Parents and educationalists have expressed worries over rising number of pupils who drop out of school to undertake vocational studies.
Most pupils reportedly drop out of school to pursue hands on skills courses before completing primary seven.
At one of biggest vocational centres Kasolo foundation in Kyotera district where drop outs have been absorbed and trained in various technical skills is considered among the spot areas for dropouts.
Mr Keneth Kaima a parent says their children are demanding to join vocational centers shunning away straight forward class education which they consider time consuming after they see their friends earning money from vocational skills.
“As parents we are forced to educate children from Mbarara and Kampala schools in order to keep them in school because their friends who joined vocational institutions are already earning money which seduce them to follow the suit as one way of earning early,” He revealed.
He said his son who in senior three at one of the schools in Mbarara was studying from Kyotera but after his fellows joined vocational he was almost dropping to join them before he transferred him to Mbarara.
Mr God Bamwine another parent from Kasaali village in Kyotera district says his son dropped out of school when he was in primary six after realizing that his friends were earning good money from motor vehicle repair and maintenance.
“My first son forcefully dropped out of school at primary six and he was smart and performing well in class after realizing his former classmates earning good money and he couldn’t wait for straight education for other more 16 years in order to earn and he forcefully joined vocational which wasn’t my wish.”
Mr Bamwine appeals to government as they commend vocational studies to set a minimum requirement before one joins a vocational institute than being open to even pupils who are still in primary.
According to Kasolso foundation executive director Mr Aron Tendo the vocation center absorbs over 70 young people who dropped out of school before completing primary seven.
“We receive about 70 pupils who drop out of school due to failure to raise school fees and other scholastic materials but they find retention here where they go out with not only skills but also ability to create their own jobs for self-sustainability,”
He said, the vocational center has a population of over 400 learners who are pursuing various vocational disciplines both adults and young learners.
Among other programs at the vocational include; Hair dressing, tailoring training, motorcycle repair and maintenance, metal work and fabrication and carpentry.
Hajat Safina Musenne commissioner Business, Technical, Vocational Education and Training ((BTVET) says the Ministry of education is coordinating with other stake holders such as Skills Development facility (SDF) to empower vocational institutions.
“Our target as BTVET we are aiming at absorbing students and pupils who don’t make it to upper education due to lack of funds or other inevitable circumstances by enriching them with skills in vocational institutions,” she said while visiting Kasolo foundation recently .
Mr Alex Kakoza , the permanent secretary Ministry of Education and sports commended the vocational centres for being alternative to basic education and hailed the idea of multitudes of youth who have since joined the vocational studies but asked parents and institutions to admit at least those who have completed primary seven .
“The ministry have been working closely to realise this daydream and huge numbers in vocational is the ministry’s dream come true because we have always encouraged youth to join vocation centers in case they are unable to pay for basic education however they should join at least after primary completing primary level;,” Mr Kakoza said recently while inspecting Skills Development Project (SDF) prospects at Kasolo foundation in Kyotera district
On contrary Mr Kakoza dismissed the allegations that the vocational centres have aided more dropouts saying most join vocational centers with consent of their parents when they have either failed to raise fees to retain them in basic education or failed to get grades for straightforward education.
He said Skills Development Facility (SDF) are skilling Ugandans which is under the mandate of MoES where Kasolo foundation is a beneficiary and they are contributing to overall strategy of skilling Ugandans.
“With the aid of SDF in conjunction with vocational institutions there is reduction in the number of idle youth and crime cases because most youth are equipped with hands on skills which can help them earn living and create their own jobs but we equally commend straight education to those with capacity both academically and financially.” He noted
Mr Kakoza said that the vocational centres are there as alternative to formal education as a move to equip youth with skills of having a decent livelihood who can’t afford formal education.
Ms Ruth Biyinzika Musoke, the head of Skills Development Facility (SDF), a World Bank Funded Project says the success in inspected projects gives them courage to seek for more funding from their funders.
“Uganda skills development project is 100 million dollar project which mothered Skill Development Facility (SDF) and it was allocated 20 million dollars which are funding so many projects in the country including vocational institutions,” she noted
She said Kasolo foundation is one among other vocational centres which are beneficiaries in the project and they are aiming at stretching their hand to other vocational centres in the greater Masaka.
She said among supported projects in Greater Masaka include Birimuye Development group and Kirowooza twegatte Tukulakulane association in Kalungu district, Wendigwa Youth development group , Kwewayo farmers group dealing in bee keeping in Masaka district , Kasaali farmers’ cooperative society dealing in coffee , Kasolo foundation a vocational center and Kakuto community Development project dealing in water harvesting in Kyotera district.
Ms Biyinzika revealed that the above projects were funded by SDF at a tune of over shs 500M and their primary target is improve vocational skills not only in vocational institutions but also organised groups in the region.
Keneth Muhumuza one of the students at the institution says he was hopeless before Kasolo foundation came to their rescue without fees to pursue his education further but its presence brought light in his future
“I dropped from school when I was in primary six as my parents were unable to meet my school fees fares but Kasolo foundation has not only absorbed me for skills but also the very skill in motorcycle repair and maintenance are earning some good income for me,” He said.
He said the earnings has helped him educate his siblings and cater for his mother.
When contacted Mr Mathias Kigoye, the Kyotera district education officer backed vocational centres urging that government should start up more as one way of skilling youth who spend most of their time in politics and being manipulated by rich people to serve their interests.
“Our enrollment as Kyotera district at primary and secondary level has remained stable it’s therefore inaccurate to say that vocational have affected our enrollment in basic education or facilitated drop outs.” he said
He says vocational centres have absorbed children and youth with no capability to meet fees fares for basic education.
Mr Isa Matovu an educationist asked the public to support the trend of vocational skills the country is taking advising that it’s a right direction.
“The public should not have a mixed debate about vocational education because it’s more relevant than even elementary instead all of us should welcome it, in fact it should be streamlined up to university.” He said in an interview on Friday
He said in developed countries such as Germany vocational education is popular compared to elementary education asking government to consider three things while taking up vocational trend which include; changing the mind set of learners and parents in order not to consider vocational studies to be for failures, restructuring the curriculum to avail a consistent one and lastly funding vocational education in order to create impact production and practicum skills in education of Uganda.
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