Makerere flags off 31 Agriculture students to Israel for paid internship
- President pledges to reward students who get at least 75% mark by doubling their savings using the Youth Fund
- Education Ministry to clear about 6000 US Dollar bill for students who had failed to raise the air tickets.
- Mak chancellor implores government to plan for agricultural graduates, revisit the Universal Education and Graduated tax policy and hold a national education stakeholders dialogue to address the teachers plight.
- Makerere top Managers plead with government to take over its wage bill
President Yoweri Museveni has flagged off 31 students to Israel on a one year paid internship. 26 students were second years undertaking BSc. Agric and BSc. Horticulture from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, 3 graduates from the same college and 2 students from Busitema University.
The President was represented by the Minister of Education and Sports Jessica Alupo at a colourful ceremony held at the CoBAMS, Conference room on October 3,2013.
In his speech, the President pledged to reward students who will work hard, save and come back with a business plan. He 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 USD 2000 or equivalent so that you start your agribusiness or commercial farming enterprise. If you save USD 2000; we shall match it with USD 4000 as start up capital for your agribusiness. This way, I want you to become the “seeds” of my agricultural transformation in Uganda”, The President promised.
President Museveni also extended appreciation to the government of Israel through Ambassador Gil Haskel and his staff for their commitment to support Makerere University’s partnership with Israel’s universities, the private sector and other institutions towards promoting and scaling up the Presidential initiatives in Makerere University.
In her personal remarks Education Minister Jessica Alupo told students that they were going to interact with very high skilled people who share knowledge without reservations. She advised students to exhibit a high level of discipline and always remember that they are not only the ambassadors of Makerere but also flag bearers of Uganda.
She pledged to clear the outstanding bill of about USD 6000 to clear air tickets for students who were unable to raise money for their air tickets and would have missed the opportunity. Out of 31 students, 26 had cleared their bills while the rest had already lost hope. The Minister requested the university to write a letter asking for support and submit to her office immediately before she leaves the country that very day.
The Chancellor Makerere University Prof. Mondo Kagonyera reiterated the minister’s call to students to remain disciplined. Prof. Kagonyera expressed gratitude for the sponsors saying, he had no doubt of the students intellectual capacity and readiness to put in practice what had been learnt.
Prof. Kagonyera however, expressed concern over government’s complaints that Ugandan scientists go out there, get knowledge and skilsl and never put it to use. He expressed disappointment that one time he came from Israel and wrote a report but government has never done anything.
“Government is ever complaining that we don’t teach the right skills. These people are going to get the right skills. We want to have a covenant that when they come back government has a way of putting them to specific task and they must be rewarded” , Prof. Kagonyera said adding that these powerful resources of the country must be planned because no development can take place without worshiping knowledge.
Prof. Kagonyera also referred the minister to the recent report that was published in the media indicating that 84% of Uganda’s teachers would like to leave teaching. He described this situation as a real trouble for the country.
“If 84 % of the most fundamental resources do not like what they are doing, then I am certainly sure that they do not do anything good”. He warned.
The Professor proposed the need for government to bring all stake holders in education including the executive, parliament, civil society, private sector in a dialogue to find a cure for the despondence of the teachers. The chancellor further advised government on the universal education system as not yielding much.
Prof. Kagonyera also expressed concern over the exemption of Ugandan men from paying graduated tax saying, since government cannot afford these burdens; it was time for revolutionaries to say the policy is not good.The Chancellor, Prof George Mondo Kagonyera speaking during the function.Is it right for a man to wake up every morning , does not pay tax, does not pay school fees and even health bills if he has the ability to work? I think it is not correct to leave most of the men irresponsible. If they worked for a tax, they can even afford to buy a gomesi for their wives”
Prof. Kagonyera observed that the frequent teachers’ strikes and other chaotic situations in the country were symptoms of underlying causes that calls for a national dialogue and a revised national policy.
The chairperson Makerere University Council Dr. Wana Etyem described the send off as an important function that will yield the manpower that will improve agricultural productivity. Eng. Wana Etyem observed that the biggest challenge in the country was organising the workforce to do the right things at the right time.
“The most annoying thing I have experienced as an orchard farmer is lack of consistency in spacing. I am hoping that the people we are sending out, when they come back, they will help people like me who retire into farming”.
Dr. Wana Etyem wished the students the best of their internship requesting them to utilise the opportunity productively and come back home to help Ugandan farmers improve their livelihoods.
The Council chair also thanked the Minister for supporting the university during the trying moments and prayed that the minister will continue engaging government to solve the most challenging issues of Makerere.
“Please support us to address our long term challenge as far as the wage bill is concerned. We do hope that you will dialogue with relevant organs to convince government take over the university wage bill”. The chairman appealed.
Speaking on behalf of the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration Prof. Barnabas Wanangwe underscored the role of Makerere as a great African University that has given birth to other universities and will remain the most single important institution in Uganda that require special attention.
Prof. Nawangwe said the university has become a centre of attraction and a big collaborator with international institutions and has generated a lot of technologies and innovations that have improved people’s livelihoods. He implored the students to keep the name of Makerere.
“As a University, this send off is very important. Please keep the name of Makerere. Get the knowledge and skills and come back home and implement them” Prof. Nawangwe advised.
He expressed gratitude to the government of Uganda and the President for the support given to Makerere during the recent difficult times and assured the minister that the university was open and calm. He asked the minister for continued support to engage government take over the wage bill and also help it cover the debts.
Speaking on behalf of the Principal College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Deputy Principal Prof. Gorettie Nabanoga described students and lectures as a lucky group flagging off Makerere as Uganda to Israel for the first time.
“You should take this course seriously because you are flagging of Makerere and Uganda. Give that image that Makerere deserves of Uganda. Be good spies outside. When you come back, we have space in Kabanyolo to put in practice what you have learnt”, The Deputy Principal promised and expressed optimism that government had the will to support the graduates through the Youth fund.
The Dean School of Agricultural Sciences represented by Head Department of Agricultural Production Dr. Denis Mpairwe said, this was part of the internship program conducted at the university and expressed confidence that students will perform well. He advised students to go for practical training and acquire as much skills as they can. He thanked the Senate for approving the program.
“We are going to give you withdrawal permission from the program for one year and the school is sitting to approve the withdrawal requests. The tickets and Visas are ready”, the head assured the students.
He appealed to government to help support such programs saying, most of the students who succeeded came from very poor families that cannot even afford an air ticket. This, he said could be done by providing soft loans so that students go as products of the nation.
Makerere University this year signed a memorandum of Understanding to be part of the the Israel Agrostudies International Internship program. This is the first time Makerere University and Uganda as a country is taking part in the program. The program has been running for the last nine years concentrating mainly on developing countries in Asia and Latin America. It was introduced in Africa in 2012. Other African countries taking part are Rwanda, Togo, Ivory Coast Burkinafaso and Kenya.
The objectives of the Israel Agro studies internship program are 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 Agrostudies assess the student’s performance both in the field and theory and awards a diploma from Agrostudies and Ministry of Agriculture at the end of the internship.
Story by Jane Anyango
Communication Officer - CAES