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Integrating technical education is key to achieving the sustainability agenda

COMMENTARY
By Adil Popat | March 21st 2017

During the World Summit Sustainable Development held in South Africa in 2002, a very critical declaration was made. Key among them was the promulgation of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014).

This was a major international effort to mainstream sustainable development in the education sector by ensuring that technical vocational educational training play a key role as a basis for creating a democratic and human society.

Participants also noted that there is a common understanding that education and learning cannot ignore the inter-connection between the environmental, social, economic and cultural aspects of sustainable development. Therefore, the parameters by which education for sustainable development must be understood have now been extended to the identification of specific skills and knowledge.

For a very long time, technical and vocational education and training (TVET) in Africa has suffered from the unfortunate colonial legacy, which relegated many Africans to low-ranking manual labor while settler populations benefitted from largely non-manual and invariably better paying jobs in the formal economy. With this negative association of TVET, coupled with a global convergence on boosting primary schooling enrollments, few African countries have historically placed technical and vocational education and training at the center of their national education systems.

The promise for the youth

The foundation of every nation is the education of its young people. The way the youth of any nation is brought up and educated in society determines the future prosperity of that nation. Kenya’s development plans have, over the years, consistently stated one major educational objective: producing a properly and effectively trained, disciplined and patriotic youth that can in turn make a positive contribution to the development of the nation.

The challenges facing many African nations today are slow economic development, prevalence of poverty, diseases and ignorance. The continent is also searching for how best to engage the teeming population of youth in technical and vocational skills. Productive and self-employment achieved through properly grounded technical and vocational education could be the best weapons for fighting poverty and the numerous associated vices plaguing the region.

The current youth in rural areas continue to engage in traditional agricultural activities and is a positive factor that has now become a lucrative venture into agribusiness. The effect of this has been that a majority of youths aged between 15 and 24 are now in the informal sector while other youths between aged 24 and 34 are either in formal sector or unemployed.

This however does not negate the fact that current youth are in quest for new job opportunities, innovation and self-employment. The high unemployment rates is attributed to high dependence on formal jobs as a source of livelihood with the majority falling under the age of 35. There is therefore a need for the public and private sector to develop strategies that will empower the youth with life skills and entrepreneurship training that will generate self-employment and boost innovation.

Taking the lead

Despite the perceived neglect of the youth empowerment agenda, there are institutions and organizations that have already taken up the responsibility of reversing such trends. Our youth have brilliant minds, ideas and skills that need to be channeled and financed for startups, but the biggest challenge being lack of financial access. We need to take it upon ourselves as business leaders to be involved in the youth affairs by creating various platforms for their growth. Through the Simba Foundation, we have put in place deliberate measures to provide thought leadership towards the development of an automotive industry driven syllabus that will in the end meet the rising demand for technicians possessing the skills required to meet the growing needs and emerging industry trends. In collaboration with our partners, we have rolled out an Automotive Training aimed at empowering the youth to thrive in this industry . The programme was precipitated by the technological advancements experienced in the recent past that has greatly impacted the global motor vehicle Industry and has in its wake, resulted in development of motor vehicle models that are more dependent on technology than was the case a few years ago.

As a corporate, we believe that it is our role to dignify the informal sector and give our youth the skills set needed to motivate the next generation. Possible solutions include the innovative use of facilities, putting equal-opportunities policies in place and having a wide range of programmes that are flexible to suit all target groups.

The recent reforms spearheaded by the government to transform the TVET sector is commendable and needs to be supported by all stakeholders. It is imperative to note that by tapping into this sector, these youthful energies will be channeled to productive activities through properly planned and implemented quality technical and vocational skills development programs.

While TVET can facilitate the transition to a sustainable economy by inculcating sustainable environmental values, it also plays a vital role in developing the skills which are needed to improve output, quality, variety and occupational safety, thus increasing incomes and livelihoods.

Therefore, there is a need to adjust development efforts and build the human resources and capabilities of our youth. There is a link between poverty reduction, skills training, increased growth, productivity and innovation, in particular in for the informal sector.

I would urge all companies and institutions to go out and help transform our country by empowering our youth.

The writer is the Chief Executive Officer of Simba Corporation and Founder of Simba Foundation.

[email protected]

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