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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora