Ugandan officials are being criticised after a brand new Saudi funded technical college costing $2.6m attracted just 17 students in eight months, despite the country’s rising tide of unemployed youth.
Strict entry requirements, high fees and poor marketing have been blamed for the failure of the Lyantonde Technical Institute (pictured) to enrol students, reports Kampala-based newspaper The Daily Monitor.
The institute, paid for by the Saudi Fund for Development and offering courses in construction, plumbing, welding and metal fabrication, was officially opened by President Yoweri Museveni while campaigning for the country’s general election in February.
"I think we set the bar too high by asking applicants to possess Ordinary Level certificates," the institute’s principal, Francis Behagana, told the Monitor. "If we had allowed students who have completed Primary Seven to join, we would be having a reasonable number of students."
School fees are a barrier, too. Students sponsored by the government pay up to $47 (Shs165,000) per semester, while those studying privately pay up to $143 – which is very expensive in a country where gross national income per capita was just $670 in 2015, according to the World Bank.
Behagana said the institute planned to introduce informal free courses soon to attract more students. He also blamed a proliferation of private training colleges in the area.
One local resident said he had no idea what the new college was.
"We have never heard our local leaders tell us that the buildings we see there are housing a technical institute. Some think it is just a project run by foreigners," Simon Asiimwe, a resident, told the Monitor.
According to the paper, a similar college built in Nakaseke District for $2.9m enrolled only 60 students from 600 applications.
Uganda has a serious youth unemployment problem. According to the World Bank, 53% of Uganda’s population is younger than 15, and 64% of its unemployed are 24 or younger.
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Image: Lyantonde Technical Institute, in Lyantonde District, has enrolled only 17 pupils (By permission: Cleophas Tukamarwa/The Daily Monitor)