November 30, 2018
On Oct. 10, 2018, a ceremony was held at Nakawa Vocational Training Institute (NVTI) to mark the 50th anniversary of JICA beginning cooperation toward the institute in 1968.
During this half century, JICA's assistance was suspended for about 20 years because of a civil war. Since JICA restarted its cooperation in 1994, the institute has turned out more than 5,500 graduates, including not just Ugandans, but also students from neighboring countries, and it is now an important center for training engineers in the region.
"Trees of JICA Experts " continue from the entrance to the school building. They were planted whenever a JICA expert left the institute, and some have grown as tall as 10 meters.
The institute is located in a suburb 10 minutes’ drive from the urban part of Uganda's capital Kampala. On this large campus that could hold two small baseball fields, there is a tree-lined street that runs from the entrance to the school building.
Since the institute opened with JICA's assistance in 1971, many experts have been dispatched to it and have transferred Japan's advanced technology. Many of the experts planted commemorative trees when they returned to Japan. Those memorial trees are called "trees of JICA Experts," and the largest of them have grown to about 10 meters tall. It is an elegant tree-lined street and has become a symbol of the years of ties between JICA and NVTI.
Equipment provided more than 40 years ago is still being used with great care.
JICA began cooperation in 1968 to help prepare for NVTI's opening. This was six years after Uganda gained its independence from England. The institute opened in 1971. NVTI sought to teach the skills necessary for encouraging small to medium-sized enterprises. So, it established a structure to implement training in the following fields: machines (machine processing and finishing), electricity (electrical work and electric finishing), metal processing, welding, and automobile maintenance. However, because of Uganda's internal conflicts, a decision was made to suspend JICA's assistance in 1974.
Masolo Jasper, center, gives instruction as an assistant instructor in 1988.
"The civil war that took place in the country from 1981 up to 1986 affected Nakawa VTI in many ways," said Masolo Jasper, who was the dean of the institute for 20 years.
"On some occasions when the climate intensified, we would close the institute and stay at home until the situation improved. On a very sad note, one of the instructors in the welding section was shot and killed by unknown people in NVTI staff quarters at Ntinda," Mr. Jasper said.
In 1985, Japan promised to restart assistance to the institute and the staff got excited. Immediately thereafter, however, the government was overthrown and the assistance was postponed, Mr. Jasper recalled.
Still, he and his colleagues protected the institute, kept up their hopes and kept waiting. And in 1994, JICA finally began dispatching experts to Uganda again.
"From that time onwards, JICA has taken care of NVTI and greatly influenced its transformation to suit my dream and of others." That's why it is the vocational institute with the best equipment and programs not just in Uganda, but in the region, he said.
The turning point that gave NVTI a more significant role was the "Vocational Training for Instructors" that began in 2004. This was a program for instructors at NVTI to pass on the results of the assistance their institute had received to not only other vocational institutes in Uganda but also those in nearby Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Eritrea. Support for other vocational institutes continued after the program, as NVTI partnered with international agencies and donor organizations to carry out cooperation toward other African countries.
It also began actively partnering with industry. And in 2018, NVTI opened a junior college level vocational diploma course on the two subjects of automobiles and electricity. This program is expected to turn out human resources who can meet the needs of industry.
Minister of Education and Sports Janet Museveni commends people who rendered distinguished service over many years. (At left is Kazuaki Kameda, ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Uganda.)
A ceremony was held on Oct. 10 to mark the 50th anniversary of cooperation to NVTI. Many stakeholders attended, including Minister of Education and Sports Janet K. Museveni.
In her address at the event, Ms. Museveni expressed gratitude for JICA's 50 years of assistance, and said learning about the Japanese workplace philosophy — including quality control, improving productivity and kaizen — is a great source of pride for students. She also talked about her expectations for the automobile and electricity vocational diploma course.
Speaking about JICA's 50 years of cooperation, JICA Uganda Office Chief Representative Yutaka Fukase said, "This cooperation has been in the form of improving infrastructure, providing training facilities, dispatching Japanese experts and training instructors for NVTI in both Uganda and Japan. The Ministry of Education and Sports has also provided support and NVTI has been lauded both in Uganda and abroad as a center for technical training."
Japan's "yosakoi" dance is performed by students of a primary school where a Japan overseas cooperation volunteer is working.
Thanks to the efforts of the stakeholders in the cooperation that began 50 years ago, NVTI is now supporting industries in Uganda. For the next 50 years, stakeholders will continue their cooperation to extend the results to the rest of East Africa.