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To bridge skills gap, we mustn’t frown upon technical schools

OPINION
By Akisa Wandera | May 20th 2021
Joseph Hunja (R) a catering student at Waithaka Technical and Vocational Center, Waithaka MCA Antony Kiragu (Center) and Safaricom Foundation Trustee Steve Chege (L) during the handover of Waithaka Technical and Vocational Centre [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Once again, as is the norm every year, hundreds of thousands of student have closed one chapter of their education life and preparing for a completely new one. Higher learning. This week, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha officially released results for 747,161 students who sat their Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exam in 2020.

As expected, the spotlight was on the top achievers in these examinations sat in very uncertain and unpredictable times owing to the Covid 19 pandemic and the disruptions it brought with it. 143,140 candidates earned themselves a slot at the university to study a degree course having attained a C+ and above. A bigger majority of 600,159 candidates scored C plain and below and will be selected to join various institutions across the country for their diploma and certificate courses.

For these young students, the grades attained during the KCSE exams mean a lot, given the kind of attention and up tightness around the national examinations. It is a matter of life and death …A do or die. But while we can argue all day on whether these examinations serve the intended purpose, a bigger problem consistently presents itself. The quality of courses offered Vis a Vis the needs in the job market.

A slot in a university classroom, a dream come true for these students who toiled for years. But nothing stops these learners from choosing a technical course, in fact, in the same breathe, we need to get to a point in this country where those that do not attain the requisite grades to join universities do not feel like failures.

If anything, don’t we all know how differently it ends for different students? What should matter most is wherever these students land, are they acquiring skills that are much needed in the job market or will it be another four years of sailing through school?

Technical institutions for instance, have come in strongly to bridge the skills gap in the market. Serious investments have been made over the years in developing Technical and Vocational Education and Training Institutes in all the 47 counties.

While it would easy for parents and students to look down upon these institutions, the programmes offered in these institutions offer graduates with employable skills that make it easy for them to be absorbed in the job market.

The rebranding of TVET since 2013 has seen a tremendous increase in enrolments, as students, together with their parents seek alternatives. A very encouraging trend that should be reciprocated with the same energy in the job market. Are we expanding the spaces for employment opportunities for these young people? 

Even the courses taught in universities and colleges, are they often revised to be in line with the 21st century skills? There is an increasing need to rethink courses offered, to also include the new age careers like those on the internet, digital marketing, artificial intelligence and many others. 

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