Uganda has a total of about 9,428,000 students enrolled in primary and secondary education. About 8,098,000, 86 per cent are enrolled in primary education, according to the education policy data centre.
Furthermore, statistics from the Labour department of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development show that more than 400,000 job seekers enter the labour market from universities every year. With such figures, the need to equip students with hands on and business skills cannot be more emphasised.
It is, therefore, in this spirit that the National Schools Championship where designed to equip high school students with business skills through an annual competition.
This year’s competitions kicked off on March 19, with 6,000 students from 60 schools, and boiled down to four schools and eight students who were tasked to come up with a business idea, execute it, and present it to the judges.
The schools included Muni Girls’ Secondary School from northern Uganda, the winners, Mengo Senior School from central, Bweranyangi Girls’ Senior Secondary School from the west and Nakanyonyi Senior Secondary School from the East.
Dorcus Kiconco, 18, a Senior Six student from Bweranyangi Girls’ Secondary School, who came up with the idea of creating a hair salon at their school shares her source of motivation.
“As an individual, I have come to a place where I am able to manage something entrusted to me by taking responsibility. The competitions have shaped me to think that I can do something and I have come out more confident than before. I never ever thought that in life, I would do something like this –start a business, manage it, and present it before people –this was a first for me,” she said.
When asked about what skills she had walked away with, Kiconco noted, “I love hair and this competition has taught me that passion is now a business idea. I am hopeful that at the end of the day, even when I leave school, I will not lack what to do. In addition, I am a better business manager, communicator and innovator,” she revealed.
Though not sure what will happen in future, Kiconco is confident that the skills she learnt are what she needs to survive.
In the same vain, Viola Sitima, 19, a Senior Six student at Muni Girls’ Secondary School, agrees that she has been enriched with baking skills. “When I came into the competition, I knew nothing about business. I knew that businesses were something for the rich. I, however, feel I can set up and maintain a business of my own. In addition, I have learned to never undermine any work,” she says adding, “I now know how to bake and already have a plan to start my own business during vacation.”
She further notes that since Uganda’s education is largely theoretical, it is crucial that students gain practical skills to become job creators and not seekers.
“My dream is to be a human rights lawyer but that does not mean I cannot use the skills I have. Imagine if I do not become a lawyer for one reason or another, I can still survive because I have skills that will never be taken away from me,” she says.
For a fact, the question of promoting a skills-based education is one Uganda is still grappling with. In May last year for example, 560 teachers attended a conference hosted by Educate! Uganda and the Education ministry – The third annual Global Education Conference in three venues across Uganda, eager to gain the tools they need to provide the best education for their students.
Through workshops and dialogues with experts and policy makers, they affirmed that they did not need to wait for a nationwide curriculum reform to see changes in their classrooms; they had the power to begin the movement towards a skills-based education themselves.
A total of 6,000 students from 60 schools across the country took part in this year’s Stanbic National Schools Competition and they included both government and private schools.
Students were taken through different stages in the competition including classroom tests, oral quizzes, essay writing, debate and finally a business skilling competition around financial literacy, life skills, logic, business and entrepreneurship.
Four schools reached the grand finale; Muni Girls’ Secondary School which emerged the winner of the best business idea, Mengo Senior School the first runner up, Bweranyangi Girls’ Senior Secondary School in third position and Nakanyonyi Senior Secondary School in the fourth.
The schools had to come up with business plans, create businesses and present them to judges after training/mentorship and a seed capital of Shs1,000,000 each to kick start their businesses.
Students have matured
“While coaching these students, one of the things I first felt was that they were timid; they could not speak or present themselves which was a challenge.
In the end, however, they have come out better. In our deliberations, we looked at the passion with which they did their business, their vision, presentation skills, how they sold/marketed their business, how eloquent they were, the level of teamwork, how they used their money (seed capital), their succession plan, their bookkeeping habits. The 40 per cent was from the previous competitions.”
Peter Luswata, a business mentor and creative director of Design Network, and a judge at the competition