News / Africa

Ugandan President Chastises Universities Over 'Non-Marketable' Classes

Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, left,  with the UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, right, at the opening of Victoria University in Uganda capital Kampala, September 10, 2011 (file photo).
Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, left, with the UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell, right, at the opening of Victoria University in Uganda capital Kampala, September 10, 2011 (file photo).

Multimedia

Audio
This is Part 9 of a 12-part series:  Education in Africa
Continue to Parts: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 /
6 / 7/ 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 /12

 

Uganda's universities normally face leadership challenges but now they face a challenge from the country's leader.  In speeches across the country, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been chastising them for offering courses - such as literature, development studies and conflict resolution - which he thinks the local job market has no room for.

Instead, Museveni is urging Ugandan universities and students to focus their resources on the sciences, information technology and business.
Exact statistics are not available, but some estimates put the youth unemployment rate as high as 32 percent, and, surprisingly, 36 percent among university graduates.


At a recent awards ceremony, Museveni said students can't expect to get jobs if they study the wrong subjects.

"The problem is not jobs, the jobs are there," said Museveni.  "What is crucial are the skills. There has been a course at Makarere called Conflict Resolution.  OK, but what will you do when the conflicts are finished?  This unemployment you are talking about .  Is it unemployment or is it unemployability?  Is it that you are unemployed, or is it that you are not employable because you have got skills which are not needed on the market?"

But Professor Paddy Musana, head of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at Makarere University in Kampala, argues that his subject is crucial in a country like Uganda, which lies at the heart of the volatile Great Lakes region.

"This is a hot spot of conflicts," noted Musana.  "If you are going to study the history of Rwanda, if you are going to study the reality of Congo, if you are going to look at 2007 in Kenya, if you are going to look at the case of Sudan - let's look at the countries around us.  Now let's come back to Uganda and its political evolution - we are a county that has been shaped by conflicts.  So I take it as an unfortunate statement attacking or trying to undermine a course that is very relevant.  There is a direct relationship between peace and development."

At Makarere University, students are divided over whether or not focusing on marketable courses would be good for the country.  One arts student thought it definitely would not.

"If they are only producing scientists then the arts industry will fail," she said.  "Because we don't need only doctors, only computer specialists - we need the social sciences, the arts, the communicators."

But a group of finance students nearby approved of the president's recommendations, arguing that a focus on marketable courses would improve employment prospects for everyone.

"It will help a few students who are taking them, and I believe with time we shall get more jobs created, compared to just doing many courses in the university and to then go out there looking for things to do in vain," he said.

Teshome Alemneh, of the Washington-based agency Higher Education for Development, says the problem is the narrow definition of marketability.  This leaves out courses like agriculture, teacher training and conflict resolution, which, he says are not where the most jobs are to be found, but which are nonetheless very important.

"Students are not choosing these programs because they are not really marketable, but these are areas that nations and countries need for their development," Alemneh explained.  "Conflict resolution, for example, is very important in many sub-Saharan African countries, in terms of human resources that can foster peace and security and development in these nations.  So I would argue national governments should also encourage people to enroll in these other disciplines."

In a country where suspicion of the government runs deep, not everyone is convinced that Museveni has the students' best interests at heart.  One philosophy student said he thinks the president's ideas on education have more to do with trying to maintain his own hold on power, than with education itself.

"If you promote only natural sciences and you don't promote subjects like philosophy and history, you are not promoting people's reasoning," said the student.  "For example, our government is corrupt, but if you promote only natural sciences people won't be knowing that the government has got corrupt members within the state."

Yet another thinks that the recent push for more marketable courses is merely intended to distract the public from the fact that the government itself has failed to tackle the country's stubbornly high unemployment rate.

"He has failed to provide the jobs for the youth, so he is using this as a blind spot so that he can divert our minds to other things," he added.  "But what he has to do is provide for us enough jobs."

A Makarere spokeswoman said that the university has not yet received any specific instructions from the Ministry of Education.  But if necessary, she says, they would be willing to review the arts and social sciences curricula, taking into account the needs of potential employers.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid