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Job training helps Africans build brighter future

By George Nyongesa | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-08-16 09:06

East Africa's current population stands at more than 150 million, with approximately 80 percent of the young people unemployed. And every East African country is striving to achieve certain development milestones according to their respective national development policies.

Traditionally, education in these countries has been focused on academic advancement from the primary to the university level, with formal employment after that. Employment opportunities are limited and cannot absorb the large number of youths who graduate each year from the local tertiary institutions.

The alternative, therefore, has been to enroll them in institutions that offer technical and vocational education and training, known as TVET, in order to promote self-reliance and self-employment and, indirectly, increase employment opportunities.

During the 2nd Africa-China-World Bank Education Partnership Forum's TVET Workshop in September last year, it was noted that developing countries were striving to make technology-based development advances, but were constrained by the shortage of an adequately skilled workforce.

TVET programs in East Africa have traditionally been government-led and have suffered challenges such as inappropriate skills training compared with labor market realities; theory-based curriculum instead of combining theory and practical uses; delivery by poorly skilled teachers in ill-equipped institutions using obsolete technology; and the absence of guaranteed placement for graduates.

The 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing adopted an Action Plan that included China committing to provide basic vocational training for the African workforce.

In July, Kampala, the capital of Uganda, hosted the China-Africa Vocational Education Academic Exchange Seminar, which was attended by representatives from China, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and host Uganda. This gave a platform for experts to discuss opportunities that vocational training and education offered for Africa's development.

The seminar, inaugurated by John Chrysostom Muyingo, Uganda's state minister for higher education, provided an opportunity to showcase China's strength in vocational education, promote the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and implement China-Africa cooperation strategies flowing from FOCAC Beijing 2018. Furthermore, the Kampala Initiative adopted the establishment of the China-Africa Vocational Education Community.

Yang Xiaochun, the deputy director-general of the China Center for People to People Exchanges of the Ministry of Education, has noted the utility of setting up a mechanism to explore vocational education cooperation between China and East African countries.

The Chinese technical and vocational education and training model should be replicated in the East African countries to facilitate increased industrialization.

While China's TVET program is government-led, it is, however, conducted in collaboration with the private sector to ensure responsiveness to the market's evolving needs.

First, there is a continuous review of the programs. At the same time, industries and government have collaborated to design training programs that match the local industries' needs.

Second, industries collaborate with the TVET institutions to design curriculums and set standards.

Third, the Chinese government provides incentives to local companies to cooperate with the TVET institutions in the graduation of competent TVET trainees.

Fourth, the TVET teachers receive incentives from the government to acquire academic as well as technical skills.

Fifth, China has heavily invested in its TVET institutions, which have evolved into highly competitive programs.

While enhancing bilateral cooperation between China and East African countries as part of the Belt and Road Initiative, there's an opportunity to adopt China's TVET model and revamp East Africa's TVET programs.

The shift from an academic-centered workforce to a technically skilled workforce will boost ongoing industrialization efforts.For East Africa's youth, it's an opportunity to build a community of shared future for mankind and build a bright future for China-Africa vocational education.

The author is senior associate at the Africa Policy Institute in Nairobi, Kenya. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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