This is a report about my overseas summer internship experience in Uganda. The internship opportunity was with the Ministry of Education and Sports, for a month, starting from July 31st to August 27th 2014. I was attached to the Statistics, Monitoring and Evaluation Division, which is under the Education Planning and Policy Analysis department; supervised by Mr. Joseph Elior, Assistant Commissioner. However, because my research interest is in Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET), I was granted permission to consult closely and extensively with the department of Business, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) and Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB). The outputs I achieved during the internship were about interviews and collection of primary and secondary data related to my academic research. Also, I was able to learn the current situations and challenges of the education system in Uganda.
First and foremost, I visited UNEB and BTEVT department and conducted interviews about the current situations, future plan and issues TVET development. At UNEB, I learnt about challenges facing national assessment of students, such as the difficulty of measuring pupils’ practical performance on exams and standardization of numerous national exams and certificates that different governmental organizations issue. I interviewed the Assistant Commissioner in BTVET department about Skilling Uganda. He told me that they have just started the new strategic plan, so they are expecting to see progress in at least 5 years. Also, he told me that they have been putting a lot of efforts to improve the current situations, such as to encourage female pupils to enroll in BTVET schools or to improve the quality of instructors and the curriculums. While in BTVET department, I learnt that the government of Uganda had in 2011 launched a new vocational education strategic plan titled, “Skilling Uganda” as a core initiative towards human resource development. Since the launch of Skilling Uganda, the government has been working on various projects aimed at improving management capacity and strengthening curricular to match the labour market in a long term plan.
Secondly, I visited 3 BTVET schools (one nursing school and two technical schools) in Kampala city, and. I was able to interview principles from each 3 schools and a few pupils about the current issues in schools. We discussed issues happening in school, such as low quality of teaching due to lack of equipment, lack of support for pupils after graduation and low participation rate of female pupils. Also, there is a negative stereotype toward to TVET in Uganda, which is a major obstacle for potential pupils. Some parents still strongly believe that “TVET is for failures” and it affects pupils’ career paths and their motivation.
Lastly, I conducted an interview with 11 instructors about causes of the low participation rate of female pupils and challenges. I held a focus group discussion with 7 pupils about why they chose BTVET schools instead of non-BTVET schools, their concerns and their will in the future in two BTVET schools. The TVET schools I visited are Jinja Vocational Training Institute in Jinja town, (there is one JICA volunteer in this school) and Nakawa Vocational Training Institute in Kampala city, established in 1968 with support from JICA.
During the interview, some instructors informed me that female pupils can perform well in practical subjects, and sometimes better than male pupils in heavy courses such as automobile course. They also informed me that some companies prefer to hire female graduate because they are trustful. Most of the instructors said that female pupils are very intelligent. However, there is still a fact that there is no access to accurate information for pupils and there aren’t many role models for female students to emulate, therefore, they have an image of BTVET as being only for male students.
In the focus group discussion, some students told me they chose BTEVT because they wanted to get hands-on training in order to be able to get a stable job and to be independent. They are also satisfied with the schools curriculums and they strongly feel that they are receiving proper education and gaining skill they wanted to learn. However, they are not very satisfied with the support after graduation. They noted that it’s very difficult to settle down and start business without any tools or money to buy equipment you need to work, even if they are very skilled workers. My concern as a result of this field research is the gap between schools and the government. Some schools run TV talk shows to inform people about BTEVT and to encourage pupils to come to BTVET schools, but the government has not caught up with reality. Job creation for skilled workers, support for starting business, and strengthening partnerships between BTVET schools and firms are just a few of the challenges they are facing.
It was just a month’s internship, but I have gained and learned a lot from it. I faced a lot of challenges, such as a lack of data and time limitation, but I was able to overcome those challenges with supports from my supervisor and organizer. They provided me advices and guided me to be able to conduct my research smoothly. Also, beside lessons and knowledge related to my research, I learned the importance of networking, having a clear goal and having a good relationship with your co-workers and boss. This research and internship was a good motivation for my next research and study. I believe that BTVET will play a big role in promoting economic growth and development. It was unforgettable feeling that the instructors were very passionate about teaching and passing on their skills to the students.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude especially to my academic advisor, Prof. Ogawa, my internship supervisor, Mr. Joseph Elior, Assistant Commissioner of Monitoring and Evaluation Division and my co-workers at the Ministry of Education and Sports. I’m grateful to my home-stay family, my senior Dr. James Wokadala, now a lecturer at Makerere University, and Mr. Jeje Moses Okurut and everyone who supported me and made my stay in Uganda memorable and wonderful. I appreciate all the support that everyone at the Ministry of Education and Sports gave me very much. I would not have completed my research without their support.
Authored by Ms. Yuki Haramoto