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

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' 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.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid