Thursday, October 28, 2021

Vocational training fails to make impact

The Vocational training failed to make any appreciable impact after years of running mainly because of the lack of verifiable information to demonstrate labour market linkages.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs, Pearl Matome failed to give a reasonable answer when quizzed on the top three skills under vocational skills development that have been identified as necessary to produce a workforce that can meet the current growing needs of the economy.

The question was asked by Member of Parliament Ndaba Gaolatlhe who clearly expressed displeasure with the ministry. “I appeal to the Ministry that let’s be a lot more systemic and concrete about what we do,” said Gaolatlhe.   

Gaolatlhe advanced three points of discussion namely to find out the model that the Ministry emulates, the list of the top three skills that the Ministry has established and also how many Batswana the Ministry intends to produce under each of the top skills in the next five years. Matome admitted that the Ministry is yet to conduct a survey but revealed that on the basis of observation; construction, mining and agriculture are possible areas of development. The lack of verifiable information to demonstrate labour market linkages suggests that the selection of skills-training courses by people is not guided and directed by the needs of the economy but rather seems misinformed and untargeted. 

Historically, it seems that vocational skills development, which includes practical activities such as carpentry, brick-making, gardening and building, has suffered the shadow effects of the formal education system, often regarded as the proper education. According to a research by Noman Hiza which analysed the problem of youth unemployment in three countries, Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana, officials in these respective countries recognise practical skills development but their support towards it however does not reflect the importance of such education. “Reality, however shows that the same officials consider NFE programs to be of lesser importance in society than formal education. The governments they lead have clearly indicated by their actions the view that proper education is the domain of formal education systems, with Non Formal Education NFE providing a fall back system. NFE is good enough for the masses that the governments cannot afford to educate “properly” through the formal system.”

The research cites that NFE struggled to survive alongside the better funded formal schools which are still affiliated to the British Cambridge University Education System. In the case of Botswana, practical skills development gained traction in the 60’s but however collapsed in the 80’s of which government was blamed. “But perhaps the main reason for inaction was the fact that Botswana’s revenues from mineral exploitation were increasing at a phenomenal rate and there was a growing belief that the country could solve its social problems within the framework of the formal system. Massive funds were pumped into formal schooling and the Ministry seemed to take the view that alternatives like Brigades were unnecessary and Botswana no longer needed them to cope with the school leaver problem,” the research posited. 

In his 2014 research paper that linked youth unemployment in Botswana to the various vocational training models University of Botswana Senior Lecturer, Gaotlhobogwe Motlaleng cites a model which Japan uses, the company model, that produces multiskilled and adaptable workforce for the world of rapidly changing technology. Such a model is considered to lead to lifetime employment. Botswana on the other hand as highlighted by Motlaleng uses the state training model or supply-led model which does not produce skills wanted by firms or produces those that saturate the labour market. He recommends that to deal with youth unemployment a different model must be used.

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