Equitable access

Africa entered the Millennium with severe education challenges at every level. To cope with these challenges, Ministers of Education have reiterated the need to increase access to education, improve quality and relevance, and ensure equity.

Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) forms part of this pledge to advance education across the continent, especially with a focus on equipping people with the required skills to enter and effectively perform in the job market through specialised technical training.

As part of the African Union’s (AU) Second Decade of Education (2006 -2015), the continental TVET strategy takes account of concrete recommendations to address policy issues, challenges and gaps that constrain the implementation of initiatives and programmes for skills development on the continent. It examines the opportunities of TVET as a response to facilitate the promotion of national development, social cohesion, political stability, poverty reduction and regional integration. The Strategy draws inspiration from recent regional and international initiatives aimed at promoting TVET to foster youth employment.

The African Skills Portal for Youth Employment and Entrepreneurship (ASPYEE) provides a continental platform on which good practices relevant to equitable access describes approaches on how to facilitate access to training and equal opportunities in the world of work for girls, women and disadvantaged groups.

Equality legal framework

Inequalities are a great barrier to participation in education and technical and vocational training. For example, in many African countries, the children of poor parents are unable to pay the fees charged by training institutions. Furthermore, good technical and vocational schools tend to be located in cities, especially the larger ones, thus limiting access to quality education and skills for less advantaged populations such as people living in rural areas. To this end, it is imperative for countries to have legal frameworks that promote equal access to education to their citizens, irrespective of their geographical location, gender or other factors.

In drawing up a legal framework, such factors should be taken into consideration to ensure equal access to education among all populations. The process in setting up the legal framework is the following:

  • Establishing consultation mechanisms among all stakeholders at the three levels: national, regional and continental. Structured consultations with the private sector, particularly the TVET informal sector should be given due diligence

  • Direct involvement of members of parliament;

  • Creation of a TVET quality supervisory authority;

  • Establishment of an implementation body for the strategy; and

  • Establishment of youth-friendly entrepreneurship funds.


Promotion of TVET

To enhance the attractiveness of TVET and the trades for which people are trained, it is imperative that TVET is appropriately packaged and optimally profiled on the development landscape. This process will require the participation of career guidance service providers as well as entities engaged in productive sectors. The profiling should, inter alia, spell out qualifications accruing to specific training opportunities, as well as the pathways of advancing from a lower level to a higher level.

Most importantly, a demonstrated link to paid work or self-employment, espousing best practices and strategies should be an integral component of promoting TVET in Africa.

Ensuring access for girls and women

Ensuring equal access for girls and women is a must in order to meet the objectives of the continental TVET strategy. In striving for equal access, special attention needs to be paid to ensuring relevant and responsive TVET-content for girls and women.. This is a prerequisite for effective participation of women and girls in the job-market based. Moreover, due diligence should be done to promote high enrolment and low attrition rates during trainings; for example, TVET initiatives should take into consideration women and girl’s reproductive, productive and community roles and factor this is the study-calendar.


Ensuring access for disadvantaged groups

In Africa, traditional apprenticeship is a highly valued way of skills development and employment-preparation, especially for individuals from disadvantaged groups. An individual could be classified as being disadvantaged based on their economic status, having a disability, their race, being orphaned, and from the rural areas

Traditional apprenticeship systems, predominantly espousing the form and nature of TVET structures, tend to be a source of education and training that is particularly important to less advantaged sections of the society; they mainly reach-out to populations that have limited access to higher academic education. It is therefore imperative that national formal TVET systems deliberately target disadvantaged communities for equitable access.


Widening access through new technologies

The main objective of TVET programmes is to enable the acquisition of knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes in a trade or a professional field for gainful employment.. The demand for TVET notwithstanding, TVET has not been widely applied in many African societies. It is evident that TVET initiatives have not sufficiently taken advantage of modern technological facilities.

The role played by new technologies takes centre stage in helping to widen access to TVET programmes through the provision of new platforms (e.g. social media) and tools (e.g. mobile phones). The current continental TVET strategy promotes increased TVET access – exploiting opportunities offered by new advances in development technologies.