For so long, there has been a misconception that when one fails to attain better grades in secondary school their only option is to join a vocational institution. This is wrong because the 21st Century dictates that professionals should acquire skills which most theoretical education does not give.
According to Yahaya Yusufu Walusansa, the academic registrar Uganda Technical College, Kicwamba, a number of Ugandans still do not know the importance of vocational studies.
On the contrary, Walusansa says, vocational institutions should only be for competent students that have good grades and are able to execute good skills and performance even after their studies.
“Vocational studies should not be for only those that have failed to pass their secondary examinations or have no hopes of joining university but those with the passion and good grades which will help us to train people that are able,” he says.
He adds that if anyone wants to get into universities, they have to meet certain entry requirements and this is not optional to vocational institutions.
“There is a wide range of selection criteria that may be used for different courses. Standard selection methods include the typical academic entry requirements, as well as other additional testing criteria for competitive courses or those that require a high degree of talent, cut-off scores, prerequisite studies and academic history,” he observes.
Despised by friends
Lawrence Mukidi says he scored good grades at both O and A-Level and joined vocational training. “I was in first grade in O-Level. In A-Level I scored 13 points in Physics Economics, Mathematics and Entrepreneurship. I had passed well considering my science combination and I was eligible to join any university. However, I joined Uganda Technical College, Kyema, Masindi where I pursued a Diploma in Water and Sanitation Engineering,” he says.
Mukidi says though his decision to join a vocational institution instead of university was first despised by many of his colleagues, what many called ‘weird’ turned out to be one of the best decisions since he never went looking for a job after school because of the skills he attained.
Just like Mukidi, Raymond Okidi says though he obtained results that could take him to A-Level, after his Uganda Certificate of Education examinations, he decided to go for vocational training. He reveals that he was the best student at his school and the head teacher was willing to get him sponsorship in A-Level but Okidi declined and insisted on joining vocational studies.
“In 2014, I was the best student at Catongo Home base High School in Agagu District. My head teacher was happy with my performance and offered me a bursary for my A-Level but I could not take the offer because I wanted to get vocational skills that would help me get a job fast,” he says.
Okidi adds that his strategy worked because he already has a job with Roofings Uganda Ltd and his employers are happy with his skills.
He observes that to avert the current job scarcity that is affecting most Ugandan graduates; students who obtain good grades should willingly join vocational institutions so that they can get the knowledge and the skills which will make them job creators and not seekers.
According to Walusana, vocational education is the solution to the big unemployment challenge that Uganda is currently faced with. He adds that vocational training is also a shortcut for students from needy families to attend decent education.
Amos Okello, a regional technician for Airtel, Mukono, says his diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Kicwamba Technical College in Fort Portal has been of much help. To him, the training equipped him with skills that have taken him places.
“In vocational training institutions, we not only get theory but also hands-on practice which makes us skillful something that most employers are looking for. I am proud of the skills I obtained. I am not even afraid of losing any job. My skills are my biggest asset,” he says.