Education matters, but skills matter more

When I was 18 years old, full of ambition, zeal and energy, I graduated from high school in Kampala, Uganda, with good grades and a great command of the English language. With my gap year at hand, I combed the streets of Uganda’s capital, looking for a job. After being turned down several times for not having the right skills, through a friend’s mother I was finally hired at a fruit juice factory where I hauled heavy juice boxes. My strength was the only skill needed and I was thrilled to be earning a meager $1.25 a day.

Almost 90 percent of Uganda’s youth aged 15-24 are literate; the country ranks No. 1 in Africa for its English literate population. That statistic pales in comparison to its painful 64 percent youth unemployment rate, a figure that is particularly alarming since young people comprise 80 percent of the population. The mismatch between Uganda’s education model and employable skill sets prevents our youth from being relevant to the global market economy. For a population of 37 million, this is a genocide not only of the mind but of the country’s future social, economic and political leaders.