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“Youth voices in education and skills”
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“Youth voices in education and skills”

Youth have been asked their views on education, writes Victor Ndede, 23, a Correspondent from Eldoret, Kenya, and responded with far-reaching ideas about curriculum, graduation rates and integration with the labour market.

According to the  Next Generation Kenya Report report, more than one in every five Kenyans is aged between 15 and 24 years of age. This means that Kenya is presented with a very unique window of opportunity to harness this demographic dividend.

Largely, the objective of the research, launched  on 17th of April 2018 by the British Council Kenya as part of the global Next Generation Research series, was to gather youth voices and understand their voices, attitudes and aspirations.

It is incumbent to note that the rise of the Asian economies was propelled by harnessing the youth bulge with government policies that were designed to maximise the capabilities of young people.

Young Kenyans place a lot of value in education, with 89 per cent agreeing that getting education was of utmost importance, and that without education they believe their future will be desolate. Of the 15 to 24 year olds interviewed, 89 per cent had completed primary school education but only 62 percent had completed secondary school education. It gets worse, with only 21 per cent making it to college or university. This therefore demonstrates that the challenge in Kenya is not school enrolment, but rather advancement in education. These upsetting statistics should not be a comfortable read to a country that is desirous of achieving its Vision 2030 goals.

It is instructive to note that completing primary or secondary schools makes very little if any difference to one’s employment prospects. According to the report, young people who left education after completing secondary school are less likely to be in work than both those who left after primary school and those who failed to complete primary school.

Every cloud has a silver lining though. Of those who had dropped out of primary or secondary school education, 60 per cent expressed willingness to go back and complete their education if given a chance. However, some young people believe the labour market is ruled more by nepotism than merit; stating that one needed higher connections and not higher education.

The study also looked at Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and it suffices to note that only 21 per cent of youth have taken a technical or vocational course and, intriguingly, 81 per cent of those who have not taken a course expressed the will to take such a course. Young Kenyans are not persuaded as to the intrinsic worth of TVET because they associate it with lack of academic prowess. This stereotype has long been perpetuated by the devaluation of our blue-collar sector and the respect bestowed upon white collar jobs. Young people bemoan the outdated pedagogies, poorly maintained equipment and weak training of teachers in TVET. The huge disconnect between the output of the courses and the needs of the labour market are also flagged.

The youth cited financial constraints as the main barrier towards the advancement in education. Many families still grapple with poverty and the effects have been far reaching on educational advancement in Kenya. For young girls in school, early marriages and teenage pregnancies have also proven to be barriers to educational advancement.

The young people hence recommend that Kenya’s TVET system should be redesigned with a view of improving the quality of teaching and infrastructure. They want the curriculum tailored to workplace needs by involving labour market stakeholders in curriculum design and in-training and mentorship programmes. The labour market is called upon to value TVET programs as much as they value white-collar jobs.

Young people believe that mechanisms should be developed so that members of the public can track financial resources sent to educational institutions so that officials can be held to account for the prompt and equitable distribution of resources.

Young people call for a framework that will hold universities to account for the quality of graduates they produce, which includes the requirement that they label courses according to their labour market success and to conduct and publish annual tracer studies on the workplace success of graduates by skill area.

Young people believe that tertiary education will be made more attractive and relevant if structured internships, early contact with industry, apprenticeships and volunteering are incorporated into the core learning experience.

Photo credit: gidgets GabrielleTimesSquarePhotoshoot-33 via photopin (license)
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About me: I am a member of the British Council – Kenya Next Generation Youth Taskforce. I’m also an Associate Fellow of the Royal Commonwealth Society and a law student from Kenya with a passion to tell the Kenyan story in a Kenyan way, and invite the world to see Kenya through my eyes. I am a literature enthusiast and works as a judge at the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition. I am a person who appreciates that there is beauty in diversity and strength in inclusivity.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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