During the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in South Africa, in 2002, a very critical declaration was made. This was the promulgation of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005–2014).
It was a major international effort to mainstream sustainable development in the education sector by ensuring that technical vocational educational training plays a key role in creating a democratic and humane society.
Participants also noted that education and learning cannot ignore the inter-connection between the environmental, social, economic and cultural aspects of sustainable development.
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 labour, while the settler populations benefited from largely non-manual and invariably better paying jobs in the formal economy.
As a result, few African countries have today placed technical and vocational education and training at the centre of their national education systems.
However, 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 make a positive contribution to the development of the nation.
The challenges facing African nations today are slow economic development, poverty, disease and ignorance. The continent is also searching for how best to equip the teeming population of youth with technical and vocational skills.
Youth in the rural areas continue to engage in traditional agriculture that is becoming a lucrative agribusiness venture. The effect of this has been that a majority of youth aged between 15 and 24 are now in the informal sector, while those aged 24 and 34 are engaged either in the formal sector or unemployed.
This, however, does not negate the fact that youth are in need of new job opportunities, innovation and self-employment. The high unemployment rate is attributed to high dependence on formal jobs as a source of livelihood for the majority of those falling below 35.
EMPOWER THE YOUTH
There is a need, therefore, for the public and private sectors to develop strategies to empower the youth with life skills and entrepreneurship training to boost self-employment and innovation.
Despite the perceived neglect of the youth empowerment agenda, there are some organisations that have already taken up the responsibility of reversing the trend. Our youth have brilliant minds, ideas and skills that need to be properly channelled and financed for start-ups, but the biggest challenge is lack of funds. We, as business leaders, need to be involved in youth affairs by creating platforms for their growth.
Through our Simba Foundation, we have put in place measures to provide thought leadership for the development of an automotive industry-driven syllabus to meet the rising demand for technicians with the skills required to meet the growing needs and emerging industry trends.
In collaboration with our partners, we have rolled out an automotive training programme aimed at empowering youth. This was inspired by technological advancements in the recent past that have greatly impacted the global motor vehicle industry, resulting in having motor vehicle models that are more dependent on technology.
As a corporate, we believe that it is our role to dignify the informal sector and give youth the skills set needed to motivate the next generation. Reforms spearheaded by the government to transform the TVET sector are commendable. By tapping into this sector, these youthful energies will be channelled to productive activities through properly planned and implemented quality technical and vocational skills development programmes.
While TVET can facilitate the transition to a sustainable economy, it also plays a vital role in developing the skills to improve output, quality, variety and occupational safety.
Therefore, there is a need to build the human resources and capabilities of our youth. There is a link between poverty reduction, skills training, increased growth, productivity and innovation, especially for the informal sector. I urge companies and other institutions to help transform our country by empowering youth.
Mr Popat is the CEO of Simba Corporation and founder of Simba Foundation. [email protected]