Youth in Africa have been grappling with unemployment rates for a long time. And some of those who enter into the job market at times do not have the necessary practical skills.
According to the 2017 World Employment Social Outlook trends report of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), unemployment rate in Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to stand at 7.2 per cent in 2017, as they were in 2016.
While the rates remain even, the report says the number of unemployed is expected to increase from 28 million in 2016 to 29 million in 2017 due to the region’s strong labour force growth making the case to be worse due to skills mismatch.
Many developing countries are trying to find ways on how to improve the quality of their education to serve the needs of the youth by equipping them with the skills needed to overcome the unemployment challenges.
Such initiatives have involved recognition of talents, skills and opportunity so as to transform youth into a productive workforce. Priority has been made in the curriculum content to ensure that students graduate with the right knowledge that will allow them to work effectively in competitive working environment.
In Tanzania, the Tanzania Institute of Education (TEA) is the main body responsible for developing the curriculum. It has made significant changes in the designs of the primary school curriculum. Recent reforms in the primary school curriculum include the splitting general studies into three subjects and also introducing new subjects: ICT, French and Sports.
According to World Data on Education 2011 seventh edition, the curriculum was streamlined to address the need to develop analytical and market oriented skills. The focus of the reviewed curriculum has shifted from content based to competence based. The secondary school curriculum has also been changed, with the introduction of new subjects such as unified science, social studies and computer literacy. Syllabus for the seven core subjects were reviewed and introduced in the curriculum of the secondary education in 2005.
However, there has been some growing concerns of employers today over finding the workforces that possess the right skills. This has raised questions on the ability of our schools and colleges curriculums content in delivering these essential skills to the youth in an effective and appropriate way.
Lilian Madeje, curator of Dar es Salaam hub and Human Resource expert says most countries have their own educational challenges particularly when it comes to curriculum and that each curriculum has its own principals, but she insists that personal efforts are needed to overcome such challenges.
‘It’s hard especially when these things are done in a paper but we still have the same teacher with the same experience to adopt into such changes. A lot of students are graduating every year and it’s sad that both government and private institutions cannot afford to employ each one of them. And this is when soft skills are needed so as to ensure that those who enter into the job market can compete effectively,’ explains Ms Madeje.
She says most of our curriculums are not participatory since they don’t open room for students to engage more in what they are taught.
“Our curriculum don’t teach students how to build their thinking skills, analytical and problem solving skills .These are few things among many which will make them stand out during their interview. As a trainer and facilitator, I have come across a number of students with qualifications which do not reflect their inner abilities,” explains Ms Madeje.
According to her, students’ need career counseling and they should also play their part as students for it takes a lot of personal initiatives to be successful in whatever they want to do in their lives.
“It’s true our curriculum has a number of challenges but that shouldn’t stop students from playing their part and so do the teachers. A lot of students have learnt using the same curriculum today but they made efforts to recognise their talents and became successful people they are today,”she says.
While experts in the industries feels that students are missing out the necessary skills because of the missing gaps in our curriculums , Daudi Mboma , assistant lecturer from Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology(DIT) says our curriculum don’t met the demands we have because of the existing gap between lectures and the industries, hence creating skills mismatch “ This happens because there are few opportunities for colleges and universities teachers to do research and consulting on what the employers or the job market needs and what teachers can deliver to their students,” he says.
He insist that since we are moving towards the industrialisation agenda we need to have people who will be able to drive the sector successfully and therefore we need to have curriculum which will reflect the real demand of our job market.
Ian Tarimo , a youth change maker with experience in various community development projects and a graduate with Bachelor in Information Technology says there is a huge gap between what is being taught in class and what the job market requires from the graduates.
“Most students miss the skills needed because most of the time teachers have been concentrating on teaching a lot of things which they believe are right to be taught based on the curriculum living behind skill based knowledge that would be of importance to the students,” explains Ian, an alumni of AIESEC, a Non Governmental Organisation training youth on leadership and Young Africa Leadership Initiative (YALI) program.
He says most of our current school system revolves around academic point of view missing what most students needs, ‘I am not saying that students shouldn’t learn to read, or do mathematics or other important skills but most of the time we spend their class hours filling their exercise books with notes,” he says.
He noted adding “Students use a lot of time to memorize so that they can do the exams and then quickly forget everything. This happens a lot because they fear to fail.”
He went further saying students who complete college struggle to look for jobs because most of them have been made to believe that getting A’s in their exams will secure them jobs, hence paying little attention to the practical skills needed for them to excel in job search.
“Our education system don’t give a room for students to acquire other skills that are necessary for them in the future. Most of schools are crowded hence students don’t have enough time to learn how to express themselves and teachers also find themselves with limited time to interact closely with each student. This goes on when students reach the college level where they continue to depend on lecture sessions and notes,” he says.
“ Each student has their way of understanding some understand well by listening, while others through reading, because of this that why we find most students lack the necessary skills that will help them when they seek job opportunities,”he adds.
But despite the shortfalls our curriculum have, Ian says there is a lot that can be done for students to bridge the gap that exist, “Students need to have exposure, they need to go an extra mile and learn things outside their region and not just sit around and wait for the opportunities to knock on their doors, they should volunteer since it teaches them team work and build confidence, this can help them to add a lot of qualifications in their CV’s.
Ian believes that that school should be a place where students discover what they love and be able to ask questions without fearing and getting the answers they need. He also adds that school curriculum should be able to open a room for students to discover what they are passionate about and leave school knowing what they are good at something which is still lacking in our curriculum.
But while some students feel that our curriculum are not practical, the case is different for other students who believe that whatever they have been taught in school or college reflects the demands of the job market.
Yasin Hemed, a second year student majoring in Business administration in College of Business Education, Dodoma Campus says most of the curriculum used particular in colleges and universities are practical since they reflect what they are going to practice once they are employed.