21 May 2014

East Africa: Shortage of Skilled Labour Worry Academics

Entebbe — ESCALATING disparity between available skills and demands in East Africa's labour market poses danger to the sub-region's socioeconomic future, academicians noted with concern on Tuesday.

Statistics presented at a twoday workshop on the draft East African Qualification Framework for Higher Education (EAQFHE) showed great achievement by East African partner states, with over 720,000 students enrolled in 344 higher education institutions across the region by 2013.

"In terms of quantity, the region has performed extremely well but regarding quality, there is a lot to re-examine," Professor Mayunga Nkunya, the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) Executive Secretary told the workshop participants. Professor Nkunya, referring to the EAQFHE related study that was conducted to all East African countries, said there is a serious problem of university graduates fitting in the job market.

"Our universities are churning out scholars who (unfortunately) are not up to the standards of the job market -- this is a cause for alarm, if we really want to transform our region socially and economically," said Professor Nkunya, noting that the only solution was to upgrade the skills and competence of graduates and existing workforce.

Dr Mohammed Kerre said the widening skill gap in the market had adverse impacts on the national economies, including low productivity, slow delivery to the market and even unemployment.

He said it was high time East Africa moved from its traditional examination and time based education to competence and skill based learning: "Traditionally, we are used to emphasising on passing examinations and counting the number of years students spend at college but I think it's time we focused on competence and skills gained in the course of learning."

Deliberating on the draft framework, the academicians faulted the region's educational system, which they described as incapable of leading East African countries to the envisaged socioeconomic prosperity.

"In most of our higher learning institutions, we are busy feeding people with knowledge instead of sharpening their minds to create knowledge," charged Iringa University's Professor Nicholus Bangu.

Another participant from the private sector charged that the deteriorating education quality in the region was a result of commercialising the noble sector. "Commercialisation of education is one serious problem that I seeÉ today we have lecturers teaching six universities on part-time basis --where do they get time to concentrate and conduct researches," he said.

The EAQFHE draft proposes, among other things, the harmonisation of education system in the region to facilitate comparability, compatibility and mobility of high education graduates, with the view of facilitating easy implementation of the common market protocol.

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