By Joselyn B. Mwine
One of the key sectors in any country is the education sector that serves as a nursery for providing quality human input to almost all the sectors. Cited as one of the most espoused ingredients for success, the role of institutions of higher learning is more important as they contribute to the country through knowledge and research. Various institutions of learning have introduced vocational courses where things like soap, furniture making among others have become a tool for teaching students to become entrepreneurs. .
The major reason cited for the need to review the existing curriculum is that the type of education being delivered to students is not relevant to the prevailing and anticipated needs for graduates to thrive. With the introduction of and emphasis on entrepreneurship in schools, students must be taught early on about producing not just good but excellent products that will compete favourably on both the local and international market. Both curriculum and instruction in turn are shaped by expectations about the kinds of educational outcomes that students should manifest by the time they graduate from school.
Uganda has been ranked as the world’s most entrepreneurial country and yet only a few of the businesses that are started survive to see their fifth birthday. If we are to promote the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy, standardisation must be part of the conversation. The reality is that consumers are demanding better services and products of high quality which cannot and will not be compromised just to accommodate local players.
As the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) continues to equip consumers with knowledge on what a good quality product should be, companies that ignore the changing trend will be kicked out of the market. This means that budding local entrepreneurs especially Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME’s) need to step up their game and move away from giving consumers the bare minimum and aspire to put the best product or service on the market. As we embrace the global economy, standards and quality practices must be engrained in students learning early on if their products and services are to survive on the market.
One of the reasons why Uganda is flooded with substandard products and services is that producers are not aware of what is required of them when putting a product or service on the market and consumers alike are not putting them to task to give them better services. While Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) continues to promote and enforce the use of standards, it is also the responsibility of the education system to ensure that learners become informed producers as well as consumers. Students should be involved in learning experiences that are purpose-built to develop their skills, knowledge and understanding of what producing and service delivery requires. These practices should be anchored in standards and reflect the expectations of business and industry. Many like to think that “we shall learn on the job” but the reality is that a company’s or a product’s quality obviously cannot be improved overnight. Schools must take responsibility in inculcating the standards aspect into the subjects being taught. Students must learn that there must be a commitment to eliminate errors at every stage of the product development process—product design, process design, and manufacturing.
While entrepreneurs are taught to save and invest money into their businesses to buy or hire the necessary equipment and manpower to grow the business, many are not taught the aspect of standardisation. This means that if the Ministry of Education can introduce education of standards in the school curriculum, then we are likely to see better products on the market as well business that will go beyond their fifth birthday.
Standards are documents that provide requirements, specifications, guidelines or characteristics that can be used consistently to ensure that materials, products, processes and services are fit for their purpose. The purpose of a standardisation is to create order or a common understanding of a process, a service or a product and are developed at national and international levels. UNBS develops national standards that provide requirements for materials, manufacturing, testing, packaging and labelling to ensure that products, processes and services are fit for their purpose and are safe for human consumption and the environment.
Standards have been in existence for many years. In fact, UNBS has been developing and adopting standards for thirty years now. Today, standards are recognized as being essential to helping companies remain innovative, reduce costs, improve quality and maintain competitiveness on the local and international marketplace. UNBS continues to adopt and harmonize standards with other regions to make market access easier for Ugandan products. UNBS recently announced that all East African Community (EAC) member states will recognize each other’s valid product certification permits and will not subject such goods to pre-export verification of conformity. This means that Ugandan companies intending to export their products without certification will not cross the border because there is no guarantee of safety and quality.
Our education system is responsible for preparing young people to build successful lives. They should be ready for the wide range of possibilities ahead of them, including working for others, starting their own ventures, and contributing to their communities. All of these options require a depth of knowledge in their chosen discipline and adaptability in an ever-changing environment. In order for both the people and the economy of Uganda to prosper, it is essential for all students to emerge from schools ready to pursue their career goals equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to plan and manage the paths they choose throughout their lives.
The writer is a Public Relations Officer at Uganda National Bureau of Standards