Percis Ofori of the African Centre for Economic Growth is among many who believe that technical and vocational education is key to spurring industrial growth.
According to her, with comprehensive policies and sufficient supply of resources, technical and vocational education also has all it takes to help in wealth creation and poverty reduction.
Ms Ofori argues that the desire for economic transformation by a developing country must be linked with Technical and Vocational Training (TVETs) colleges as a driver of human capital development.
She writes: “TVET system could produce competent technicians and artisans required in the automobile, road and building construction and sanitation industries.”
What needs attention from Ofori’s analysis is not the elusive ‘goods’ that can come with the TVET system, but ‘the adequate resources’ that need to be pumped into it to make it bear fruit.
The current arbitrary nature of funding to vocational and technical education in the country leaves many –both within and without the government—deeply dissatisfied.
This arbitrariness persists despite the fact that numerous studies having shown how significant the system of education is to the country’s vision of attaining a middle income economy by 2025.
In 2014, the National Planning Commission in the President’s Office acknowledged the significant role provided by technical and vocational colleges in industrial activities.
The study, National Skills Development Study, reported that the TVET system in particular, is uniquely positioned to impact national development as it is responsible for producing the shop-floor workers in all sectors of the economy.
The acknowledgement on the importance of vocational and technical education is also shared by Unesco in TVET 2016-2021.
The UN agency dealing with education notes that TVET addresses the multiple demands of economic, social and environmental nature by empowering the youth and adults on employment skills they need.
All these advantages notwithstanding the study by President’s Commission on Planning referred above noted that the overall budget allocations to sectors and/or training institutions, particularly with regard to Human Capital Investment, are arbitrary.
The study notes that the technical and tertiary education in other sectors – agriculture, health and natural resources. – do not even benefit from these funding, disclosing that they had less than 13.4 per cent of the allocated budget.
Vocational education was not even a beneficiary of the Human Capital Investment component, possibly on the assumption that the TVET system gets Skill Development Levies (SDL).
One of the people who feel perplexed by these reports is Kennedy Mmari, an independent youth development specialist based in Dar es Salaam.
Mr Mmari claims that it is more likely for students in vocational colleges to be more practical than their degree holder counterparts.
That is probably the reason he is “shocked” when he learns that students enrolled at various vocational and technical education colleges are not beneficiaries of the Higher Students Loans Board (HSLB) loans.
“When we had education for self-reliance programmes in past, it was because the government at that time not only acknowledged the gap in skills that could help citizens to take part in tackling poverty, but it also meant that for the country to develop, it is important to have people who possess some skills,” says Mr Mmari.
Mmari is of opinion that it is wrong for government to deny loans to students enrolled in vocational and technical colleges while it touts its industrialisation agenda.
“It is clear that if you deny these people loans, you are creating a population that can neither help themselves nor the country,” he said.
Beyond research and academics
Jumanne Mtambalike almost echoes Mr Mmari on the significance of vocational and technical education and why increasing funding to them is important.
Mr Mtambalike, the CEO of Sahara Ventures, the largest innovation and technology entrepreneurship event in Africa, says that university, which invests more time on nurturing innovation and entrepreneurship programmes has potential to groom the youth who are more skilled and innovative.
He coins this concept ‘Third Generation Universities’, which means universities that go beyond research.
He says: “Now, since most of our universities [in Tanzania] are not there yet, it makes a lot of sense to invest heavily in vocational education and urban skills programmes such as coding, digital marketing and photography.”
According to him, it would young people to possess the skills that are on demand.
They can quickly be self-employ or employed by agencies looking for those skills, Mr Mtambalike says.
However, unlike Mr Mmari, Mr Mtambalike is not surprised with below-par funding of the vocational and technical colleges.
“The government has to reconsider about how it funds its colleges and universities. As it is now, those going to various universities are priotised”
Mr Mtambalike urges the government to carry out an assessment of which institution produce the best technicians and fund them. “Why is this important? Because all industries require people with technical skills,” he said.
For his part, the deputy team leader at Human Development Innovation Fund, Mr Joseph Manirakiza believes that the role of vocational and technical colleges should be priotised considering that the country is pursuing an industrial economy.
“As a country whose vision is to achieve an industrial economy, vocational education is of paramount importance,” he said.
Like any other country, he adds, Tanzania needs a more aggressive, industrious, knowledgeable and most importantly, innovative labour force to propel it to the next level of economic development.
“And this is why increasing funding to technical and vocational colleges is more important now than any time before.”
Read More: The Citizen