At the precise moment (April 19 this year) that the Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development, Fidelis Molao, was telling a kgotla meeting in Gabane that Target 20 000 was on course, European Union consultants had produced a report stating in unequivocal terms that the programme’s design is fundamentally flawed.
Introduced in November last year, Target 20 000 is a vocational skills-based training programme that aims to enroll 20 000 young people below 35 years who dropped out of the formal education system. The programme targets sectors such as agriculture, tourism, ICT, business services, mining and construction. In an article headlined “Target 20 000 on Course”, an April 20, 2016 issue of the Botswana Daily News quotes Molao as saying that the programme is “progressing well.” That is not the view of consultants engaged by the Centre for the Development of Enterprise-Private sector Development Programme to analyse Botswana’s tourism value chain. In the tourist sector, the programme focuses on hospitality and tourism training aimed at skilling unemployed school leavers with the necessary skills to enter the tourism sector. Ranging from six months to two years in length, the training focuses on general hospitality and tourism, food and beverages as well as rooms operations.
Some 21 institutions, among them Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Botho University, Ba Isago University, New Era College, ABM university, Gaborone University College and Boitekanelo have partnered with the government in the programme.
The consultants quarrel with the fact that the Target 20 000 training is conducted through private and public sector education institutions in and around major centres in Botswana.
“This may not strengthen small operators in remote locations as candidates will need to relocate to locations where training is being provided as opposed to locations where tourism operations are located. Additionally, the programme does not focus on up-skilling and therefore this will need to be approached from a different perspective,” they note in their report.
Aligned to Target 20 000 are two other youth empowerment programmes that are not producing the intended results: Graduate Internship Scheme and Back-to-School. Some university graduates are unable to get jobs because they lack work experience and the Graduate Internship Scheme is meant to plug that gap. However, the scheme has been more successful in ensuring a pool of cheap labour than equipping graduates with work experience. With regard to Back-to-School, a senior secondary school teacher says that in most cases, the returning students are adults who expect to be treated as such.
“They don’t expect to be corporally punished,” says the teacher-source adding that some of these students (who can be as old as 22 years) come back with adult problems which tend to distract them from focussing on their studies.