The private sector as well as experts in planning are calling for a review in the current education system in Uganda to prioritize soft and practical skills which are critical in the work place.
They argue that there is a mismatch in the knowledge acquired by learners in schools and the skills needed for them to be employable.
The comments were made on Monday during a dialogue organized by UNFPA Uganda focusing on the young generation as a driver of Uganda’s socio-economic transformation. The discussion at Kampala Serena Hotel brought together government officials, policy makers, planners, the private sector, entrepreneurs and young people.
Dr Joseph Muvawala, the Executive Director for National Planning Authority (NPA) emphasized the need to eliminate the duplications that exist in the education curriculum and to further entrench practicality in the technical institutions of learning.
“There is a lot of duplication in technical and secondary education that needs to be dealt with. I must come out of a technical school able to make a chair, not teaching me on a chalkboard,” Dr Muvawala said in his keynote address.
“Nursery and Primary School is largely about numeracy and literacy. Secondary school focuses on problem solving which at A’Level is combined with knowledge. But technical school should typically be about competency,” he added.
Muvawala attributed the high mortality of start-ups in Uganda to the gaps in skills necessary for young people to be competitive in the work space.
Gideon Badagawa, the Executive Director of Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) said that in recruiting human resource, the private sector considers soft and practical skills more highly than the academic qualifications.
“Academic qualifications are important. But in the private sector, soft skills – integrity, attitude, communications skills, problem solving, and critical thinking contribute 50%. Then practical skills take 30%. The private sector will not hire you if you are not going to be productive,” Badagawa said.
There is need for emphasis on early childhood development as well as effective parenting if Uganda is to groom youths that will excel in such skills, he said.
On her part, Dr Maggie Kigozi who is a business consultant and former Executive Director at Uganda Investment Authority advised the youths to consider volunteering opportunities which she said will help them attain the hands-on skills required in the work environment. Drawing from her personal example she said she applied the inter-personal and organizational skills attained during her experience as a girl guide were, in organizing economic forums.
Dr Kigozi challenged young people in Uganda who often lament about the lack of business skills and capital, to exploit the short training opportunities by Enterprise Uganda as well as the various government programs which provide capital.
While many youths argue that government must avail them capital for their enterprises, Zilla Mary Arach, the co- founder of Akorion Technologie who was part of the panel said the venture was started using the savings she and her friends had done while at the university. Young people owe it to themselves to make use of the resources available to them to start business ventures, Arach says.