Uganda Martyrs Polytechnic College Soroti (UMPS), formally known as Uganda Martyrs Vocational Institution (UMVI), was founded in 1993 by Mr. Hans Raffeiner, with the backing of Bishop Erasmus Wandera. The school became operational in 1996. The initiative was developed in the aftermath of a series of insurgencies in Teso, i.e., the Uganda Peoples’ Army (UPA) rebellion and the Karamojong cattle rustling which drastically affected the economy of Teso Sub-region. As a result of these insurgencies large numbers of children in the sub-region were left orphans. The idea behind the introduction of the school was to equip these children with vocational skills, which would help them access gainful employment and earn a living. The school started operating in grass thatched houses (today’s Hilders Café) near the Diocesan Procure at Immaculate Conception Parish in Soroti Town, and all students were day-scholars at that time, coming mostly from the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps around Soroti Town.
The School opened with only three courses, i.e., Carpentry and Joinery, Motor Vehicle Mechanics and Bricklaying and Concrete Practice. It had only two technical teachers in each trade, one for theory and the other for practical lessons. Lessons were conducted from 8:00am - 2:00pm and students would break off till the next day. Unlike other schools, UMVI was training its students for four years. In the fourth year, students were attached to workshops (for site practice). The site practice was designed to take three working days in a week, this was designed to make the learners well acquainted with the practical skills. The other two days of the week were dedicated to classrooms studies and theories; and it was more of guided revision, because the syllabus would have already been covered in the previous three years as scheduled by the Ministry of Education Science Technology and Sports.
UMVI registered with Ministry of Education Science Technology and Sports (as a Post Primary Institution), with Uganda National Examinations Board and with the Directorate of Industrial Training. The latter was important because of its emphasis and focus on practical competence. In 1999, the first students sat Uganda Junior Technical Examination and passed with flying colors.
Later on, short programs were introduced so as to cater for those youths who had not attained any educational background, or were not interested in going through the formal educational process due to various challenges. More courses were then introduced, including Tailoring, Plumbing, Driving, Catering, Electrical Installation, Agriculture, Motor Cycle Repairs, Hairdressing, Computer applications and Welding.
Needy students were supported through programs such as holiday work to generate fees for themselves. Such programs benefited not only those studying at UMVI; it was open to needy students from any neighboring schools. Beneficiary students would work till 2:00pm, and a stipulated amount of money was credited to their name at the end of each day, which money would be given to them at the end of the holidays. Beneficiary students from UMVI would have money transferred straight to the school’s account as fees; and they would top up only the balance. After their courses some students had credit balances, which they used as start-up capital.
In the first years of establishment of UMPS, the students came from economically desperate families. So, there was need to support those who completed their training with start up capital. A program was designed to this effect. After completing the courses, students were given some money to start up business in form of a loan. The loan scheme was managed by Mr Adiama Robert. When the security and economic situation improved in Teso, the number of students grew up at UMVI, and donor support became smaller. So, the Loans Scheme could not be sustained, especially since most of the beneficiaries failed to pay back due to poor entrepreneurial skills.
After a few years of operation, UMVI established two major production units, that is, the Carpentry Production Unit (CPU) and St. Josephs’ Garage. These were headed by Mr. Konrad Steighler and Mr. Hans Raffeiner, respectively. The production units were meant to provide more thorough practical training and offer first employment experience for UMVI students, generate their own incomes, manage their bills including staff salaries, and inject some money to UMVI so as to boost the school’s operation.
This program was started by teachers with an aim of boosting income themselves, since the salaries were not able to fulfill their needs. After a few years, the ordinary students enrolment improved, and the evening program was terminated, to ease proper management of the training.
Chronology of UMVI/UMPS Administrators:
1 Mr. Hans Raffeiner (1996-2000)
2 Mr. Gerhard Ohller (2000-2005)
1 Rev. Fr. Bernard Martin Aeko (2005-2019).
2 MSGR. Robert Ecogu (2019-Todate)
1 Mr. Elepu Augustine (1998-2001)
2 Mr. Ojada Oumo Thomas (R.I.P) (2001-2005)
3 Mr. Ebamu David/Mr Esilu Wilbert (2005-2006)
4 Mr. Etadu Michael (2006-2009)
5 Mr. Enabu Samson (2009-2012)
Mr. Akol Nicky (2022)
Today, UMPS runs 12 courses at Skills level, 7 courses at Community Polytechnic level, 8 courses at National Certificate level, and 4 programs at National Diploma level. The School has 616 students (461 males and 155 females). UMPS has a total of 70 staff. These include 43 teaching staff, 11 administrative staff and 16 support staff.