Part I: Education and Unemployment in Uganda
KABALE, UGANDA – Lucky Ariho, 26, counts herself fortunate that her education landed her a prestigious job. She is a lecturer in the English department at Kabale University in southwestern Uganda.
“I was lucky, like my name, and I was one of the best students in the BA class, so I got an opportunity to join a work and study scheme at Uganda Christian University, Mukono, near Kampala,” she says. “I was able to study for my master’s degree in literature and have a job at the university.”
She is also the acting deputy director of the Institute of Languages at the university, which enables her to play a role in administration. She says she has noticed that people are hungry to attain academic degrees.
“Today, there is hunger for academic qualification,” Ariho says. “The major reason is that there is this belief that the more qualifications you have, the better chances you have for a job.”
She says she is currently looking for scholarships to pursue her doctorate in literature.
“Some years ago, a bachelor’s degree was considered a big achievement, but these days even a master’s degree is not enough to put you at ease. Today, anybody can acquire a master’s degree despite their performance.”
Ariho says she worries that education is becoming devalued because there are many private institutions of higher learning in this country. She says the growing number of schools means that many are willing to enroll students regardless of their academic qualifications.
She adds that the excitement surrounding academic achievement in Uganda adds to this trend. She says that the euphoria that follows the Uganda National Examinations Board’s release of results for examinations such as the Primary Leaving Examination at the end of primary school, the Ordinary Level examination at age 16 and the Advanced Level examination to determine university acceptance is incredible. The students who excel are interviewed and photographed together with their parents and teachers. Schools, eager to be recognized, air radio announcements showcasing how well their students performed.
“Parents also love to mention that daughter so-and-so and son so-and-so has a master’s now or a Ph.D.,” she says.
Ariho says that there is a contradiction in all this because many who go for further studies are not necessarily able to get jobs.
She says that the market is flooded with graduates as a result of this academic hype, and yet there are no new jobs coming up.
The few jobs that are available require experience, which a fresh graduate does not have. She also says that self-employment is unrealistic because most graduates lack access to capital to start their own businesses.
Ariho says that on one hand, having a lot of highly qualified people is positive because their knowledge will in one way or another contribute to the general development of their communities.
“On the other hand,” she says, “having so many qualified people who are underemployed or outright unemployed will not