The College houses 350 students, all pursuing co-operative related diplomas combining ideas on business, micro finance or co-operative management. This makes it one of the central providers of education on co-operatives, particularly for youth in Uganda. Students are generally between the ages of 19 and 35 (although the average age is 23 to 24 years) and they are taught about the technical skills that they need to run a co-operative, such as accountancy and marketing. They also learn about the history of cooperatives in Uganda, what a co-operative is, how its structure works, how it should be governed and the current debates and ideas in the co-operative arena, as well as the values and the principles of co-operatives. This gives students a holistic and practical foundation from which to set up their own co-operative or join an existing co-operative.
This education means the students are developing as individuals as well as developing technical skills. They talk about how their views on society have changed the need to care for their community and work with others to achieve what they aim for in life. They are changed by their time at the College, and this type of personal development transcends the diploma that they get when they graduate – it affects how they live their lives, how they do their jobs and how they view society. It produces a group of young professionals that are a human resource for the co-operative sector in Uganda. They are trained co-operators who understand how co-operatives have changed in Uganda, are committed to developing and supporting grass roots co-operatives, able to train other members in the core principles of co-operatives and ready to sensitise the public at large to the potential of co-operatives.
This story is from the book by Sally Hartley, “A New Space for a New Generation: The Rise of Co-operatives Amongst Young People in Africa” published by The Co-operative College in 2011.