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Vocational education needs rebranding

The state minister for Higher Education, Dr John Muyingo (C) releases results for the 2019 Uganda Vocational Qualification (UVQ) full occupational and modular assessment. He is flanked by the director Industrial Training Council (Left) Dr Joseph Muvawala, DIT acting director Patrick Byakatonda and other ministry officials

The state minister for Higher Education, Dr John Muyingo (C) releases results for the 2019 Uganda Vocational Qualification (UVQ) full occupational and modular assessment. He is flanked by the director Industrial Training Council (Left) Dr Joseph Muvawala, DIT acting director Patrick Byakatonda and other ministry officials

As the skills development agenda gains momentum, the education ministry has tasked the Directorate of Industrial Training (DIT) to find better strategies of marketing Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programmes in order to combat the increasing unemployment levels, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI. 

TVET programmes are still widely perceived as a preserve for dropouts or under-performing students. The state minister for Higher Education, Dr John Muyingo, wants the narrative to change because of the role technical and vocational skills play in reducing unemployment among youths.

Muyingo said the DIT needs to explore more avenues for encouraging Ugandans to embrace skills assessment and certification in order to fit in the highly-competitive job market.

“The jobs are there but the youths have not yet appreciated the skilling agenda. We have got to find ways of marketing and rebranding TVET because this is the way to go if you are to get out of poverty. After senior six, everyone is thinking about joining the university, and not sure what exactly to do,” Muyingo said.

He added: “Ugandans, especially the youth, need to utilize the available skilling opportunities put in place by government to acquire relevant skills that suit today’s dynamic world. Youths will be very dangerous if unemployed and unskilled.”

Muyingo was speaking at the recent release of the Uganda Vocational Qualification (UVQ) full occupational and modular assessment results for October to December 2019. The competence-based results cut across economic sectors of agriculture, construction, manufacturing, hospitality and tourism.

The acting director of DIT, Patrick Byakatonda, presented at least 62,772 candidates that registered for assessment from 1,089 centers in 75 occupations compared to 45,957 candidates from 1,006 centers in 61 occupations in 2018.

This represented an increase of 36.6 per cent in the number of registered candidates. Of the registered candidates, 43,473 (69.3 per cent) were female and 19,299 (30.7 per cent) male candidates.

Under full occupational assessment, 9,992 candidates were successful, 202 were referred, and 724 failed while 602 were absent. DIT noted a reduction of 5.7 per cent in the 2019 performance. Out of the 48,053 candidates assessed under modular assessment, 47,414 candidates were successful, 639 unsuccessful, and 3,199 candidates were absent.

DIT coordination reports revealed most absent candidates completed their training and joined the world of work without attaching importance to assessment.

Byakatonda revealed that this was the first time to assess a school where a head teacher, teachers and learners are part of the same assessment.

At Mbarara Municipal School, all candidates were assessed under the modular category in occupations including tailor, knitter, art and design, baker, soap maker, and computer applications. DIT results indicate that at least 710 candidates passed, two were unsuccessful, and 17 missed the assessment.

Speaking to The Observer, Mbarara Municipal School head teacher Martin Kananura said at least 200 teaching and non-teaching staff were part of the 2019 assessment.

“During my training as a teacher, a school is supposed to train a pupil in three areas; the head, heart and hands. Many schools have neglected the hands aspect yet, in real sense, a learner must be trained wholly,” Kananura, who excelled in Baking with A+, said.

“I chose baking because one must eat daily or earn a living from the skill. My fellow candidates should know that no one cheated for me because the assessment was hands-on.” A candidate was deemed successful if he or she scored 65 per cent and above.  

EXPENSIVE VENTURE

Under modular assessment, DIT charges Shs 70,000 to assess a single module. While all schools under Universal Primary Education (UPE) like Mbarara Municipal School assessment costs are catered for by government, schools use own funds to provide materials for candidates. This, Kananura said, has forced many UPE schools to be laid back on skills assessment.

“If a head teacher is not innovative, you won’t find such arrangements in their school because honestly, it’s an expensive venture though with good returns for students and staff once assessed,” Kananura said.

At Mbarara, the school spent up to Shs 50m on candidates’ materials and trainers to prepare learners for assessment. Meanwhile, the principal qualifications officer at DIT, Johnson Turyamwesimira, explained that promoting TVET is still “tricky” since vocational subjects are still optional subjects in secondary schools and not examined by the Uganda National Examinations Board (Uneb) at primary level. This has forced many schools and parents not to enroll their learners for skills assessment.

“When learners join P3 to P6, a few schools spare time for vocational training yet children need to appreciate skills development as early as primary level. After P7, learners scatter to various secondary schools and one may continue with advancement of their skills at purely individual level,” Kananura said. 

As education institutions remain closed, Byakatonda urged parents to engage children in home skilling as a measure of exposing them to vocational skills.

“When the lockdown is fully lifted, interested parents can approach us and we assess the various skills attained by their children during the lockdown. You may not see the benefit of the acquired skill now, but it will be pivotal in future or in their daily life,” Byakatonda said. 

nangonzi@observer.ug

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