With the increasing number of young learners leaving O’level, the Ministry of Education and Sports has cautioned against enrolling those below 18-years of age into health training institutions. Available information indicates that many students are completing the Uganda Certificate of Education-UCE between 14 and 15 years of age.
After passing English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, and Biology, it means the learners qualify for enrollment in health training and other vocational training institutions to pursue certificate courses.
But, Dr. Safinah Musene, the Commissioner in charge of health training education at the ministry of education and sports, says that beyond academic performance, under the laws of Uganda a health officer or trainee must be an adult, which means he or she must be at least 18 years and above.
Dr Musene stresses during admission, that the age factor is critical since training a minor to offer health services is inappropriate and unethical. She explains that below the age of 18 one is considered a child and there are circumstances that he or she cannot be subjected to yet they are inevitable while caring for patients.
Rose Nassali, the chairperson of Principals of health Training Institutions in Uganda also notes that there are scenarios where adult patients might refuse to disclose their health problems to an officer because they feel that they are too young. She says that in the same vein being a minor, the health officer might as well fear or be traumatized by some scenes in a health unit.
Dr Paul Kasigaire, the Principal Technical and Vocational Training- TVET officer in charge of standards, says that during the recent admission process they learnt that many applicants are under 18 years of age with institutions and parents insisting that they should be enrolled.
Information obtained by Uganda Radio Network also indicates that previously many students below 18 years have been admitted to different institutions. Dr Kasigaire notes that to ensure that the age requirement is adhered to, they have introduced electronic systems to eliminate young students.
The system is helped by available data of the students captured on one’s pass lip. Officials from the education ministry stress that this will be better when the national identification data is integrated with the learner’s identification numbers as suggested by the education ministry. As a remedy to those who want to join certificate programs, Nassali says young students who want to pursue certificate courses are advised to wait until when they reach the required age.
However, while waiting to come of age, students are advised to enrol to other educational programs given the fact that during enrollment the applicant must have been in school at least 3 years prior to their application. The issue of students completing studies while still young has been a subject of discussion in Uganda for a long time.
For instance in the past years besides the question of the young nurses in hospitals, the public has also been questioning the young teachers coming out of Primary Teacher’s Colleges. In Many countries, this puzzle has been solved by setting the school leaving age and regulating the minimum age at, which a person is legally permitted to stop attending secondary education before proceeding to higher learning institutions or starting full-time employment.
However, there are special cases of highly intelligent students who are given waivers. Most countries set their school leaving age to coincide with their minimum full-time working-age providing for a smooth transition from schooling to employment while a few others set it just below the age at which a person is authorized to work.