Evans Kaganizo Mutesasira
Uganda Liberal Teachers’ Union – UGANDA
Uganda Liberal Teachers’ Union, is a highly professionalized and trained by way of leadership, teachers’ Union in Uganda, is rolling out a National Programme Under the Concept; “Vocationalization of Education the Answer to Universalization of Education in Uganda.”
In Uganda, we have a high rate of school dropout, especially at the completion levels of the various education cycles, at primary (P.7) at O’ level, S.4, and the rate gets even higher as one progresses to “A” level completion, and University entrance.
Several factors contribute to these glaring levels of school dropout; ranging from cultural factors, school environment (teacher/ learner relations), to the high education costs, but most importantly the factor of education relevancy, (as in the relationship that exists between formal education and direct solutions to socio-economic needs of the learners and society, especially on job creation; to eliminate unemployment and general poverty in society.
Several attempts have been made by government and other education stakeholders to ensure education is practical and relevant to the learners’ and community needs; this is especially through the various education skilling programmes in formal education structure through various curriculum reforms and in setting up education institutions exclusively targeting skilling of young Ugandans in several practical skills; to ensure job creation and improved livelihoods of the entire Ugandan Society.
This further guarantees job creation; an important ingredient in the goals of education; as it reduces unemployment and leads to wealth creation; for improved and happier lives of the entire population.
The above efforts notwithstanding, as a union of education professionals, we still greatly feel a little bit much more needs to be done to ensure full realization of practical education through all round vocationalization of education. We are very cognizant of the fact that in our Ugandan- developing world, education is no longer a means to groom white colar – job graduates, but rather to bring about fully developed persons with the appropriate attitudes and skills to ensure productive and decent work in society. On the above maxim, we inhere present this concept for consideration to ensure education is relevant, practical and productive, to ensure full access to all children, retention; and education graduates that relate to the needs of society in an all-around life setting.
We are fully convinced; such a situation can be achieved through full Vocationalization of education.
Whereas we , like any education loving Ugandan, feel the best way to have a meaningful education is through universal vocationalization, there are several factors at play that greatly impede this realization; and can be discussed as follows:
1. Top on the agenda of such factors, is the historical factor. Since education (formal) in Uganda was introduced through the colonial factor, needs of education were equally set on the colonial education needs at the time.
Education was set to promote literacy and numeracy, with a purpose of getting some elite to help in colonial administration; and not to bring about a productive population (at the time, productive work was crudely informal);
Education was thus based on more of theoretical, and abstract ideas. This has been inherited by the post-colonial trainers in education, and little is in place to change this factor.
2. Another key limitation to full vocationalization of education is the cost factor.
Other than the use of “hand” and “mouth” as key capital to bring about education /learning in most of our Ugandan schools/institutions, little has been done to consider a host of the various necessary education/ study materials, other that text books, and chalk; This is more so in the lower levels of our education system. There is a bigger excuse that when you universally vocationalize, there is obviously no training materials to cater for this, with the swelling numbers of children in schools, especially at primary and secondary levels. This great scare needs to be looked into, on a very serious note, and indeed it’s a great limitation to true vocationalization of education in Uganda.
3. Another key limitation in this, is the job market in Uganda itself. The greatest percentage of job requirement, especially in the formal sector, is a certificate, not the skills one has. Since grades on the certificates project the attainment in the theoretical training one has gone through, it is no wonder that going vocational remain challenged – since skills and attitudes are seldomly looked for in our job market.
Since over 90% of teachers have gone through the same theoretical education system, and training at professional level has been equally so, it becomes quite cumbersome to get trained cadres to popularize this vocational education, where practical skills and attitudes can be given precedence. We have a whole bulk of semi-illiterate trainers/teachers whom even mere basic computer- appliance-skills is mystery.
1. Mere attitude towards vocational education in Uganda is yet another great limitation to full vocationalization of education.
Many of our young people who join schools are inculcated with the feeling, thinking that education is only aimed at changing ones social class, just to climb the ladders of being a great important person in society. This is coupled with the thinking that “when you are educated, then you seaze to be a worker at least in practical terms.
That once you are educated, you join the “nobility” of society – who must get all work done for them.
You will find that there now less parents in Uganda who are ready to come to terms, “that when their children go to school actually to work”, (in the teaching learning process).
Even our government and other policy makers fear to come out boldly to popularize such a philosophy since their children go to theory based academic schools – so called 1st class.
2. The political factor can’t be ruled out in all this.
There has been lack of deliberate political will to popularize vocationalizaton of education. There is a great scare on the side of politicians to come out boldly and popularize this policy; for fear of loss of political support in our weak democracies; where voters decide not on facts/issues than mere subjective thinking.
This also involves limited indulgence into the provision for the necessary structural setup in our education institutions to ensure such training goes on in all our public schools, later on ensuring the appropriate budgetary allocations to ensure that training materials in all schools are available.
Others don’t even consider the cost benefit effect of such training – they consider it a mere wastage.
Proposed Interventions for the
Full Realization a Universal Vocational
Education with Projected Benefits.
1. We advocate a total curriculum change, to make vocational/ practical skills education is made a must for all learners’ right from primary four (4) levels. This will put in the learners the work ethic and will equip our learners to learn to be productive and self-sustaining right at that youthful stage. This has to be rolled out thought our education cycle at least through secondary school education.
2. Skills development as a key component of education will greatly reduce on the financial cost on education and make education more achievable and sustainable. Where the production process begins early in our training/learning system, there is no doubt that a variety of products must be made which can help in reducing expenditure on education; items like food, scholastic materials, and learners personal effects can be produced in the process to off-set the expenditure that would otherwise be made on such items/necessities.
3. Where learners across the country can be made productive right in schools, this can reduce the dependence levels in our society; where the parent must work to provide, housing, food, education, medication of children right from birth and all through; upto university when these learners totally contribute nothing to their own wellbeing and that of the immediate community where they belong and the nation at large. This will greatly reduce the poverty levels in the communities and make education less a strain on the households and government.
4. There is a greater need to popularize vocational education in our schools; among the teachers and other education stakeholders. In this our union – Uganda liberal teachers Union, can come in very handy to meet our teaching membership across the country to ensure there is attitude change, and for schools to be very accommodative to this noble innovation.
This can further entail meeting with other various stakeholders, like the local government, teachers, the faith based organizations (who in many cases constitute the Foundation Bodies of many public schools/ institutions)
This can be done through media campaign, through workshops and seminars to popularize the full vocationalization of education for allround skills development among learners for positive/economic productivity.
5. There is also need for piloting with teachers and learners in selected schools so as to demonstrate to others. In fields like ICT, Agriculture and some other vocational skills. This can be done to show the rest how this is possible and productive, and be made more public to ensure others borrow a leaf.
6. There is also a greater need to identify what specific vocational training fields can be quickly taken up by various schools/educational institutions, beginning with the locally available opportunities, depending on the local environmental setup.
As a Union of professional teachers, we are ready to discuss this concept with key education policy framers and controllers so that it becomes an applicable intervention. We are also ready to provide more technical input to ensure a policy is designed to this effect.