13 December 2012

Uganda: Kaliro Technical Institute Trudges Into Extinction

An elderly man trudges up the dilapidated teachers' quarters that once housed a magnify cent cotton ginnery in the eastern Uganda district of Kaliro.

This 70-year-old man was born 10 years after the ginnery was set up, but nobody, not even the old man, envisaged that the ginnery would be turned into a technical institute.

This is what has come to be known as Kaliro Technical Institute which has 617 students. In 1983, the Government set up a technical institute here, having acquired the buildings after the departure of Asians decades earlier.

Located in a remote area in eastern Uganda, the institute owes its origin to the 1971 military coup that brought Idi Amin to power. When the Asian owners were expelled, the buildings were abandoned and machinery looted.

Almost all buildings in this institute were put up by Asians. The Government only set up a few new buildings recently; which are gradually breathing new life into the institute.

But that is not enough to salvage the institute that is slipping into oblivion. Signs of age and poor maintenance are inscribed everywhere, from the bushy compound to the dilapidated buildings.

A huge crack in the wall boldly stares at you as you enter the dean of students' office. As if that is not bad enough, flies stubbornly swam through a window.

They are coming out of a nearby dilapidated pit latrine. Most of the workshops are run down and because the institute's population is low, most of the lessons are conducted under tree shades.

"Unlike other institutes which may be in the same state like ours, our problems are unique because we do not have workshops nor the required equipment," says one of the students.

The teachers' houses are an eyesore, some with roofs caving in. Richard Kakumira, the deputy principal, says it takes commitment for the instructions to work under these conditions. "It is about sacrifice," he explains.

Standing in the doorway of his house, Kakumira narrates how low the institute has sunk. He says the institute can be salvaged, but hastens to add that he is not sure how this will be done.

Because of inadequate staff accommodation, instructors and their families are forced to share the dilapidated houses, which are also poorly ventilated and lit.

The verandahs have been eaten away over the years and the houses get flooded whenever it rains. "We live in these houses because we have no option.

We hope the Government will construct new houses for us in the future," Kakumira says. Some of these houses and classroom blocks have not been painted for the last eight decades.

Some walls have collapsed and the few that have survived are threatening to cave in. The institute has few instructors who are on the government payroll, yet the number of students keeps increasing.

In some departments, which are meant to have five instructors, there are only three. "We sacrifice a lot to teach these students. What we receive as a salary after teaching cannot feed our families," explains one of the instructors on condition of anonymity.

"The Government needs to put a number of us on the payroll to support technical education in the country." According to the administration, the institute needs new staff quarters and well-equipped workshops.

The institute also needs to avert the health threats the deplorable sanitation poses. The instructors also need to go for refresher courses because a number of them have not got any special training since they took up their jobs years ago. To accomplish all these tasks, the administrators say the institute needs sh1.7b.

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