Education and development are intertwined, and where there is no Education, there is no Development.
Hence, Nelson Mandela endorsed this through his statement that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” and this is still a reality in today’s world.
Human capacity is crucial to development, economic growth and social stability. Therefore higher education, tertiary and vocational, has been identified as a field which produces qualified people to fit into the labour market to aid in socio-economic development.
However, in Africa, there has been a major concern about the number of students produced and the availability of the labour market to accommodate all these graduates and their growing diversity of expectations.
All over the globe, tertiary and vocational education has gone through changing phases over the years and Africa also finds itself in this journey. For most of the 20th century, tertiary education was focused on teaching and learning, requiring high-level conceptual and intellectual skills in the humanities, sciences and social sciences, preparing students for entry to a limited number of professions such as medicine, engineering and law; and advanced research and scholarship.
A challenge faced by the tertiary and vocational system in Africa is quality. Although the governments of Africa invest their best in these institutions because of their importance to development, the quality of graduates produce is always questionable. Many graduates from African tertiary and vocational institutions need to match up to their counterparts in similar fields in European and other advanced countries. Records show that, although there are about 1225 universities in Africa, only 10 are considered best and 8 of these 10 are located in Southern Africa. For a stable and reliable educational journey yielding results in Africa, its training curricula and educational practices should constantly be updated to broaden the scope and encourage personal initiative and creativity among young learners. These reforms should be made to courses to link education, innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.
This has created a missing link in Africa’s tertiary system and has accounted for its inability to meet the market target. Most of the students have the knowledge but need more technical know-how and limited space in the job market. Hence, the encouragement and investment in vocational education to bridge the gap between available skills and employer demand and aid in more excellent responsiveness to labour market need because vocational education is built on more applied than theoretical way.
This mismatch between available skills in the labour market and the needs of the economy is another obstacle to employment and growth.
Therefore, tertiary education should be designed to fit the job market so that university graduates would complete the skills the job market requires. This has become necessary for the growth, progress and development of any business or firm and holistically nation’s economic development as the continent’s future is at stake.
Also, empowerment should be the goal such that those who gain experience after a while would become coach-trainers and advisors for learners. There should also be constant assessments to keep one in check and on track.
The youth represent a vibrant and growing population in Africa. Unfortunately, a greater percentage of these people remain unemployed. Vocational education has been identified as a required field to aid in combating this major challenge in our societies, accounting for the growth and development of economies. Agenda 2030, Agenda 2063 of the National Development Goal for Africa, and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) focus on the development of technical and vocational skills, specifically in terms of access to high-quality technical and vocational education and training (TVET) and the acquisition of technical and vocational skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. World Economic Forum has observed that “obtaining a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development”.
To enhance Vocational Education’s contribution to Africa’s economic transformation, young learners in this field must have the opportunity to explore their potential with the help of digital tools and state-of-the-art equipment to bring their level in line with that of learners in developed countries. Therefore, in Nigeria, a Vocational Educational Business Plan centred on enlightening the youth by exposing them to Vocational training.
Empowering The Next Generation For Socio-Economic Development In Ghana
Over the past decade and a half, African countries have embarked on reforms of their vocational training systems but, unfortunately, have yet to reach the desired outcome expected due to modes of operations which were either not suitable or complex.
The Platform of Expertise in Vocational Training (POFOP) programme financed by the French Development Agency (AFD) and implemented by the IIEP-UNESCO Africa Office has played a vital role in combating this challenge. Although POFOP has exited since its official launch in November 2015, it has embarked on various activities designed to benefit vocational training stakeholders in Africa throughout its seven years of establishment.
Its main agenda within these years was to work for youth employment and IIEP-UNESCO Dakar in partnership with others. They have done a tremendous job, which is evident through the transformation and strengthening of Africa’s technical and vocational training system.
Over these seven years PEFOP, together with its partners, have worked in three areas simultaneously, these are: technical support to countries mainly aimed at accompanying and accelerating the implementation of “renewed” TVET policies; Networking, knowledge production and experience sharing activities at the continental level between TVET sector actors through dozens of international events, workshops, and conferences held to this effect; Support for innovation in TVET, to encourage experimentation and build on experience. One exceptional outcome of the training course is its empowerment agenda. Participants of this training could analyse the socio-political and socio-economic environment in which national TVET systems were developed to steer, manage and implement TVET policy at central and devolved levels.
This journey with Vocational Education has its fair of challenges with its introduction as a solution for saving the future of Africa. These challenges, however, encouraged Vocational education to become more prominent as well in our society. For example, the period of COVID-19 happens to be one era that posed a significant challenge to many nations and Africa had its fair share of the deal however, the fruit of vocational education was reaped. The creativity of vocational students was tested as their expertise was needed to solve this major health crisis and its associated outcomes which shut the world down for a couple of months.
For instance, in Côte d’Ivoire, an innovative solution to the coronavirus pandemic was using drones to raise awareness and prevent the spread of the virus. Tunisia was not left out. Through various solidarity initiatives in vocational training centres, protective masks and bibs were made for staff and interns. In many other African countries, students from vocational schools showed their creativity through initiatives ranging from producing reusable masks to creating foot-operated hand-washing pumps and producing visors and disinfection booths with or without the help of new technologies.
A Young Man Creating A Protective Shield
Furthermore, the benefits other continents have enjoyed because of their quality, resulted-oriented tertiary and vocational education have become a reason for them to guide and support different continents to experience a new world. Hence, China has established Technical and Vocational Training programmes as part of its corporate social responsibility. There has been cooperation between African and Chinese corporations in establishing these programs. For example, in Kenya, AVIC has partnered with the Ministry of Education to support several projects to upgrade the quality of vocational training in the country.
AVIC aims to support 10 vocational training programs at 134 local colleges and universities and train 1,500 teachers and 150,000 students. This partnership will help Kenya achieve the goals of its Vision 2030 blueprint and those of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
The reality of a well-invested tertiary and vocational education in Africa would be successful with the strong commitment of stakeholders in the sector and the various African governments. This would gradually respond to multiple economic, social and environmental demands because helping a growing generation gain access to quality education to develop skills needed for the labour market will result in employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship. This will further promote equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth, and Africa, with determination, commitment and the right partners, can reach this goal and save the future of its people.