The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Mrs. Janet Museveni has commended the European Union for their contribution towards the Skilling Uganda Programme in Karamoja.
Commissioned in May 2017 and implemented by ENABEL with funding from the Embassy of Ireland, the program has seen over 3,500 youth skilled in different fields. Out of those trained to date, 51% are female.
Speaking at St. Daniel Comboni Polytechnic Naoi in Moroto District, where she joined the European Union Heads of Mission’s visit to the institute on Thursday, the First Lady affirmed that Government and the Education Ministry value the relationship with the EU, and the work they have done for the sector.
Mrs. Museveni and the Ambassadors were taken on a guided tour of the newly inaugurated multipurpose workshop with modern equipment at the polytechnic where students undergoing training in motorized construction, plumbing, and welding departments, showcased their skills. Earlier the EU delegation also toured the ICT laboratory where teachers will be developing virtual digital lessons contents using Zoom and screencasting.
“Today, we are witnessing the fruits of our relationship with Enabel among the several other things that have been done in TVET such as at Abilonino National Instructors College in Kole district. The quality of the work you have done here at St. Daniel Comboni Technical Institute does speak for itself. And certainly, your presence means a lot to our young people today”, Mrs. Museveni said.
She thanked the development partners for supporting the development of the National Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Policy, an important tool in guiding the sector as the country repositions TVET to become an engine of transformational skills development in the country.
The policy seeks to improve public perception and image of TVET by encouraging many young people to join TVET training, establish a National Technical University, and also harmonize qualification under the TVET sub-sector. The policy also provides for the establishment of sector skills councils that will be industry-led, to harmonize training and setting standards for the different trades. It has a component to do with a Skills Development Fund that once implemented will complement government financing of TVET.
She lauded Enabel for piloting the skills development funding model and noted that Government is keen on hearing about the lessons learned so that they can inform the implementation of the National Skills Development Fund.
Mrs. Museveni revealed that the Ministry had restructured the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) department, into a Directorate with three critical departments; namely technical and vocational institutions, health institutions, and that for research, innovation, and training of TVET Instructors.
She also revealed that the Ministry had finalized the development of the principles for the TVET Bill and once it is approved by Cabinet, they will embark on developing a new TVET Law to repeal and replace the current BTVET Act. “I have made the tabling of the TVET Bill a priority for the current Financial Year as part of my Sector’s Legislative Agenda items for the 11th Parliament.”
Mrs. Museveni expressed concern about the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the sub-sector. “The sub-sector has been affected uniquely because the institutions do not necessarily have what it takes to conduct online and open distance learning as has been the case with other higher education institutions. The learners have also been affected by limited opportunities resulting from the intermittent lockdowns in the country” noted Mrs. Museveni.
She said that the Ministry is trying all possible ways to provide continuity of learning for TVET in a meaningful and safe manner. She urged all teaching staff and learners above 18 years to get vaccinated at the earliest opportunity available, to facilitate the decision to reopen schools.
Mrs. Museveni congratulated the ‘digital ninjas’ who were awarded certificates for winning the Skills4Jobs Hackathon competitions and all those who were able to complete their courses in the unusual circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister for Karamoja Affairs; Dr. Maria Goretti Kimono Kitutu, who was among those who welcomed the First Lady and the Ambassadors to the region, reported that during her familiarization tour, the main outcry has been an education for the children of Karamoja as a way of reducing the insecurity in the region.
The EU head of delegation; Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, said the EU Ambassadors’ mission to Karamoja is a follow up to that they conducted in 2018 during which they identified many challenges in the region, which is rich in human resources, minerals, and potential agriculture but was nonetheless not moving at the same pace as the rest of the country. He pointed out that education and security are key ingredients for the Karamoja region to catch up and move at the same pace as the rest of the country. He pledged the EU’s support to the efforts of the Government to push Karamoja forward.
The Deputy Ambassador of Ireland Nicole McHugh reported that Ireland has supported the implementation of the Skilling Uganda Strategy in Karamoja through a 6 million Euro project as part of a 40 million Euro grant investment in the region since 2016. She added that a key component of the education support is establishing a centre of Excellence at St Daniel Comboni Polytechnic and another in Nakapiripirit and support to seven vocational training institutes in Karamoja. Other elements of Ireland’s support include training, policy engagement, and the Skills Development Fund.
The emphasis in Comboni Polytechnic is on skills that are directly relevant in Karamoja including construction, mechanics, hairdressing, and dressmaking. The Irish envoy observed that it is wonderful to see women learning a skill in mechanics and other areas that have traditionally been male sectors.
She reported that from their joint mission visit they found out that the Karimojong acknowledge that skilling the youth is not only vital for economic development but is a path away from activities that contribute to insecurity. “Education is the greatest gift that a child can receive, a fundamental right, and we as EU member states and development partners we stand ready to support you in ensuring that the children and youth of Karamoja have continued access to quality education in the future”, the Irish envoy said.
Other members of the EU delegation who were on a joint mission visit to Karamoja included the Ambassador of Belgium Rudi Veestraeten, German’s Ambassador Matthias Schauer, Ambassador of Italy Massimiliano Mazzanti, Netherland’s Ambassador Karin Boven, the Swedish Ambassador Maria Hakansson, and Ambassador Nicolaj Herjber Peterson of Denmark. They were together with senior staff from the EU and Enabel.
The Deputy Principal Charles Ibwolot said that St Daniel Comboni Polytechnic, a private Institution established under Moroto Catholic Diocese in 1991, was the first vocational institute in the Karamoja sub-region. He highlighted the absence of dormitories for girls which has denied many girls the chance to join the institute, lack of accommodation for staff, and a power transformer as some of the challenges facing the institute.