Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Education and Sports has unveiled a scholarship program to boost the participation of girls and Persons with Disabilities-PWDs in technical and vocational education and training (TVET).
Technical education has been identified as the key to Uganda’s competitiveness in the global skills arena. However, the under-representation of women and PWDs in many areas remains a cause for concern.
The new scholarship program, according to a circular signed by the Director of Higher Education Dr. Jane Egua on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, will provide funding for girls in six key programs at both the diploma and certificate levels.
The programs include automotive mechanics, welding and metal fabrication, machining technology, equipment maintenance, mechanical engineering technology, and road construction.
According to the Ministry, female applicants must have an O’ level certificate with credits in mathematics, physics, and chemistry or an Uganda Community Polytechnic Certificate.
Those enrolling in technical colleges for diplomas must have two principal passes in relevant subjects at the same sitting of an A-level certificate or a certificate in any of the national certificate courses offered at several TVET institutions.
However, PWDs will be required to have at least one principal pass from a relevant subject at the A-level or a certificate from a Community Polytechnic school.
“Applicants must also not be more than 25 years old…students already in their first year of study on private sponsorship or those with admission from a recognized institution are also encouraged to apply,” the circular reads in part.
Loy K. Abaine Muhwezi, the Commissioner for TVET Operations and Management, says PWDs have the opportunity to participate without any limitations, as the government has not imposed any restrictions on their numbers and permits them to select their desired program.
On the other hand, Muhwezi states that the Ministry has designated 90 openings specifically for girls, with 15 individuals selected for each group.
The commissioner notes that despite some concerns regarding the limited number of available slots, the ministry could not consider increasing the quantity due to the low level of interest shown by females. She bases her argument on the fact that out of the 60 government-sponsored slots for TVET available in each public institution, only a minimal number of females showed interest in the program.
According to a report from the National Planning Authority, although the enrollment in TVET increased to 45,153 in 2018 from 39,712 in 2014, female enrollment remained alarmingly low. This is concerning given that the unemployment rate among females is higher compared to males, and equipping females with skills is perceived as a transformative strategy.
The recently released UBTEB assessment results also revealed a gender imbalance, with only 15,000 females completing their programs out of a total of 52,373 trainees.
Interestingly, at the primary and secondary levels, the number of girls taking exams is nearly equivalent to that of boys.
Muhwezi, says that the new scholarship which is another sort of affirmative action program is part of the government’s efforts to address this disparity and provide equal opportunities for all, and also encourage more girls to join the TVET sector.
Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is increasingly recognized as a viable alternative for young people who want to acquire practical skills and secure employment opportunities.
In the past, parents often viewed TVET with skepticism, believing that it was only for students who were unable to excel academically. However, perceptions are slowly changing, and more people are recognizing the value of TVET in today’s economy. Despite this, the high cost of training remains a major barrier for many students, limiting their access to these programs.
To address this issue, the government recently proposed introducing universal TVET education. However, sources from the Education Ministry suggest that this may be difficult to achieve in the short term.