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Varsities urged to produce workers, not thinkers

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More practical learning than theory is needed in the market to create jobs
More practical learning than theory is needed in the market to create jobs

The increased number of jobless youths in East Africa will continue to double or even triple annually to alarming rates, unless institutions of higher learning revise their curriculum to start teaching on-the-job skills as opposed to academic-based programmes.

Vice Chancellors and top professors from the academic fields attending a regional conference on education that kicked off in Kigali on Thursday have been told it is the only sure way of ensuring graduates don’t spend years looking for jobs before most of them lose hope and resort to menial jobs and others get into crime.

Government representatives and players from the private sector present were categorical about the dilemma employers face on a daily basis because of the quality of graduates leaving universities with little, or no idea at all on professions of their passion, other than the impressive qualifications they hold.

“It is time universities stopped producing thinkers. We already have enough thinkers,” Professor Mayunga Nkunya, the Executive Secretary of the University Council of East Africa said. “What is required now are people who can do the work. People with enough knowledge of the job skills. They should produce people ready for the job market.”

Nkunya was speaking at a regional conference on education that is aimed at finding ways of harnessing innovation potential to drive social economic development in East Africa.

For East African Business Council Chairman Felix Mosha, the need to revise universities curriculum is long overdue due to the technological innovations advancing by the day.

“Our industries are becoming more and more sophisticated hence the need for sophisticated skills to suit the market,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the conference, but was quick to point out that the discussions in Kigali are not a sign of a crisis “but an opportunity to unlock lost potential.”

“We want to optimally utilise the universities to produce more than academic skills. It’s time to change to producing graduates with job skills,” Mosha said, warning “it is a process whose results should not be expected tomorrow.”

The two-day forum is jointly organised by the Inter-University Council of East Africa, East African Development Bank and the East African Business Council that brings together heads of universities from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi who are meeting to deliberate with representatives of research institutions as well as those from governments and private sector.

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