By Anita Muhairwe Malinga
KIU, Main Campus - As the country progresses towards the end of the lock down season, this period has kept me thinking about the future of our young people in the education institutions in terms of their skills and future careers and how we can help them rethink their career options and best prepare them for their future. This will take active input of parents, guardians the education institutions, government and the students themselves to achieve a not only well educated graduate but also one who is creative and skilled in these challenging times.
The Corona virus Pandemic has affected so much in the different sectors of the world economies in the past months and the education sphere has not been spared. It has affected the way education institutions operate in terms of administration, teaching and learning. This might have been easier for the developed countries but it has not been easy for the developing countries as many Schools have been forced to change the way they operate to ensure that teaching and learning continues during the lock down.
Schools have equally been forced to take advantage of the modern technology to facilitate their administration as many administrative staff have been tasked to work from home and so many have used the different video conferencing applications to hold online meetings and the different social media platforms to keep in touch with parents and students. The use of technology has also eased teaching and learning as learners and their teachers have since then remained in touch in effort to complete the syllabus and to ensure that students remain engaged with school work.
This pandemic should be a wake-up call to education Institutions especially the Universities to refocus on the career development of the many young people in these institutions. In Uganda, over 15 Million young people are in school at different stages of learning. Many of these who are still in primary and secondary still have a dream of going to University someday. The degree syndrome in our young people is still high and yet after obtaining the degree many young people have over the years been challenged with finding employment.
As a result of this pandemic, many young people have already lost their jobs and more are likely to lose their jobs as a way of organisations trying to emphasize social distancing at the work place. Many developing countries were already grappling with high unemployment rates among the youth and with this pandemic, one can only imagine how much more effect these increasing rates of unemployment will have on the young people especially the University graduates.
Youth employment and economic empowerment are essential components of a strong society. According to projections from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS), the Ugandan population is expected to increase to over 55 million in the next ten years, with the youth (persons aged 18- 30 years) accounting for a significant proportion (24.3 percent) while 48 percent will be children below 18 years. More than 75% of Uganda’s population is below the age of 30, with the country having one of the highest youth unemployment rates at 13.3%—the number of youth actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labor force—in Sub-Saharan Africa (UBOS,2016-2017). This rate is even higher for those who have formal degrees and live in the urban areas despite government’s efforts to boost education through UPE, USE, BTVET and other programmes.
As the country continues to manage this pandemic, planning for and creating employment for this largely young and youthful population is still a developmental challenge that should be placed high on its development agenda. The majority of the youth (over 70 percent) reside in rural areas where decent employment and entrepreneurial opportunities remain limited. While many of these have attempted to migrate in search of better opportunities in urban areas, a significant proportion of these have ended up facing urban poverty due to lack of employment.
With the above in mind, it’s plain to see that there is need for the education sphere to rethink, refocus and reform. The young people’s careers are at stake and they need to be helped, guided and prepared for the future. Therefore there is need for adequate career guidance, vocational and technical development in these institutions. These should be well embedded in the curriculum to enable education institutions produce graduates who have relevant skills for the job market but also produce graduates who are creative enough to start up business projects that are economically sustainable.
There’s more need to highly encourage hands-on skills among the young people. The government through the ministry of education should therefore encourage institutions to promote vocational and technical studies within their institutions. Schools and Universities should be supported in this effort as many of these vocational studies are very expensive. Education institutions should be encouraged to graduate students with hands-on life skills and not only academic transcripts.
Uganda has over 50 Universities and quite a number of vocational and technical Institutions. However many young people still opt to go the University rather than to Vocational institutions where hands-on skilling is done. The government should therefore encourage Universities and Schools to create relationships with these vocational institutions so that a student graduates from primary, secondary and from the University with a skill such as baking, carpentry, farming, computer etc.
This will equally promote entrepreneurship skills amongst our young people that will help them fight unemployment as the country continues its fight this pandemic. The government should continue to promote entrepreneurship education in schools and ensure that the entrepreneurship subject is more practical than theoretical. Students should be taught how to be creative and how to generate business ideas in order for them to come up with good business projects and plans that can attract funding.
Lastly, young people should equally take time off to rethink the different careers that they would like to pursue and take the necessary steps early in their education life. With the 4th industrial revolution setting in at a very high speed, many careers are yet to be affected in terms of their relevance. This will equally have an effect on the future employment status of many young people. Technology is taking over many careers and so parents and guardians need to take time and guide their children on the different careers in the job market so that the young people make early informed decisions about their future.
In a nut shell, when vocational and technical studies, skilling, entrepreneurship education and career guidance are emphasized by the government and are practically implemented by the various education institutions especially the institutions of higher learning that graduate over 400,000 students every year, we shall as a country help the young people who are the future of our nation to fight unemployment during and after this pandemic.