By Justus Wanzala
NAIROBI (IDN) – Soaring unemployment and loud rumblings of discontent from the labour market about the mismatch between skills offered in learning institutions and industry needs in Kenya and the East African region has led stakeholders to swing into action to reverse the trend.
One approach is being spearheaded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) which, in collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Education, is promoting and supporting Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) systems in the country and the Eastern Africa region.
The partnership is being implemented through Phase II of the Better Education for Africa’s Rise (BEAR) project, a five-year joint initiative managed on the technical side by UNESCO and funded by the Republic of Korea. The goal of the project, which was launched on June 19 in Nairobi, is to improve the relevance, quality and perception of TVET systems in five Eastern Africa nations: Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania and Uganda.Since 2011, UNESCO has been assisting the Southern and Eastern African regions to re-brand technical and vocational training institutions and make them attractive to young people.
At the project launch, Teluck Bhuwanee, Education Coordinator at UNESCO, explained that BEAR II will promote quality TVET systems and give young people a better chance of finding jobs, saying: “The project is working on updating of curricula, ensuring better trained teachers, re-branding the image of TVET, boosting infrastructure and engaging employers and enterprises to help create more comprehensive TVET Systems in Eastern Africa.”
According to Bhuwanee, while over 50 percent of Kenya population is young and there is thus a high demand for jobs, employers complain of lack skilled personnel. “The population dividend can be harnessed by TVET if improved,” he said, adding that human resources development in Kenya will allow replication of the interventions in other countries of the region.
The initiative is in line with the resolutions of the April 2018 Pan African Conference on Education (PACE 2018).
Bhuwanee added that UNICEF’s main role is to co-support the project. Monitoring and evaluation will be done by the organisation’s Paris office while the Kenya office will be in charge of project execution and financial management.
The Nairobi office will serve the five participating countries in implementation of the project and its impact will be measured in terms of changes in TVET policies, institutions and programmes run by participating nations.
Ethiopia’s focus under BEAR II is on agroprocessing, in Kenya the environmental sector, in Madagascar the textile industry, in Uganda post-harvest management, and in Tanzania agribusiness and creative industries.
In emphasising the importance of technical skills, Sam Ngaruiya, a green entrepreneur running Regeneration Environmental Services, a plastic recycling firm in Malindi on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast said Kenya can be the optimum environmental hub in East Africa. “We are living in an era where waste is wealth. Waste is a new raw material,” he explained.Ngaruiya called for more investment in technical education and enhancement of innovation and research. “Environmental technology requires basic technical skills and a better environment of innovation,” he said. “We need technologies beyond just the ability to repair but to make new machines.”
According to Ngaruiya, Kenya should re-brand its informal sector to enable the making of quality products instead of just doing improvisations. Indeed, the launch of BEAR II has taken place at a time when Kenya is also reshaping its technical training and education system.
Kevit Desai, the Principal Secretary in Kenya‘s State Department of Vocational and Technical Training, said the government is keen to harness capital and expertise from other non-state actors to ensure quality of learning in mid-level colleges that produce the bulk of artisans.
Desai said they will nurture collaborations and linkages with the industry to achieve quality and relevant competencies as well as skills required by the labour market.Noting that implementation of the Kenyan chapter of the BEAR II project (2017-2021) will improve the quality of learning at technical and vocational training centres and make them attractive to both young people and employers, he said “we should all support government’s efforts to re-brand vocational training institutes and make them a preferred destination for career growth.”
While reiterating that that TVET is the driver for manufacturing and the attainment of all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in aspects such as food security and housing, Desai called for curricula that are relevant to SDGs, saying that “the basics for achieving the SDGs lie in promotion of TVET.”
Hamidou Boukary, UNESCO Regional Focal Point for BEAR II, said TVET should contribute to the industrialisation of Africa by focusing on “quality improvement through different reforms, teacher training and upgrading facilities.”
However, successful implementation of BEAR II depends on tackling the issue of resource constraints. Speaking to IDN, Boukary explained that while the government of South Korea will pump in two million dollars, this is a drop in the ocean and other partners have to be brought on board.
Calling for global, regional and national support, he said “there is a need to mobilise resources and we are looking for partners who can not only support us in cash but in kind as well.”
Kenya’s Ministry of Public Service and Youth Affairs has indicated that youth unemployment in the country stands at around 34 percent. The situation has been aggravated by limited skilled among most graduates entering the labour market.
As a result, Kenya’s Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed launched an office of career services for tertiary institutions at Nairobi University on June 21, 2018, which will offer guidance on career issues and labour market needs.
Amina noted that Kenya is witnessing a massive youth bulge and already a million young people enter the labour market annually. “This means that we need to generate one million jobs yearly for the next decade.”
According to Amina the career services office will ensure a seamless transition from learning to employment to address the disconnect between education and the job market. [IDN-InDepthNews – 25 June 2018]
Photo: Kevit Desai, the Principal Secretary in Kenya‘s State Department of Vocational and Technical Training, speaking during the launch of BEAR II project in Nairobi. Credit: Justus Wanzala | IDN-INPS
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