today, Lugujjo is a vice chancellor at Ndejje University, where he has an opportunity to train young people in vocational skills. Just as in the past, Lugujjo has to contend with detractors, who argue that there is no hope for those who fail to get past high school and end up at the university.

Those detractors argue that proponents of vocational education like Lugujjo are being selfish, especially since they opted for the more rewarding route into academia.

Engineering students learning about a car engine

Yet in reality, students need to be encouraged that in some instances, they are better off considering vocational studies, even if they amount to a certificate or a diploma.

With the practical skills obtained, many graduates of vocational training find that they are able to provide a valuable service to society, earlier than those who opt for a degree.

However, it appears that the real challenge is how to make the route through vocational education more attractive. The lower remuneration extended to graduates of vocational learning, relative to those with degrees, is a major pointer to discourage some from pursuing practical training.

The notion that degree holders are more competent and therefore, deserving of more pay than diploma holders is archaic and largely based on ignorance of their various competences. Some degree holders such as doctors deliver a better entry level service than diploma holders. But in other professionals, this is not always the case.

There is also the suggestion that some students are discouraged by the hands-on nature of the training, arguing that it makes the whole learning process much more difficult.

The recent insistence by some universities on practical internships ought to be emphasised even more, to give hope to those seeking a vocational education.


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