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Don’t demonise degrees, TVETs not the answer

Sunday July 21 2019

University students

University students during a graduation ceremony. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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It’s completely selfish for anyone shaming youths who want to attain university degrees. The problem with education and how it translates to actual employment is broader, with many grey areas. It’s a structural issue that can’t be solved by simply claiming that a young person who wishes to go to university is “foolish” for not looking at the alternative of acquiring competencies. The unnecessary battle being created between competencies and credentials is fallacious.

Those calling young people with credentials and no jobs “foolish” owe the unemployed youth an apology. The problem is not with the particular credentials, so anyone vilifying degrees and qualifications should stop. The issue is that there’s a failure in the progression of graduates from school into the job market, which is not the responsibility of the graduate.


There’s nothing wrong with being a certified qualified professional so even the insinuations about this being a foolish achievement is the highest level of mockery.

By now, we should be fully aware of structural impediments that hinder unemployed people from accessing the job market – be they as job seekers or creators. In Kenya, we can’t ignore the role of state mismanagement of institutions and initiatives meant for youth with the endless corruption that takes many forms.

Nepotism is the reason many qualified and able Kenyans do not have opportunities. To be blinded to this fact is equal to being outright mindless.


The support for competencies and skills training without an honest interrogation of what a successful outcome looks like is also deceptive.

To just want young people to reject university education in a world that is run on qualification hierarchies and opt for Technical Vocational Education and Training(TVET) is not practical. Foremost, TVET courses need to be professionalised so they can be competitive in the job market.


As they are currently, very few youths will aspire to them as long as they remain basic plumbing, tailoring, carpentry and mechanical jobs that are not modernised.

Additionally, there’s a whole system that has to change in the way it perceives and invests in upgrading skills training courses towards what we call “dignified” work. The conversation on work and employment should always happen within the framework of what makes dignified work out of the various career paths that young people choose.

It’s thus not about dropping degrees and getting skills or vice versa, it is finding a way for credentials and competencies to complement each other.

Kenyan youth are out here doing their ultimate best for their lives, the least that government can do is make their lives easier or get out of their way. It’s very simple.

The writer is a policy analyst; [email protected]