“For sustainable development, the strategic plan for Higher Education needs a review” – Published by the Sunrise in 2004
By William Kituuka
The Strategic Plan for Higher Education, which was approved by the Ministry of Education (Uganda) and donors, needs a review before being passed by parliament.
According to the Plan, in Uganda’s Universities and tertiary institutions, only 15% of the students offer Sciences, the other percentage is in Arts and Humanities. But, for any country to develop, Science and technology are very necessary.
The plan aims at taking ‘deliberate’ steps to reverse the trend, to have more students offering Sciences than Arts.
The signal the Ministry of Education is sending is that: “This is what the country needs,” but is least bothered about the availability of resources to finance the programme given its ambitiousness as presented on paper.
The problem is that there is no deliberate plan to relate the education sector to that of finance. The way forward should be that the two work closely to ensure that the programmes on paper are backed by the availability of funds, as well as Government priority in the budget.
Government can only meet the challenge of having many students offering sciences if it can generate own funds and reduce donor dependence. This can be done through improved resource allocation.
Second, there must be an initiative to gather people in the same trade say the tailors, crafts makers, the farmers, and through workshops or short training courses, boost their skills so that they can successfully produce for the export market. Their products, when collected together can be appropriately prepared for export to big markets like the US, the European Union, Japan, and others where quality and quantity are of absolute importance.
Third, Government should ensure productive absorption of the existing Science graduates, and also offer them refresher courses. All of them should be put to full employment before we can ask for more. The pathetic situation in Uganda’s technical and vocational institutes should also be addressed. This is the backbone for our export based industrialization. It is sad to note that the majority of these institutes admit near – academic failures, which constrains any chances of putting out people with the capacity to help innovative processes.
As a priority; before encouraging every one to read sciences, let the country put to maximum use the available resources for training, with an addition of laboratory equipment and teachers instead of opening new institutions.
In order to finance this ambitious plan for Higher Education, the starting point should be that Uganda as a country, initiates relevant policies which will create an enabling environment for promotion and development of exports. There is need to borrow experience from countries which have enjoyed successful export promotion and development.
Finances will only be available in a sustainable way if the country develops export skills; hence more export activities to generate more and better targets. This will improve the country’s economic performance. For Uganda to penetrate new markets and sustain old ones, it is necessary to develop quality products that appeal and satisfy the buyers’ needs.