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Will Busitema’s new marine courses reshape fishing culture?

In the first of a kind in the country, Busitema University is set to become the first university in Uganda to teach marine courses and operate a maritime institute, writes ERNEST JJINGO.

This was revealed during a stakeholder engagement workshop for the review of the designed courses of marine engineering under the theme “Education and Training; A Missing Link in the Uganda Maritime Industry” at the Civil Service college in Jinja City last week.

Busitema university officials introduced the proposed courses to key stakeholders in the maritime industry which included the UPDF marines, ministry of Works and Transport, private sector and prominent engineers.

Certificate courses will include short mandatory programmes like Personal Safety and Social Responsibility, Elementary First Aid, Personal Survival Techniques and Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting.

Meanwhile, other courses will include diploma in Nautical Science and diploma in Marine Engineering, which will take two years whereas the bachelors of Science in Marine Engineering will be studied for four years.

Prof Samuel Baker Kucel, the Busitema University deputy vice chancellor, told The Observer that introducing these marine programmes was a directive from President Museveni, through the ministry of Education and Sports, because many Ugandans were losing lives in the waters while travelling with substandard boats that are poorly repaired.

Therefore, they put their safety in danger but these courses will equip them with the technical know- how of repairing water vessels as well as designing them.

“To come up with these courses, we have benchmarked with other institutions all over the world which are involved in maritime training and through the Ugandan embassy in Turkey, we went to five universities there where we were exposed to several facilities we need to develop these courses. We noted that we need a lot of infrastructure, especially if you are going to train degree programmes. We also need international maritime accreditations for the institution, the programmes and the lecturers and other guidelines by the International Maritime Organization,” Prof Kucel said.

He noted that they are going to first start with the teaching of the short mandatory courses by the end of this year and then add on the diploma and degree programmes by the end of next year after the completion of the construction of a lecture and laboratory complex at the university’s Namasagali campus.

“That means that by end of next year, we shall be beginning to teach marine diploma and degree courses because we have also been given resources to acquire all the necessary equipment.”

For mandatory courses, the university is planning to start with 20 students while for the diploma and degree courses they are planning on starting with 40 to 50 students. Prof Kucel said this is because these are highly practical courses where there is need to carefully take care of each individual students’ needs therefore they don’t want big classes.

Due to the fact that these are new courses being introduced in Uganda’s education sector, Kucel said that they had to first train their staff who are going to teach these courses which included sending them to universities abroad such as the University of Strathclyde in Scotland and they have come back fully equipped with knowledge and skills to teach these courses.

He further added that they shall also have training support from the UPDF marines. Charles Ruzigye, the assistant commissioner in charge of safety of navigations at the ministry of Works and Transport, said that Uganda’s marine industry is developing rapidly because we have new vessels and routes which are transporting a lot of cargo from the central and northern corridors which means there is need to maintain safety of these marine operations.

Meanwhile Brig Michael Nyarwa, the commander of UPDF Marine Forces, noted that these courses come at a time when the demand to boost transport of bulk cargo, tourism, leisure on our water bodies has increased.

“The courses are therefore expected to solve two major challenges; reducing the costs investors and the country incur on hiring expatriates for marine related activities and making training and education of Ugandans affordable since there will no longer be need of those who have passion in marine industry to incur high expenses of studying from abroad,” he said.

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