By Kawere Isma
The Uganda YMCA executive director, Rosemary Birungi, has urged graduates to use their newly acquired skills to transform the country and improve their livelihoods.
Birungi was speaking at the 19th graduation ceremony held at YMCA College of Business Studies in Jinja on Friday. A total of 749 graduates, including 670 females and 79 males, were awarded certificates and diplomas in vocational and technical disciplines.
“YMCA has offered you the technical and vocational skills currently on demand in the labour market. Use these skills to transform your lives and society,” Birungi said.
She said she was upbeat by the high number of females embracing skills training at the YMCA colleges throughout the country.
Speaking at the same function, YMCA-Jinja college principal Lambert Okure Drata applauded the government for supporting skills training through putting in place the requisite policy guidelines.
“We commend the government for prioritizing skills development for the young people that has seen institutions like YMCA gain tract. As YMCA, we are committed to producing workers not managers and many of our graduands here today have already been absorbed in the labour market while others have started their own businesses,” Drata said.
He said all YMCA students are taught entrepreneurship and soft skills to enable them navigate the murky waters of the labour market.
He decried the declining number of males embracing vocational and technical education, adding that technical and vocational education is not a preserve for females.
“There is a belief that the courses we are offering are for females. Courses like Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Cosmetology are seen as courses for females. This is not true,” Drata said.
Drata also revealed that 50 per cent of students have dropped out due to the Covid pandemic.
“The corona pandemic has posed a very big challenge. We had close to 1,200 students but only about 600 have come back. Many have dropped out due to financial problems while others just lost interest in education,” Drata said.
Meanwhile, the YMCA deputy principal, Godfrey Nkoole, decried the high taxes levied on learning equipment like sewing machines and computers as well as taxes levied by local governments and city authorities on education institutions.
“When these taxes are imposed on us, we transfer them to the parents leading to increase in fees and consequently failure by parents to educate their children from these institutions,” Nkoole said.
Kibina Ronald who emerged the best graduand with a CGPA of 4.8 attributed his success to encouragement from friends and family members.
The 51-year-old who obtained a certificate in Social Work and Social Administration (SWASA) has been studying with his daughter Esther Nakibunga at the college. The later has graduated with a certificate in Tailoring.
“I had to pay tuition for both myself and my daughter as well as her siblings and this has been an uphill task but this has only helped me to be more focused on my studies,” Kibina said.
Kibina, who works as a driver with the Ministry of Tourism, said he is determined to pursue further studies.
“I have always been challenged at work because of the limited papers and promotions have not been forthcoming,” Kibina said.
Phionah Umuhoza who graduated with a diploma in Tourism and Hospitality said studying amid the Covid pandemic has posed serious challenges.
“It hasn’t been easy studying online because sometimes I would fail to get data to attend the online classes. There were also technical and network issues that made online learning difficult but I thank God I have made it,” Umuhoza said.
This year’s graduation was held under the theme; ‘Embracing skills education for development’. The graduands received certificates and diplomas in various disciplines, including Tailoring, Hairdressing, Catering and Hotel Management, Cosmetology, Accounting and Journalism, among others.