Irrelevant programs hampering growth of regional private sector

Irrelevant programs hampering growth of regional private sector

Prof. Mayunga H Nkunya

Unless the academia revisits its range of academic programs offered at higher education institutions, experts say private sector is yet to have a snail pace towards achieving its ambitious goal of being the engine of regional economies.

Higher education academic programs which are offered across the region are irrelevant and are a mismatch to the demanded skills on the job market thus hampering the efforts to push for the private sector growth.

According to experts, most   Academic programs are designed to attract students without considering the demand of the private sector which is looked at the source of employment in the region thus giving way to investors to opt for foreigners to harness their investments.

“Jobs are there, but the people from our Universities don’t have   the qualification and skills to take up the jobs,” said Prof. Mayunga H Nkunya, executive secretary of the Inter-University Council for east Africa, IUCEA.

Despite   education being a public good across the region which   in most of the cases, government    having a bigger hand in their financing, most universities as way  of  creating  sustainable resources design  programs to attract more students but may not be relevant to the job market.

“But these course are not linked to the demand of the labour market,” Prof. Nkunya added

In such doing, students get attracted to the courses   which   will at the end of their graduation will  not  help them create  their own  jobs neither be  absorbed  in the  private sector  employment   market.

“Students and parents are looking at going to the university rather than the course they are going to offer, whether is it relevant or not and this is a problem,” said Fred Gatungye, a secondary school teacher.

The East African partner states have been   looking at ways of   speeding up the growth of the private sector mainly through attracting foreign direct Investment in key productive sectors of the region to fast track employment as well as realizing growth terms for the economies.

“In so doing, the  professor notes “ the whole Idea  of Foreign Direct  Investments  is  to  create  employment opportunities but if  our people are not  prepared for the  jobs, investors  will  employ   other people outside the region.”

For example, Uganda   was struggling with oil experts during the tendering process and the companies carrying out exploration had to look at other regions   for expertise prompting, the government to   train   more people in oil related courses ahead of the drilling phase.

Whilst, statistics indicate that Foreign Direct Investment-FDI inflow total to the EAC region increased to US$1,714 billion in 2009 up from US$1,323 billion in 2006 with FDI stock increasing to US$14.866 billion in 2009 compared to US$9.33 billion in 2006.

According to  the  research study  conducted  by  Inter-University  Council of East Africa, most  graduates lacked  the  skills  as well as self confidence in tackling tasks given to them which lowered their competitiveness.

Nevertheless,  educationists blame the  lack   of  skilled  graduates to the  education which  systems which  failed to integrate  the  traditional education values which encouraged   education focused on  home grown solutions.

Accordingly, the current education system   was built on the colonial approach which was aimed at producing graduates to help in the colonial administration rather than building a skilled  labour  that  create  their own  jobs in the  private sector.

“Of course this a new paradigm, referring to  a shift  from  public  employment to   private sector oriented  skills  for graduates, “it is not easy to change but   it must be done,” the professor noted   rooting for  harmonization of   the higher education curriculum   across the region as well as  looking at research and  innovation.

Again, experts are optimistic that a regional innovation system in harnessing the region’s innovation potential for driving economic development.

Through academia- public – private partnership, experts believe the link  between knowledge, human resources and innovation produced by  higher education in  the region  and its dissemination  by the private  sector   will be released which   in turn  satisfies  the  skills demand by the private sector.

This will therefore see the private sector   together with the academia outlining the skills that are relevant to them of which the academia will now design courses which will assure the graduates of their employment after their graduation.

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