opinionBy Andrew Masinde
Iganga Technical Institute may be the unhappiest skills development institute and its loud silence shouts its misery.
It is early in the evening and two elderly women lost in thought are watching from a bench leaning against a cracked wall.
They have worked at this institution for years. Although they are unhappy about the degree to which the institution has degenerated, they are at a loss on how the institute can be given a new lease of life.
Set up in 1932 by Father Slot, a White Catholic, the institute's mission was to empower the Catholic youth in Busoga region with income-generating skills. The first courses offered at the institute were carpentry, joinery and electrical installation.
In 1954, it was taken over by the Government. New courses such as plumbing and motor vehicle mechanics were introduced.
The courses offered there attracted students from far and wide and in its heyday, the institute churned out a number of prominent individuals in the fields of technological development.
However, the gloss of the institute's picture has long faded as it has fallen into a state of disrepair.
"It is a ghost of its former self," remarks one resident in the area, whose children were educated at the institute.
A lane of bushes ushers one to the once immaculate-white administration block, which has also been dealt a cruel blow by age and weather.
The structures have unique architectural designs and were built by the missionaries to last for ages, but are failing this test. Instead of paint, the walls are adorned with grey patches, lichen and mosses.
A walk around the premises exposes more horrifying scenes.
The students' halls are filthy, complete with broken window panes and shaky beds. The bathrooms are in a worse state. The plaster peeled off the walls. The floors were eaten up years ago. So instead of walking out of a bathroom squeaky clean, one is likely to leave with mud stains instead. To make matters worse, one has to put up with the stench emanating from a rubbish pit near the bathroom.
The latrines are not any different from the bathrooms. Some stand shyly without doors, although they are still in use.
Much as the institute is still operational, the workshops are not only derelict, but have obsolete equipment. a
Since its construction about 70 years ago, the carpentry workshop has never been renovated.
The library has some of the oldest books in the country. The institute's director of studies, Augustine Namawa says the content in some of these books is so out-dated that they can no longer be used by the students. The institute badly needs modern equipment and new books to keep up with the changing trends in the country.
Teachers' too have not been spared by the plague eating up the institute. In addition to their numbers being few, their houses have cracked walls and leaking roofs.
The institute's family seems resigned to this fate.
"What can we do? We just have to do what we can with the little Government funds we receive," laments Namawa.
To prove this, the kitchen was recently renovated after teachers kicked a storm protesting against its terrible state.
It is hoped that the renovation of the kitchen will be the first step in a journey to revamp the institute under the Skilling Uganda programme together with others in the country. Time will tell. Will this come to pass?