TNDQuestions: SAIPALI Founder and Director, Amit talks ICT, ISMS, Covid-19 and education
Host: Milton Emmy Akwam
Kampala—14, September 2021: According to the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance, they estimate that the Ugandan ICT market is growing at a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of above 25%.
The growth are mostly from the ICT training, website development, including custom software development sectors.
Also, PesaCheck reported that in the fiscal year 2019-2020, government identified the ICT sector as one of the primary drivers for achieving economic growth and reaching middle income status.
“… however, noted that the sector’s ceilings had remained unacceptably low, especially for the ministry, and this had limited its meaningful contribution to the achievement of the objectives and targets set,” PesaCheck adds.
On the program today is Mr Amit Srivastava. Welcome and tell us what has been going on and how is Saipali?
Amit: Thank you for this opportunity. We as Saipali, being into ICT education, are doing fair because we are also being highly affected because of Covid-19 lockdown as others. There are many challenges we are facing being in education.
Qn: In 2008 you came to Uganda as a tourist. In your words, in 2019, you said: “To enjoy Africa.” Why then did you opt to start an ICT training and management institute?
Amit: If you talk about the past, when I came to this country for the first time as a tourist I saw an opportunity in IT business that made me took an initiative to invest in IT business. I had two projects which we wanted to rollout from Uganda but as we landed on ground to kick start, in the process to select the local human resource for business, I discovered that majority of graduates with their respective degrees were lacking substantial skills. They were having required documents, but in reality they were incompetent regarding skills and it was really a frustrating moment for us. We were almost winding up before starting, thanks to a wise man who advised me to start training and skilling the youths in practical mode. It gave us a new dimension to be in education, and here we are.
Later, we ended up running skill-oriented, practical ICT training education institution as Saipali Institute of Technology and Management. To date, we offer professional ICT courses at diploma and certificate levels.
We are proud to announce that 80% of students get a job before they graduate because of the skills they generate while learning things practically. We have been successfully creating skilled human resources in ICT and technology since then.
Qn. Since 2013 when SAIPALI started, by 2019, it had trained and passed out almost 2000 ICT experts. This number could have increased if Covid-19 had not hit us. What were the expectations 10 years later?
Amit: Yes. It’s true the number could have been more, but Covid-19 indeed has slowed down our pace. In the next 10 years down the line, I am expecting Uganda to be an IT hub among African countries. Lots can be explored and achieved by creating able skilled [human] resources in the country.
If we focus on unemployment side among youth, adapting to ICT practical learning can empower youth to create jobs for themselves based on skills. Because of Covid-19 situation, there is fundamental change in the job market and I expect more opportunities to be created only in ICT and technology for coming years. So, I always appeal to parents and their junior students who are about to join higher education to choose ICT as their career and for future jobs .
Qn. Amidst Covid-19, basically everything has shifted online/digitally. Key challenges are adaptation and high cost of internet data. As an expert, how is this affecting the economy and online classes?
Amit: Well. If we talk about Covid effects on economy, Uganda is equally affected as the rest of the world. Yes, it has downsized the spending capacity of masses, business is at its lowest level, income has reduced, demand is collapsing and because of this (Covid-19) all sectors of the economy have got badly affected. If we talk about education, it is worst affected; parents are failing to pay school fees, they are finding challenges in providing appropriate resources like laptop desktop etc to their students for online education; cost of data and poor network is another bigger challenge for everyone.
Qn: With schools shut because of the pandemic, government has directed schools and learners to embrace online classes. Was this a good ‘option’?
Amit: Online learning is the only option we all have if we really want to move forward. Looking at the Covid situation and the way it’s playing hide and seek since last year, we all have to accept online learning as a new normal. We can’t predict when the situation will be stable and everything will be back to normal as it was before. We all have to change our mindset and adopt this new way of learning.
Qn. “….. I implore you to maintain the standard you have set and keep on offering such high quality education to our students,” says Silas Ngabirano from the Ministry of ICT & NG during the 2019 graduation ceremony. Have you heeded this call besides current challenges?
Amit: We are still following our resolution to provide quality education and continue creating skilled IT human resources in the country. Because of pandemic, of course we have come across various challenges like:
- The revenue level has gone down drastically due to low paying capacity of students.
- Cost of internet and no accessibility to gadgets has discouraged new students to join Saipali, students waiting for their economic situation to get better.
- Government’s decision for continued lockdown on education sector has made parents and students reluctant and this has affected their prompt decision-making capacity.
Qn: Going back again, same year in 2019, you told this publication in an exclusive interview that: “Many of the IT teachers in Uganda are ‘good for nothing’ and cannot give learners good exposure in IT and they teach only according to the syllabus of UNEB.” Is this affecting the sector?
Amit: Very true. No one was ready for this ongoing situation, especially the schools and their teaching fraternity. Uganda’s education system has been following the traditional method of teaching where computer and online things were not holding any credible positions because of that neither the schools nor their teachers focused on having ICT skills. As we are in this situation, there is a huge requirement for teachers of primary and secondary schools to get the skills and prepare themselves for online education, otherwise it will be a tough time to be sustained in the future. There is a need for everyone to get skills practically, days are gone for theoretical knowledge and in future those will be irrelevant.
Qn: Are you working with relevant government ministries and agencies to see a big change or adjustment in the ICT sector?
Amit: Yes. We have developed an eLearning platform which we want the government to adopt for the complete digitization of education sector. This eLearning can help schools to manage their operation digitally, teach online, and do assessment online. It is an innovation in the country which will enable the entire education sector to be digitally self-depended.
Qn. What have been your most challenging moments since 2013?
Amit: The most challenging aspect for us has been the fight with Ugandans mindset towards education. People in Uganda are suffering from degree syndrome. People give more importance to papers than the actual skills. Higher education institution doesn’t fill the gap between what they produce and what is required in the job market because of a theoretical mode of teaching and thus thousands of graduates end up being unemployed after acquiring big papers.
Every year, we cannot admit the expected numbers of students who show an interest in ICT education, but just because we offer only diploma and their parents need them to do degrees, opportunities are abundant with us
There has to be a mindset change. People have to understand that papers have no value if it is without skills.
Qn. Finally, tells us more about the ‘School Management System’ – software SAIPALI launched 3 years ago. Also tell us if the institute is currently open.
Amit: We have developed an integrated school management system (ISMS). As I said earlier, this software completely transforms the schools or university to digital mode.
It handles entire school administration work digitally right from admission to report generation. ISMS also helps the school to run online classes, provides online study materials, assignment, etcetera.
To add, it has a robustic module for assessment, e.g. online examination system powered by artificial intelligence based solution which can enable any university or schools to conduct malpractice free online exams in any situation. This system can help entire education sector to continue operation in all situations.
Thanks Mr Amit for your time. Stay safe.
Thank you very much. For more information about Saipali people can reach us on www.saipali.education, Mobile: 0754511990.