A week ago the Ministry of Education and Skills Development in partnership with Botswana Chamber of Mines and Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) launched a programme aimed at improving the capabilities of technical and vocational education training (TVET) actors and the quality of TVET institutions.
Strengthening employment relevant technical and vocational education in Botswana, together with changing negative attitudes, has been long overdue to address the soaring unemployment due to skills mismatch, undiversified economy and high poverty levels. In the modern world we want to join the chorus to encourage learners to change their mindset towards TVET, otherwise universities will continue to churn out graduates to roam the streets with qualifications that are not needed in the economy. We cannot afford to continue to produce unemployable graduates with unemployment currently at almost 20%.
We note that the MoESD and GIZ partnership will focus on areas like heavy plant engineering, industrial electric instrumentation, millwright, jewellery design and manufacturing, ICT and maintenance fitting and machining. These are some of the areas where we continue to import skilled labour from neighbouring countries because we have been neglecting TVET. Of interesting note is that the private sector will also be taken on board in revising curricula, selecting applicants, providing workplace attachments places and holding exams. This will improve graduates employability and narrow the present discrepancy between qualifications and labour market requirements.
We are pleased to also note that the MoESD has seen changes geared towards improving the delivery of quality education to the learners, which was shortly followed by an announcement by the incoming minister of education that the recently completed Education and Training Sector Strategic Plan (ETSSP 2015-2020) underscores the relevance, if not the significance of TVET skills as prerequisite to economic diversification, job creation, solutions to poverty alleviation.
In addition, Botswana Tertiary Education Conference was held in March under the theme "promoting human resource development and employability through technical and vocational education training (TVET)". The Human Resource Development Council (HRDC) should engage with all stakeholders in public and private sector for mega projects currently on the pipeline to prepare to attend to their skills requirements. It is disappointing that
In Botswana (and other Southern Africa countries) , communities, school-leavers and parents pull up their noses at technical or vocational education or any education/ training where they have to work with their hands. The results of this attitude are clear for all to see.
Examples abound to demonstrate the signifcance of TVET. Switzerland, who top both the Global and Europe Competitiveness list and world per capita income, practices dual pathways system in their schools where learners can select an academic or technical pathway to high school (grade 12). 90% of the students go to technical high schools, then on to universities of applied science. This system needs to be studied as means of success in countries struggling with technical and applied skills like Botswana. Switzerland works on basis that if universities generate the feeder stock for a national system of innovation, and schools form feeder stock for universities, then greater emphasis needs to be placed on schools in order to increase the rates of return on innovation in the longer term. This can be achieved by generating a greater number of individuals who are more attuned to the process of innovation from a younger age, raather than waiting for exposure to these processes in post high school scenario and in the workplace.
A similar example is Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates who early on recognised the need to develop and prepare highly educated and highly skilled workforce. In 1988 they established Higher Colleges of Technology in 17 campuses throughout Abu Dhabi focusing on innovative and hands-on, workplace relevant teaching and learning methodologies based on the philosophy of Learning by Doing. The end result has been a rise in Global Competitiveness from no. 32 in 2008-09 to no.12 in 2014-15, 20 places up.
Clearly, the road to economic success and global competitiveness is increasing access to and expanding and strengthening the TVET sector. Innovation and skills are key drivers to economic success and TVET sector is key to providing graduates with the low-medium-high level skills and knowledge to drive the economy.