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Frank in Uganda - Connecting student dreams with market realities.

27 April 2011

Creative methods of research
Creative methods of research
Research in Uganda
Research in Uganda
Frank in Uganda
Frank in Uganda
Participatory Research
Participatory Research

Being over a month now in Uganda, I feel my research is finally starting to take off. Today (6 April) I have seen 5 ex-students from Ruharo Vocational Training School who are working in the field now, 4 boys constructing a building (3 carpentry & joinery, 1 bricklaying and concrete practice) and 1 girl who did tailoring and cutting working in a shop. It all started Tuesday when I asked the Director of Studies in Ruharo if I could meet some people in the field. Today, one day later I made an appointment with the 3 carpentry & joinery students for tomorrow. I was planning to do a one-on-one interview, because I thought I was going to meet students separately. I was even finishing my questions for the interview this morning in Kent Foundation, the other vocational training school where I’m doing my research from. After finishing them at 2pm exactly (my appointment with Enoth, the Director of Studies in town was at 2pm) I took the Boda Boda (motorcycle that serves as public transport in Uganda) on the Slippery road to town. It has been raining for the whole morning, but luckily I made it to town and reached the meeting point at a quarter past 2. Enoth arrived, as I suspected, another 15 minutes later and before I knew it I was in a building being constructed by, amongst others, ex-students of Ruharo. These 3 students were happy to meet me and I made an appointment at 2pm tomorrow to interview them together in Classic Hotel, while enjoying a drink. By doing this I have created the challenge of finding and preparing a translator within a day. Luckily we are in Uganda, not in the Netherlands!After meeting the other ex-students in the field, I called a good friend of mine, a student at Ruharo Vocational Training School, to assist me as a translator. As I am writing this, he is translating the questions of my interview for tomorrow! His name is Brian Nuwamanya (or Tumusiime), this second name meaning: God knows. Well, if God knows Brian, I figured you would also want to know a little more about him. Here’s a short interview with the man himself:

Brian, can you introduce yourself to the people?
Oh people who are listening to me, I’m Brian Tumusiime. I will be helping mister Frank with interpreting this questions I’ll be asked.

Are you looking forward to tomorrow?
Of course I’m looking very forward and I am very eager considered that that day could come.

What do you want to get out of it, you, for yourself?
I want to find out, for me I want to look ahead and see those people, students whom I finished with, how they are coping with the outside environment. Because they have left this school in November. So I want to really find out what they are facing in the field.

That’s interesting. And Brian, you were telling me before about this dream. It is that dream that if you achieve it you will go to heaven, that dream. Can you tell us something about that?
My dream I was talking about: starting the rural vocational schools in Uganda. As far as I am concerned Uganda, we are still backward in vocational training institutes. We are having, something like the whole country has such institutes, and they are of old model. They are not of new generation. And you find that some few students join vocational schools. And many, most of them, they are those whom they think that they cannot compete for academic world. So I want that image to be out of vocational school and the vocational school should be for thoseones who are more competitive in the academic world then they think. So thereby making myself, that’s while I finish this school, this vocational school, I’ll be a best example of other students by starting a new role model school, which will be helpful to the new generation which is coming.

So others will able to benefit from your plans for a school
Of course I want others to, at least the coming generation, to at least say that may Brian after finishing, he became this one and this one. He’s now a certain type, he became a good example to them of course.

But why do you want to achieve this?
Of course, as far as I’m concerned, we have been put down by our leaders and some other ideologies which I could not explain right now. But for me, by letting us down, by saying that for us we cannot compete in academic world. For us we are the most competitive people. Somebody who could construct this building, someone who can make this table, when you look around, where we are sitting on chairs. We are having those windows. The people who made those windows, they are for people in vocation. And they look at us as nothing! For us, we are supposed to be big people. Somebody who can just make a cloth. And for you look at him or her, so I want that image to be out of that. People should really think for future. That kind of thinking I want them to leave and just take it out!

How are you planning to achieve your dream of building a school, changing the image?
As far as I’m concerned, I already talked to a few of my old boys. And as I’m concerned for me, I offered the course of Bricklaying and Concrete Practice. I’m finishing part II (Craft part II is advanced level). I have already found somebody who offers Tailoring and Cutting. I have somebody who has offered Motor Vehicle Mechanics and I’m having someone who studied Business Studies.We are now going to combine their minds and efforts, and in achieving it we have already acquired some pieces of land, to say that we can be constructing our buildings for the school. I think, as far as we’re concerned, that’s where we’ve reached.

And you told me books as well
Yes I have already. As I’m starting I’m now compiling some textbooks. As I talk I have already 25 textbooks for Tailoring, of which you can even look no further to get them. Even the real schools in Uganda, they find they don’t have many libraries.

So how did you get those?
These books, I’ve been at least keeping my little pocket money, which they give me. I just save it and I go to buy those books. Because I want themto help making future.

So what about girls?
Haha, as far as I’m concerned, girls are different entities to me. Ok I can say them, but I think it’s not time for girls right now. I will think about them maybe in the future, but not at this time.

Ok Brian. Thank you very much. I am looking forward to working with you. I hope you’ll learn a lot from it. I’ll hope it helps you in achieving your dream. Just only if it is a little, every little bit can help, I think. So yes…
Thank you

I’ll see you tomorrow
Thank you very much man. Good night!

Oraregye! (means good night in Runyankole, the local language in Mbarara)

What else am I doing? Tomorrow morning, before the interview, I will hand these questionnaires to the teachers in Kent Foundation. I have back, three of the questionnaires I handed out to the teachers in Ruharo. Reading the answer can be inspirational! For instance, this dream of one teacher: ‘Uplift this vocational school to a first class centre of vocational training, producing self reliant citizens.’, who also keeps in contact with and helps his students after they finish: ‘Absolutely and at least 50% of the leavers and assisted 20% in getting jobs outside.’ It’s important to know that also teachers have dreams for themselves: ‘When I fail to access government employment and get an increased salary at 45 years old, I will leave teaching profession and be an entrepreneur in the related field of my course/department i.e. self-employed.’ Skills needed for starting a business will be an important focus in this research. The vast majority of Ugandans cannot rely on employment, instead have to create their own job. If I have learned anything in this short time, it is that people having an entrepreneurial spirit is not the problem. ‘Ugandans are said to be among the top five most entrepreneurial people in the world. They are even more enterprising than the Americans and Japanese. The difference is that more than 30 per cent of our business startups do not see their first birthday, and very few survive to see their fifth birthday. It is hard to find a purely owned Ugandan business that is more than 40 years old. Many people who start businesses and close them when they are worse than when they started.’ (Smart Money, in the Daily Monitor of March 24, 2011). My Job then is to find out what a vocational school can do to develop people who can sustain a business and keep it growing. According to the Author from the above cited article in the Daily Monitor (a lecturer of entrepreneurship at Makerere University Business School) good entrepreneurs are governed by skill. Five skills that an entrepreneur needs and hence a school with the aim of making job creators instead of job seekers needs to be teaching: self-motivational skills, sales and marketing skills, time management skills, financial know-how and administration skills (Smart Money, in the Daily Monitor of March 24, 2011). In my research I will at least add vocational skills to this list. After all, like Brian said, it is a valuable skill to be able to build a house, to make the chair that you are sitting on while you are reading this. Isn’t the person who made the chair that you are sitting on adding value to your life right now? Or if your chair is really uncomfortable, would a person who could make a chair which is very comfortable not be adding value to your life at home?

In a few weeks, I will come back to you with more about my research. Amongst other things I will report about a workshop with students, who want to learn about life after school in order to prepare themselves for their future. If you have questions in the mean time, please ask. Whether they are for me, for Brian, or for other stakeholders in this research, I will be happy to answer and take into account your questions, comments & suggestions! Send them to

Greetings from Mbarara,

Kale kale!


Vocational education in Uganda
Vocational education in Uganda
Vocational education in Uganda
Vocational education in Uganda
Boda Boda / Motor taxi
Boda Boda / Motor taxi
Learning practical skills in Uganda
Learning practical skills in Uganda
Last modified:04 July 2014 9.25 p.m.

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