214 Ugandan students flagged off to Israel for the AgroStudies International Internship
The First Lady Mrs. Janet Museven who is also Minister of Education and Sports flags off students at Makerere University Main hall.
Over 200 Ugandan students were on Monday 5th September, 2016 flagged off to Israel for the one year paid AgroStudies internship. The ceremony was presided over by the First Lady Mrs. Janet Museveni who is also the Minister of Education and Sports.
The function was held at the Makerere University Main Hall and also graced by the Israel Ambassador to East Africa, H.E Yahel Vilan, the Vice Chancellor Makerere University Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu and the Deputy Vice Chancellor Finance and Administration Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe. Also present were the Friends of Israel, parents and AgroStudies Old boys and Girls from the previous cohorts.
The ceremony was moderated by Assoc. Prof. Denis Mpairwe, one of the initiators of the program and Head Department of Agricultural Production, School of Agricultural Sciences, Makerere University.
Students, Makerere University top officials and Mrs. Janet Museveni pose for a group photograph at the University's Main hall
On behalf of the Ministry, Mrs. Janet Museveni extended gratitude to the Government of Israel for availing the opportunity to Uganda’s youth to learn from the people of Israel. The First lady also appreciated Makerere University and Coordinators for their invaluable input and being passionate about the program.
The Minister said that Uganda and Israel have had a long term relationship where many young people have benefited from short trainings and in other areas including Agriculture, Security and Development aid.
Mrs. Museveni described AgroStudies offer as gratifying, and the answer to Uganda’s cries. She observed that Israel, a desert country, has overcome surmountable obstacles in its development path to be what it is today.
Mrs. Janet Museveni addressing participants during the ceremony
“It is therefore my prayer that you young people we are flagging off today will use this opportunity to learn and pick lessons to transform your lives and the entire communities. My appeal is that you will raise the Ugandan flag high in Israel. Do your work with excellence and integrity. No one ignores an excellent person but this calls for the right mindset at work”, The First Lady advised and went on to say:
‘Work is a privilege and a form of worship to God because God himself was a worker… You should abandon the dependence syndrome and work hard for this is Biblical. God said we will eat from sweat…” She added.
As Government, Mrs. Museveni pledged to build on what the students would have learnt from Israel to transform the country. She called on the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries to work with universities to mainstream agricultural skilling from Israel in educational training to help Uganda shift from subsistence to commercial agriculture.
Mrs. Janet Museveni presents a gift to the Israeli Ambassodor H.E Yahel Vilan during the flag off ceremony
Mrs. Museveni also urged universities to establish farms for the returnees from Israel to establish model farms for agricultural training saying, government was committed to improving the required infrastructure in empowering the graduates.
Mrs. Museveni pledged that the Ministry of Education and Sports will create the enabling policy environment that broaden the opportunities for skilling the youth.
The First Lady also promised to discuss with the Program Coordinators and the President on how to deal with the Presidential pledge that was made during the flag off of the first cohort in 2013 at Makerere University.
In 2013 President Museveni pledged to reward students who work hard, save and come back with a business plan. The President in his speech that was read for him by the then Minister of Education and Sports. Maj. Jessica Alupo promised that each student who will attain a 75% mark at the end of this internship and save some money, government will match it from the Youth Fund in a ratio of 1:2.
“If you attain at least 75% mark and save equivalent of USD 1000, we shall match it by $2000 or equivalent so that you start your agribusiness or commercial farming enterprise. If you save $ 2000; we shall match it with $4000 as startup capital for your agribusiness. This way, I want you to become the “Seeds” of my agricultural transformation in Uganda”, Part of the 2013 President’s speech read.
Mrs. Janet Museveni further pledged Government's committed to strengthening collaboration with the Government of Israel to ensure that AgroStudies and other Israel agencies support farmer associations in Uganda.
The Israel Ambassador for East Africa H.E Yahel Vilan assured parents that their children were going to a safe and secure country where only hard work pays.
The Israel Ambassador to East Africa, H.E Yahel Vilan addressing participants
He told participants that although Israel is regarded as as a “Holy Land”, where Jesus Christ was born, its transformation has not come through miracles but through hard work and innovations.
Ambassador Yahel pointed out that the most important thing Ugandan students were going to learn from Israel is hard work and using the practical knowledge and skills to become agents of change in their communities.
“You should be champions, bring technology to Uganda. Uganda has good soils and almost everything. There is no reason why Uganda cannot flourish like Israel. Everything is here, take role in helping others and train others to reach to the masses”, Ambassador Yahel Vilan stated.
H.E Yahel pledged to strengthen the relationship between Uganda and Israel and discuss modalities of having an Israel embassy established in Uganda. Currently, all the activities are coordinated from Kenya where the Israel embassy is located.
Makerere University's Vice Chancellor Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu said the AgroStudies program was in line with the University’s strategic plan to reposition herself as a Centre of Excellence in Africa.
Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. John Ddumba-Ssentamu giving his speech
The Vice Chancellor hailed the partnership between Makerere University, the people of Israel and the Government of Uganda . He applauded Ambassador Yahel Vilan for his support to the Makerere University.
“The University core functions are Teaching, Learning, Research Innovations and Knowledge transfer to society. The support through AgroStudies is helping to nurture students in the field of Agriculture and related aspects”. The Vice Chancellor said.
The Professor also thanked the AgroStudies Program Coordinators for the support rendered to students expressing the University commitment to support the program.
The Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) (DVC (F&A) Makerere University Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe said the internship program has been running for the past four years.
“The program is in line with the Makerere University Strategic position to produce practical oriented graduates and to strengthen linkages with universities and Israel. Students will be exposed to modern methods of Agriculture”. The DVC (F&A )said.
On behalf of Makerere University and sister universities Prof. Nawangwe also thanked the Israel Ambassador for supporting Uganda. He described the AgroStudies program as a vehicle of socio-economic transformation in Uganda.
“I appeal to you students to work hard, be disciplined. Be good ambassadors because this is a rare opportunity. Work hard and learn smart…” Prof. Nawangwe advised.
The Regional Coordinator AgroStudies Program Mr. Agaba Issa Mugabo reported that this was the fourth cohort of students Uganda was sending to Israel.
AgroStudies Regional Coordinator, Mr. Agaba Issa Mugabo speaking to the participants
In 2013, Makerere University sent 31 students (majority from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and 2 from Busitema University) as the first cohort . Later in the year, Israel asked for more 10 students after being impressed by the exceptional performance of the Ugandan students totaling 41 students . All students in the 1st cohort were boys.
In 2014, 198 students were sent to Israel raising the number from 41 and the first largest increment in the history of AgroStudies. Of these, 10 were girls.
In 2015, a total of 220 students from different universities and agricultural institutions were admitted to the program. Of these 20 were girls. Two students dropped off on medical and religious grounds. The cohort graduated the previous week.
“At the graduation, out of the 9 best students, 7 were from Uganda. 2 best students are remaining in Israel for another year. The best student of the year 2013 Mr. Asega… who returned to Uganda to finish his course is travelling back to Israel to enjoy his rewards”, Mr. Agaba stated.
A section of the students at Entebbe International Airport leaving for Israel on 6th September 2016
The program attracts students from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The best students according to the Regional Coordinator are retained for some more time to manage AgroStudies farms. The AgroStudies opened farms where students can do experiments.
This year 2016, a total of 214 students were flagged off. Of these, 13 were girls.
The Regional Coordinator now wants the number of girls to be increased.
“ We are requesting that the number of girls should be increased to at least 50 because it has been proved that work boys do, can be done by girls and sometimes girls can even do better than boys. This year, we have taken girls from Animal Science and they will be handling 3,000 cows in Israel”. Mr. Agaba reported.
Mr. Agaba also told participants that this year 2016, Gulu University has been brought on board and more institutions will be included as they learn the program. Previously, the participating institutions included Makerere University, Kyambogo, Busitema , Busoga University, Bishop Stuart University, Bukalasa Agricultural College and Serere Institute of Agriculture.
Mr. Agaba requested government to take advantage of the program to engage the graduates in productive ventures to mitigate unemployment since they come back with a different mindset and some money.
The average saving rate by Ugandan students in Israel has risen from $ 6,500 in 2013, $7,000 in 2014 and $ 1.8million dollars in 2015 brought to the Ugandan economy.
“If Uganda government takes this program seriously, it can mitigate the problem of youth unemployment. The students’ savings of $ 1.8 million dollars imply that government has to match $ 3.6million dollars to the students’ savings as pledged by the President.” Mr. Agaba appealed.
The Presidential pledge was made in 2013. Four years down the raod, beneficiaries are looking forward to receiving their rewards.
Mr. Agaba Issa leading the students at Entebbe International Airport on 6th September 2016.
Mr. Agaba further said the program got experts from Enterprise Uganda and other organisations to train students on Financial literacy skills. He noted that these youth may not necessarily need money from government but an organized infrastructure like cooperatives to become change agents of agricultural transformation.
He advised students to be mindful of time management and to stay focus as they take off to Israel.
“There are two important words in the program, chick-chak and yalla (hurry up). It only means everything is about time because time is money. It is now, not tomorrow. Stay and complete the program. Don’t be a statistic and a miscarriage. Stay till 4th September, 2017”, The Regional Program Co-ordinator emphasized.
He appealed to the Israel Ambassador to increase slots for Uganda saying, they would like more students to get exposure and more universities brought on board.
Story compiled by:
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences