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

    Escalation of Media Crackdown in Turkey Heightens Concerns

    Critics see 'a new dark age' as arrests of journalists, closures of media outlets by Erdogan government mount

    Russia Boasts of Troop Buildup on Flank, Draws Flak

    Russian military moves counter to efforts to de-escalate tensions, State Department says

    Video Iraqis Primed to March on Mosul, Foreign Minister Says

    Iraqi FM Ibrahim al-Jaafari tells VOA the campaign will meet optimistic expectations, even though US officials remain cautious

    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.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora