216 Ugandan students flagged off to Israel for the Agro Studies International Internship Program
Vice President Edward Ssekandi on behalf of the President flagging off 216 students to Israel
- President M7 directs the Education Ministry to fast track the Government White Paper on Omaswa Task Force committee recommendations
- Min. of State for Higher Education Science and Technology Hon. Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri-Togboa tables six proposals to streamline Agro Studies Program in government structures
- Mak Chancellor Prof. Mondo Kagonyera warns of impending deaths and starvation unless agricultural productivity is increased
- Uganda’s benefits from Agro Studies program increase, says the Regional Coordinator, Mr. Issa Agaba Mugabo
216 students from seven institutions of higher learning in Uganda were on Tuesday 15th September, 2015 flagged off to Israel for the one year paid Agro Studies International Internship Program for the year 2015-2016.
This was the third cohort to be flagged off to Israel following the first batch of 41 students in 2013 at Makerere University and the second cohort of 198 students that was flagged off at Kyambogo University in 2014.
The function was presided over by H.E The President of Uganda who was represented by his Vice Hon. Edward Ssekandi at Lugogo Indoor Stadium in Kampala. The function was also graced by the Minister of State for Higher Education, Science and Technology Hon. Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri - Togboa and Makerere Chancellor Prof. Mondo Kagonyera.
The participating universities include Makerere University (which sent students from two colleges of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Resources and Bio security). Other participating universities include Kyambogo, Busitema, Busoga University and Bishop Stuart University. Other institutions are Bukalasa Agricultural College and Institute of Agriculture, Business and Technology - Serere.
Representatives of the participating universities in attendance
This academic year 2015/2016, the Agro Studies internship intake slots were as follows:
Name of InstitutionSlots 1.Makerere University CAES112.Makerere University CoVAB303.Bishop Stuart University504.Kyambogo University285.Busoga University236.Busitema University207.Bukalasa Agricultural College508.Soroti Institute of Agriculture04 TOTAL:216
In his speech, the President described the Agro Studies program as an important milestone for Uganda’s Human resource and Agricultural development. He thanked the Israel government and the partnering institutions for working with the NRM government to ensure the success of the program.
The Vice President launches the Students Agro Studies Magazine
The President acknowledged the genesis of the program rooted in the Makerere University Omaswa Task Force Committee and its recommendations. The president acknowledged the government’s pledge to reward students on their savings on return from Israel and the proposals submitted to mainstream the Agro Studies program in government structures to facilitate, administer, monitor and nurture the program.
The Vice President reading the Presidents speech verbertim
“The government embarked on the process of developing a White Paper on the Omaswa Task Force Committee report. I urge the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to fast track the process and conclude it so that this program is mainstreamed in government structures ...”, The President directed.
President Museveni described students leaving for Israel as Uganda’s ambassadors. He urged them to be disciplined, work hard and learn as much as they can to modernise agriculture. To the alumni, the President urged them to use the training and skills acquired to become agents towards economic, social and mindset change pledging to work with them to transform and realise Uganda’s Vision 2040.
Part of the Agrostudies alumni who were present at the function
The Minister of State for Higher Education, Science and Technology Hon. Prof. Sandy Stevens Tickodri - Togboa emphasised the need for the Agro Studies program to be mainstreamed in government structures to ensure government ownership, responsibility, support and sustainability.
He told the participants that to enable students effectively become cadres and utilise their full potential towards agricultural transformation, youth skilling and employment creation, there was need for government to own the program. The Minister proposed different measures to streamline the Agro Studies program under different ministries.
Hon. Tickodri Togboa giving his remarks
The Professor proposed that the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology in particular Higher education should be responsible for the administration of the program, selection of students, monitoring and counselling students.
Prof. Tickodri-Togboa also proposed that the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in particular the Youth Livelihood Program should take care of the President’s pledge of marching every one dollar saved by students in Israel to two dollars and work as a government entity to follow up on this Presidential pledge.
Third, the Minister proposed that the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development and particularly the Uganda Investment Authority should nurture the alumni of the Agro Studies program according to their business ventures and spread them throughout the country in clusters to transform the agricultural landscape.
Prof. Tickodri Togboa sharing views with the Vice President Edward Ssekandi
Hon.Prof. Tickodri-Togboa further suggested that the Ministry of Trade and Cooperation and that of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) should provide land for farms for the program alumni to practice Smart Agriculture so as to provide an opportunity for other Ugandans who have no opportunity to go to Israel to learn modern ways of farming.
The Minister also proposed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and that of Justice and Constitutional Affairs should streamline the Memorandum of Understanding between Makerere and Israel to capture a national dimension.
Finally, Hon.Prof. Tickodri - Togboa proposed that the Office of the President particularly Operation Wealth Creation (OWC) takes care of the students air tickets and medical insurance. He suggested that students could be availed loans to enable them travel to Israel and then pay back in a period of say 3- 6 months.
The Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Mondo Kagonyera hailed government for the support accorded to universities and in particular to the Agro Studies program to send students to Israel to acquire modern agricultural skills.
MAK Chancellor Prof. Mondo Kagonyera giving his remarks
Prof. Kagonyera observed that although Israel is a desert, they have maximised agricultural productivity. The Chancellor noted with concern that although Uganda is ordained by nature, its arable land is underutilised and over depleted by human and development activities.
The Chancellor warned that unless the country makes an effort to increase the productivity of her land, Uganda’s population is prone to starvation and deaths in 50 more years to come. “If we put a third of our land to production and the rest left lying green, we would increase productivity. Agriculture is a very important discipline. All you need are technicians armed with spades, tools, machines and modern skills and knowledge. So, I have no doubt that the young men on return from Israel will be useful to the communities.” Mak Chancellor advised.
The Agro Studies program Co-ordinator Eastern and Central Africa Mr. Agaba Issa Mugabo explained that the Agro studies program began in Israel 10 years ago with students from Asia particularly the Philipines. In Africa, Mr. Agaba said, the first students were enrolled in 2012 and the program now runs in 14 African countries.
The Regional Program Coordinator Mr. Issa Agaba Mugabo speaking
“ This year 2015-2016, 1600 visas have been issued for 24 countries and over 600 are for Africa and 45% from Uganda. Students are attached to farms owned by private people, they are supposed to play, work and live with farmers. Therefore there is no ivory tower life and standards cannot be the same in terms of attitudes towards students’ accommodation and payment”. Mr. Agaba said.
The Coordinator appealed to the students to accept the farms they are attached to until the time of rotations. Mr. Agaba pointed out three major expectations from students namely; speed that is, doing everything according to time allocated, accuracy as in whatever they do, they must be exact and the third aspect is quality in a sense that the first and last item must be the same for example, when packing mushrooms, flowers, fruits etc, the first and last pack must be the same.
Mr. Agaba reported that Uganda had made tremendous progress in the program. He cited the August 2015 visit to Israel by Uganda’s institutional representatives and two ministers (Hon. Bakabulindi for sports and Hon. Prof. Tickodri) on the graduation ceremony in Israel as a key milestone in the Agro Studies history.
“Of the seven overall best students, two were from Uganda Bukalasa Agricultural College. Last year, one Ugandan student got a Masters scholarship to the Hebrew University and this year, two Masters students have secured scholarships”. Mr Agaba announced this success amidst applause.
Some of the students to leave for Israel
Mr. Agaba also reported that of the 198 Ugandan students who went to Israel last academic year, 10 were females but this year, out of 226 students, 30 are females - the biggest number Agro Studies program has ever had from one nationality.
Uganda according to Mr. Agaba was the first country to send students to Israel this year. Some students had already left by the time of this function and more were scheduled to leave the following day throughout October 2015.
The Co-ordinator also reported that the average saving rate by Ugandan students in Israel had increased from $ 6,500 in 2013 to $7,000 in 2014 which is approximately $1.4 million dollars brought to the Ugandan economy. He calculated that the students’ savings of $ 1.4 million dollars imply that government has to match $ 3million dollars to the students’ savings as pledged by the President.
Mr. Agaba re-emphasised that the Agro studies program is not for the lazy and mediocre because agriculture requires hard labour. “You have to use physical energy. You will be in the field with the farmer and the manager doing the same work”, Agaba assured students.
About Makerere University and the Agro Studies Program
In Uganda, the program was introduced in 2013 following a bench marking visit to the Bar-llan University by the Makerere University Omaswa Task Force Committee and the subsequent signing of the a memorandum of Understanding with Bar-llan University of strategic collaboration as an entry point.
Former Israel Ambassodor Gil Haskel visited Makerere University twice to affirm his support to Makerere – Barllan MoU and to be part of the Israel Agro Studies International Internship Program.
On October 3, 2013, the first cohort of 30 students from Makerere University College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences were flagged off by H.E The President of Uganda who was represented by the Minister of Education and Sports Hon. Jessica Alupo at a ceremony held at Makerere University. A month later, 10 more students were sent to Israel making a total of 41 for the first cohort.
On 9th September, 2014, the second cohort of 198 students from Uganda’s public universities was flagged off to Israel by the President of Uganda H.E Yoweri Museveni at a ceremony that was held at Kyambogo University. The students were drawn from Makerere, Kyambogo, Busitema, Busoga, and Bishop Stuart universities as well as Bukalasa Agricultural College. 72 of these were from Makerere University ( College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences had 38 students while College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Bio-security presented 34 students)
On 15th September , 2015, 226 students from seven institutions of higher learning namely Makerere University Kyambogo, Busitema , Busoga University, Bishop Stuart University, Bukalasa Agricultural College and Soroti Institute of Agriculture, and Institute of Agriculture, Business and Technology - Soroti were flagged off to Israel by H.E the President represented by the Vice President Hon. Edward Ssekandi at Lugogo Indoor stadium in Kampala.
The objectives of the Israel Agro studies internship program were to enhance student’s theoretical education and practical skills, on actual agricultural production system and expose students to modern ways of farming.
The program is an 11 month paid apprenticeship. Israel government gives students a comprehensive medical insurance for the entire period of internship. The students receive a salary for the work they do on the farms and the farm caters for their accommodation and upkeep in Israel. In addition each student receives a laptop.
After every course, there is an exam in which the student gets a grade. The Agro Studies assess the student’s performance both in the field and theory and awards a Diploma from Agro Studies and Ministry of Agriculture at the end of the internship.
Report compiled by
Communication Officer MAK-CAES.