Technical and Vocational Education and Training seems to be the only way Nigeria can catch up with developed countries in terms of digital technological advancement. The United Nations youth envoy to Nigeria, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, during her visit, harped on this global reality as an important modality towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal four. Kuni Tyessi reports
Technical and vocational education can be said to be a training which encompasses knowledge, skills, competences, structural activities and other experiences acquired through formal, on-the-job and of-the-job education and which is capable of enhancing several opportunities for learners to secure jobs in various sectors of the economy, enabling self-reliance through job and wealth creation.
Recently, the Federal Science and Technical College, Orozo, in the FCT, played host to all federal government technical colleges for a national students’ vocational skills competition, and this was in compliance with the UNESCO advice on Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET), which is expected to deepen hands on the approach in delivery of skills education and training.
The students were told that to reduce unemployment, poverty and hunger, as well as violence, their attention must be reduced from the preference for education for ‘job seeking’ and embrace education for ‘self- reliance, job and wealth creation which TVET offers. They were reminded of the need to shift their attention towards skills acquisition courses as the Nigerian economy is wobbling under the weight of import dependency.
In the same vein, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) was tasked with the responsibility of providing a model for ensuring quality assurance and standardisation, even as the federal government in its might has launched the Nigerian Skill Qualification Framework.
With this, kitchen cabinets, dining chairs, tables, among others, which are imported into the country, and expatriates who are being hired to build and furnish the country’s five star hotels, educational institutions, construction of roads, manage industries and factories will reduce to the barest minimum. This is having in mind that when the expatriates leave, Nigerians will take over their jobs if TVET institutions live up to expectations.
During her three-day visit to Nigeria, 27-year-old UN youth envoy, Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake, emphasised that technical and vocational education and training is one major area of focus as it has the potency to address the challenges of skills development and eradication of poverty, not just in Nigeria but the continent as a whole and this will lead to the actualisation of the Sustainable Development Goal Four.
The aim of TVET is to enable learners to meet the needs of employers for qualified competent labour and own needs related to production of goods and services desired by the contemporary society. To meet up this desire, a TVET system must be labour market-relevant and produce people with the competences required by the industry.
She said for Nigeria to appropriately address the socio-economic challenges currently facing it, she must ensure that her youths and adults are equipped with the best and latest skills provided by TVET.
With a population of over 180 million in which the youths dominate numerically, she said attaining the SDGs is possible. However, “there are different approaches that we can adopt. First one definitely is investment in education. This is something I have been saying again and again. We need to invest in education, not just in the quantity of education or the number of people who get education, or the number of textbooks we distribute through the year, but the quality of education.
“What are we teaching our young people in schools? There is a huge mismatch between the skills that young people get from school and skills that are needed in the market. There is also a trend of changing the nature of skills that we want in the labour market. Also, different technological advancement that our colleagues have been speaking about; the conversation that will happen is what are we teaching young people in school?
Are we giving them knowledge? Are we giving them skills? This is definitely an aspect that I will encourage policy makers in Nigeria to look at; redefining the curriculum that they give to teach young people. Do we really teach young people or to have learning experience?”
In response to her thought-provoking, yet rhetorical questions, the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echonu said: “The Federal Ministry of Education is presently aligning the curriculum to labour market demand in order to provide youths with relevant skill-sets necessary to access decent jobs today or become employers of labour.”
It would also be recalled that Nigeria, due to negligence or lack of foresight has missed several opportunities that would have placed her on the global map in terms of technology. An example of this was when in 1981 a Nigerian had developed and driven a solar powered vehicle at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos. The opportunity missed was in the continuation of the development of solar energised products in the nation’s technical institutions which would have given Nigeria the chance to export solar products instead of spending millions of dollars in the importation of solar panels and generators.
Another example is the famous ‘yam pounder’ which was developed at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife. After it was developed, it was taken over by the Japanese who refined it for sale to Africans. This invariably shows that Nigerians are as intelligent as any other human being on earth, including those that have orbited the planet.
To further cement her argument for the promotion of TVET and the deadline of the SDGs, Wickramanayake stated that “next one is that there is statistics which says in order to accommodate all the young people we are having in the world by now, by 2030, we need to create 600 million new jobs. So it seems it is possible. Creation of employment doesn’t give government jobs to everyone; definitely not the answer.
“Then, how can we inculcate the culture that young people can come up with entrepreneurial ideas? But then, the most important is when they come up with that idea, how can we support them to scale up that idea? Across the world, all the young entrepreneurs, all the young persons I met, the first thing they will tell me is that they don’t have enough finance to start that great idea.
“Then, they go to banks and are requested to present different types of legal documents, experience and bonds to sign. That is very young person coming out from school. You don’t really have that kind of information or money to start the job. There are also legal barriers that prevent people who have knowledge or ideas from starting a business.
“We need to remove those barriers and inculcate the idea of youth entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
“As we talk about the world that is rapidly advancing with digital technology and intelligence, we also need to know that there are about 65 million girls who are not even going to primary school, without even getting basic education. How can we expect them to get digital literacy? So, keeping in mind this and growing inequalities, we want to understand that not every country is going to have the same future. So, in that context, really localising the things that we have and trying to prioritise the things that we do is number one.”
It is time Nigeria starts to produce much of what we consume and stop the capital flight resulting from out-sourcing of products and jobs to other countries. Nigeria can appropriately address the socio-economic challenges currently facing it. She must ensure that her youths and adults are equipped with the best and latest skills provided by TVET institutions.
TVET is the most effective tool for the society to develop its members’ potential to respond to the present and future challenges of the society. TVET is learning for work, citizenship and sustainable future which are ideal for meeting the goals of SDG four.