At least nine in every 10 Ugandans who have completed any form of education are unemployed.
According to National Planning Authority (NPA) statistics released this week, 700,000 people join the job market every year regardless of qualification but only 90,000 get something to do. This translates to 87 per cent of people ready to work but can’t find a job.
But even then, Mr Hamis Mugendawala, the NPA senior planner in charge of education, adds that 20 per cent of those who find jobs are underemployed. He cited the case of teachers, many of whom have now shunned their teaching profession for boda boda (motorcycle taxi) riding to earn a living.
“We have very scanty data on skills development. At least 27 per cent of our students in institutions of higher learning are in science and technology training against the recommended 40 per cent. One in every five workers is underutilised,” he said.
“We see a lot of trained teachers but riding bodas and doctors as secretaries and in businesses instead of going to hospital. There is a problem at the moment because we are looking at achieving a middle income status by 2040. How we get there will depend on what we do today,” Mr Mugendawala said.
During the last election cycle, President Museveni campaigned on, among others, the promise to turn Uganda into a middle income country by the year 2020 – a target which many critics say is overly ambitious given the current difficult economic realities.
Last month alone, Makerere University graduated more than 14,000 students into the very small job market. The National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) records show that there are 47 universities, nine of which are public, nine degree-awarding institutions and 207 other tertiary institutions. All these send their students into the world of work annually, where they find thousands of other graduates floating without what to do.
According to Mr Patrick Kaboyo, the secretary for education of non-state education institutions, every individual who has invested in schooling expects to harvest some dividends. But he explained that when these don’t come by, it doesn’t matter what qualification one has, they must find alternatives to ensure they meet the daily basic needs such as food and shelter, which have become too expensive for many Ugandans.
“The current economic situation is so crazy in that if you don’t have money in your pocket everyday, you can’t afford to meet basic needs. Their survey should be informed by a manpower survey, which tells us which position needs to be filled urgently, mid and long term. It is not possible to achieve the Vision 2040 because there are no drivers when people continue to struggle to put food on their table and pay tuition,” Mr Kaboyo said yesterday.
Dr Florence Nakayiwa, Makerere University director for planning and development, challenged NPA.
“I am tired of the 1989 human resource manual we have been using [to train students]. We need to know how much human resource we need, in which areas and the skills required. We can’t continue to be blamed for things that are not of our making,” Ms Nakayiwa said.
In his response, Dr Patrick Birungi, the NPA director for development planning, reported that the authority had received money to enable them do the national human resource survey.
But the NCHE executive director, Prof John Opuda-Asibo, yesterday told Saturday Monitor that although it is one of their mandates to carry out an assessment of the country’s human resource needs, there are many government agencies which need to be involved like NPA and public service.
He said his council doesn’t have money to do this survey and wasn’t aware that NPA had received funds to support that cause.
“This country has a challenge. I am not aware that NPA got money to do the survey. This is not something we can do alone. There is a problem. A lot of things in this country are not coordinated. And you know what that means,” Prof Opuda noted.
Separately, ministry of Education commissioner for higher education, Mr Robert Oceng, said their biggest challenge is the brain drain, which is affecting key manpower.
“We know we produce 500 doctors every year. The unfortunate thing is that they decide to leave the country for better-paying jobs. I want to remind those who leave that it is our people who trained you. Their salaries are cut every month to see you through school. But you leave our health care suffering. This must change. We need to improve our economy first and serve the people who have sacrificed for us to be where we are,” Mr Oceng said.