“Education is that whole system of human training within and without the schoolhouse walls, which molds and develops men and women” WEB Du Bois Talented Tenth
There are few options left for Africa to develop and catch up with the rest of the world. For as long as we do not control the price of commodities and for as long as we are satisfied with exchanging our natural resources in the primary form for finished products, we will lag the rest of the world. Yet we have other resources that may be going that way too, our human resources.
With a more youthful population than the rest of the world, our governments must focus on innovative measures that will provide jobs for the youth. It is these sustainable high-value skilled-based jobs, that will help transform our economy by turning our natural resources onto high-value products marketed within the growing population in Africa and ultimately to the rest of the world.
At the heart of these measures must be education; a system that will endow our students with a breadth of knowledge combined with skills that would enable them to transition into the world of work. The issue is not about specialisation at an early age or vocational against professional, or sciences against the arts. The finest schools are those that give equal attention to the sciences, the arts, the crafts, the technologies, the sports and the large doses of extracurricular activities and hobbies. The best system is one that exposes them to all, that leads them into work experience with employers. One that is flexible enough to provide instruction in several fields with an opportunity for them to decide what career they want to pursue.
An important issue however is how to link education to skills and jobs, examining what would work in the local rural area as a way of stemming the large drift of young people to the cities who end up in unskilled jobs.
Though there are several options, one that works well is link students to work experience with local employers in different sectors. This link can also be forged at different levels; before they finish their secondary school education, when they are in college and when they are in university. This s a system of apprenticeship that is either employer-based or college-based at the end of which they get their National Qualifications based on the job competency approach. This approach also gives the participants an opportunity to decide whether they want to continue in full-time academic education or pursue a professional qualification.
The key ‘actors’ in this mix are the young people, the employers and trainer/placement partners who are funded by the government.
The employer, the principal actor is the first to be recruited. He comes with his objectives that will drive the programme with the minimum standards for competence that he will require from the students and get gets involved at the candidate selection stage. Their incentive is that they get to select the candidates that they think are the most capable and the most promising. A bonus for the employer is that they will get unpaid work from the participant during the programme.
The young person is motivated by the guaranteed interview with the employer that would lead to a real job. They gain a skill but have an option to take the job if offered or continue with further their education. The placement/trainer is compensated on an output related basis with staged payment dependent on how many people are placed or go on to further education.
Though the purpose of this type of programme is to operate in the local area to provide a higher level of skills linked to an employer, the underlying assumption is that education is lifelong and young people get competency-based certification and accreditation of their skills that are needed for their local area. Another assumption is that the young person can join in at whatever level they wish.
I have observed employment schemes in Africa that have not worked mainly because they are mired in corruption and the objectives of the programmes are not properly articulated. Some of these programmes have nebulous targets that are unrealistic. The missing link in most of these programmes however is that though they are government-inspired and well-funded, they flounder because there is very little co-design and co-delivery with the main actors.
Whilst our problems in education are expressed as lack of science and technology and the need for high-level skills to do great things, there are so many things that we need to fix in our local rural areas, the villages and smaller town where the mass of the people should reside. I contend that if we are not able to fix local areas job creation schemes well, we will not be able to tackle the situation in the cities.
AFRICA BRIEFING MARCH – APRIL 2021
Ade Sawyerr is a management consultant at Equinox Consulting who works on enterprise, employment and community development issues within the inner city and black and minority communities in Britain. He comments on social, economic and political issues and can be contacted at www.equinoxconsulting.net or [email protected] .