MAK Dons undergo TOT courses in didactives and students mentorship Under PREPARE BSC Project funded by EU-EDULINK II Program
Dr. Kabi Fred Speaking during the function
There is insufficient advance in agricultural sector and particularly, Agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa, has performed worse in the world. Among various causes of poor performance is the kind of education offered at Agricultural universities. Studies have shown that Universities fail to respond to community needs therefore, graduates inadequately contribute to solving problems faced by the sector.
It is within this background that Junior, mid-career and senior academic staff at Makerere University in the fields of Agriculture, Forestry, Veterinary, Environment, Natural Sciences and Food Science on 1st February, 2016 converged for a three (3) days workshop to be equipped with relevant subject didactic skills for producing graduates who are able to meet societal needs and the labour market demands in the field of agriculture and related sciences.
The training workshop will expose participants to hands-on training in good teaching methods, student motivation, assessment and curriculum review processes and mentorship. The workshop was organized by Makerere University in collaboration with the University of Nairobi, Sokoine University of Agriculture and University of Copenhagen under the project titled “Enhancing the quality of graduates of Agriculture to meet tomorrow’s food security challenges (PREPARE-BSC project).
A number of participants converged for the training
The PREPARE- BSC project is a regionally coordinated but internationally inspired project aimed at improving agricultural sector by improving the quality of training of undergraduates funded by EU through ACP-EDULINK II program at an estimated cost of 135,000 Euros.
The overall objective is to enable the partner universities to develop competent relevant high level human resources within agriculture, veterinary science and related fields to address food security as part of socio-economic development needs of the societies in Eastern Africa.
The training of trainers course was opened by the Makerere University Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic Affairs) Dr. Ernest Okello Ogwang at the Grand Global Hotel in Kikoni, a Kampala Suburb.
Presiding over the opening ceremony, Dr. Okello Ogwang told participants that the training of trainers’ (ToT) workshop was aimed at building a critical mass of a new breed of trainers in higher education institutions (HEIs) of agricultural related sciences.
“ I am reliably informed that the new approach to teaching and facilitating learning, which is going to be unveiled, will facilitate production of motivated graduates that are innovative and who can match the labor market demands.” The DVC (AA) went on to say:
“On behalf of Makerere University, I would like to welcome you to this exciting and proactive approach of providing our undergraduate students with a “tool box of skills” and entrepreneurial ideas to enable them have a positive attitude towards a career in agricultural sciences, create their own jobs and improve on their employability”. Dr. Okello Ogwan stated.
The DVC-AA Dr Ernest Okello Ogwang Opening the workshop
The Deputy Vice Chancellor appreciated the Department of Science Education (DSE), University of Copen Hagen, University of Nairobi (UoN) and Sokoine University of agriculture (SUA) who have partnered with Makerere University under the auspices of European Union to develop this program aimed at developing competent high level human resource within agriculture, veterinary science, and related fields to address food security as part of socio- economic development needs of societies in East Africa.
Dr. Ogwang observed that despite the fact that success in the agricultural sector will heavily depend on human capital resource, the majority of who are trained at universities and tertiary institutions, the academic staff at universities is not adequately prepared to address the new challenges of burgeoning unemployment among the youth and changing demands by employers in the dynamic agricultural employer sector.
“The type of agricultural graduates needed by employers is complicated by the negative attitudes of the youth admitted at universities towards the career of agriculture. Negative stereotyped attitude towards agriculture seems to be entrenched due, primarily, to a perception that agriculture offers poor pecuniary prospects and dwindling job opportunities”, he went on to state that:
“This becomes a challenge to both the graduates produced and their employers since lack of interest in the offered program creates a disconnect between employer expectation and job performance. Poor perception and attitude towards the career need to be reversed early before and after the students are admitted to agricultural programs if they are to be honed into graduates that meet the job market demands” He said.
Participants listening to the presentaions
Dr. Okello Ogwang further said the realignment of universities to national, regional and global development agenda demands a paradigm shift in the mode of training agricultural graduates; improving pedagogical skills, facilitating skills development and standardizing teaching and learning methods that are not considered boring to the learners is necessary in reversing the negative attitudes towards a carrier in agricultural sciences.
“The first line of action should indeed be retooling lecturers to stop teaching in a business as usual fashion. However, improved governance and administrative structures in universities is needed as a crucial link in supporting a more inspiring learning environment needed for equipping students with innovative competences that match the labor markets. It is my considered opinion that partnerships with employers in a public private consortium during training is crucial in equipping learners with a “tool box of skills” to enable them create their own jobs and improve on their employability”. The DVC AA advised.
Speaking on the same occasion the Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, said the college is at the centre of different agricultural disciplines that puts it at a delicate position to transform the Human Resource and agricultural science related disciplines.
“Majority of Uganda’s population is under years 30years. This young population stand a chance to transform the country and therefore need proper training. This workshop is timely and hopefully, the ideas acquired here will enable you to be better teachers to offer the quality education needed”, The Principal said.
Prof Bernard Bashaasha
Professor Bashaasha said Makerere University has so far done well in terms of ranking in the 3rd position in Africa. He however observed that some work must be done in terms of quality- the reason why the professors and lecturers were in the workshop.
“To be a Harvard of Africa we need to do a lot of work on quality. Employers are complaining on the quality of graduates. So the areas you intend to cover such as good teaching skills, curriculum review deserve emphasis. What you are doing is pertinent and will contribute to enhancing university training”, The Principal observed.
He assured participants to count on the college saying, what they were doing was consistent with what is needed to be done at the moment.
Speaking at the workshop the Project PI Dr. Fred Kabi told participants that the project carried out research and consulted stakeholders through a tracer study of secondary school A level students, teachers and parents. At university, professors, administrators and undergraduate students were consulted. Employers of Agricultural graduates were also consulted along the value chain .
At university the focus was on undergraduate student career choice consequences and coping strategy; Attitude development and challenges (both infrastructural and social) faced during training were assessed. The Study also assessed university lecturers and administrators’ perception and attitude towards mentorship and delivery of desired education.
Satisfaction by employers and industrial players on quality of graduates produced was assessed for any mismatch. Employers were engaged in identifying specific areas in training that required greater emphasis for better quality employees.
Dr. Kabi said the results revealed that Students and staff were generally positive about the current general rules and regulations of training, teaching and learning practices at Makerere University.
“Students are contented with the quality of teaching and to some extent the learning facilities. However, the methods and ways of teaching and learning for agricultural undergraduates need improvement. Although the quality of method of subject matter delivery was not explored, it needs urgent attention based on available teaching facilities”. Dr. Kabi Said.
Finding from students also revealed that Team work and hidden curricula components for an all round graduate are still wanting. Presentation skills and communication for research projects for funding and other uses were still lacking posing a question on how the writing skills of undergraduate students can be improved.
A section of participants
Research findings from employers generally revealed that Employers were generally satisfied with qualities demonstrated by some of the graduates in the field. The course outline and content were perceived to be sufficient and relevant
“ Employers however, have negative feelings about the way the courses are structured and methods of delivery of materials during modular training. Employers also recognize a dynamic agricultural sector which calls for a dynamic approach to teaching. Curriculum review therefore needs to be informed by a wide number of stakeholders and that; Efficient evaluation system for the students and staff should be a continuation of the teaching as informed by the curriculum.
Story compiled by
College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES).