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Bukalasa to become centre of excellence in agriculture

A student milking a cow at  Bukalasa Agricultural College

A student milking a cow at Bukalasa Agricultural College

In April 2018, the World Bank conducted a needs assessment under the Uganda Skills Development Project (USDP) to understand the technical capacity gaps and human and institutional capacity needs of employers in the agriculture sector.

Findings revealed huge capacity gaps that required urgent attention in all areas assessed with a review of selected programmes at Luweero-based Bukalasa Agricultural College (BAC), now set to become a centre of excellence in agriculture, writes YUDAYA NANGONZI.

The World Bank identified that the workforce has limited specialised skills and hands-on experiences. The assessment also brought to light the fact that despite the large number of graduates trained, there is a huge capacity gap in technical skills in agriculture.

After back-and-forth meetings, the national stakeholders sitting at Nakawa Vocational Institute recently  agreed to validate three diploma and certificate programmes at BAC. The two-year reviewed programmes are Crop Production and Business Management, Livestock Production and Business Management and Agri-processing and Business Management.

The principal of BAC, Gelvan Kisolo Lule, said the selected programmes are part of the Competence-Based Education and Training (CBET) curriculum which is as a result of the 10-year strategic plan to reform vocational education in Uganda.

“As one of the drivers for the economy, agriculture was found prudent that we look at the reforms starting with Bukalasa as a centre of excellence. We wanted to give more skills to our trainees and make them more hands-on-based than theory,” Kisolo said.

Uganda Bureau of Statistics 2010 statistics indicate that agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy employing 65.6 per cent of the labour force, contributing 21 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

By 2017, the sector had accounted for 47 per cent of total export earnings. While its contribution to the GDP has been declining, World Bank says there’s need to provide a basis for growth in other sectors.

According to the assessment report, agricultural production in Uganda is dominated primarily by smallholder farmers engaged in food and industrial crops, forestry, horticulture, fishing and livestock farming.

Kisolo said that after five years, the reviewed curriculum will create human capacity with the relevant knowledge and skills positioned to transform the economy from peasantry to commercial farming.

FLEXIBLE CURRICULUM

Established in 1920 as a cotton breeding centre, Bukalasa has since transformed into an agricultural training institution. The new curricula scheduled to start in September 2019 will be implemented in partnership with Dalhousie University based in Canada in a move to ensure that all the programmes are accredited internationally.

Bukalasa will also network with Rwentanga and Ssese farm institutes and Kaberamaido technical institute during the five-year project. The first cohort for each of the three programmes will comprise 30 participants. When being undertaken, Kisolo said, the new programmes are more flexible in implementation compared to the previous ones.

“One can choose to take one semester and can qualify for a certificate of competence in a field of their choice. During this time, our students can start employing themselves or employed by someone,” he said.

“If one wants to add on competences in other fields, we can always design for them short courses that can beef up what one has earned. If one is willing to continue, they are allowed to come back and complete other semesters and graduate.”

With the previous curricula, one had to undertake one semester at a go without any breaks to qualify for certain competences. Once a learner has accumulated all the four semesters, they graduate.

The reform at BAC will see learners attached to organisations out of the institute for six weeks during the second term of second year for internship. The field attachment report shall contribute 100 per cent marks. 

In order to ensure adequate practical training, each learner shall be required to choose a practical project which he or she carries out from within the institute. As part of their training, they will also be tasked to undertake a special project on a topic related to agriculture to demonstrate the skill learned in the two years.

The ministry of Education and Sports under secretary, Aggrey Kibenge, said the review is yet another special opportunity for the sector to collectively contribute towards the objectives of the Skilling Uganda programme.

Kibenge urged institutions set to implement the curriculum to ensure that it’s on course towards the desire to reform the technical, vocational education and training in the country.

MORE CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE

The assistant commissioner Teacher Education, Loy Muhwezi, told The Observer that the review was facilitated by government through a World Bank loan worth $100m (about Shs 376bn) to establish four centres of excellence in agriculture, manufacturing, building construction and road construction sectors.

Each centre of excellence will be networking with three other Vocational Training Institutes (VTIs). Out of the $100m, at least $82m (Shs 309bn) has been allocated to the four centres of excellence and their networks to upgrade programmes to International standards.

Government allocated the remaining $18m (Shs 68bn) to the private sector to build capacity of employers and small-scale enterprises as well as supporting internship of students. “This is meant to help them understand concepts of the reviewed curricula,” Muhwezi said.

Besides Bukalasa, other centres are Uganda Technical College (UTC) Bushenyi to become a centre of excellence in manufacturing, UTC Elgon in building construction and UTC Lira in road construction.

She told instructors in public and private institutions that: “Do not look at the reforms as geared towards making you lose jobs but help you delivery the training appropriately. If you’re an instructor who does not go back and update yourself, you will become outdated.”

nangonzi@observer.ug

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