TO get a hint of what an East Africa Community member state will look like in three decade from now, pack yourself in a school, college, university lecture class today.
EAC’s future development, or path of new EAC region or the lack of it, is indistinguishably linked to what is taking place in EAC’s training institutions.
Research conclusions quoted in the media shows that only 5 percent of the young people in sub-Saharan Africa go to school.
Equated to population growth trend and size, this proportion is so small that you can be sure that those few young people in college or universities will, by definition, be managing the show at different levels of our governments in 20 or 30 years from now.
We all know that industrialists and entrepreneurs in private sectors and public sectors, the experts, engineers, and administrators who will be in charge for tomorrow’s infrastructure, health care, army, legislatures, education, and other strategic sectors and thinkers for both private and public sectors are sitting in a college or university classroom today.
Envisaging what will East Africa look like, in the near future, whether this influential 5 per cent will play optimistic starring role in creating a better, more productive, and more just future for East Africa, will in my view remain a contested debate.
Will young people at school today going to have robust moral values, mind-set, shared vision, skills, knowledge and ability and above all, an anxiety for the greater good, notwithstanding of background, faith, sex, or income level they are facing today?
Will they be state-of-the-art intellectuals, ready to develop and inspire answers to questions tantalizing our minds today? Will they have business intelligence mind-set, to be entrepreneurs ready to work competitively and hard and support private sector to thrive to open up more job opportunities? Or will the rest of the world watch, keep a distant to watch how East Africa and Africa as whole’s next influential 5 per cent rests as leadership followers overwhelmed by dishonesty and ineffectiveness and failure to realise what unit between themselves can yield?
These, not all, but set of questions might mean simple but, we all know what our teenagers are going through while at home, in colleges and universities and at our households. I am not stirring the quality of education offered or those who offer the training, but at the bigger picture, are we proposing to our young people at households, school, colleges and universities skills that would make them graduate fully qualified, not only for the fourth industrial revolution, but ready to face growing demands for rapid economic, environmental and social changes, for careers that have not yet been generated, for technologies that have not yet been conceived, and to solve social hitches that have not yet been foreseen.
Will my education career path permit me to balance technical skills at risk of being replaced by automation, with timeless and borderless soft skills? Will my education prepare me or give me a visa for a line of business and will that line of business even exist by the time I’m ready to join the labour force? The answers to these questions are not simple at household level and even at national and regional level.
It is well known fact that the skills gap tale has been a problem amid employers i.e. businesses, managers, companies owners etc. in a number of sectors for the last half-decade, and in my opinion the problem will not be resolve up until our institutes of education be it parents, colleges, or universities find ways to get a feel for to the new strains of the global economy. Knowing how education and training interact with the economy, and envisaging what an African country, like Tanzania or Rwanda etc. will look like in 30 years, can help you better understand why some workers, businesses, and economies flourish, while others falter or even overwhelmed with ineffectiveness.
Constructive modifications have begun to take hold in advanced education on a small scale, and I have to admit, Rwanda has been good on that. These inventions, updates and refocused ways of thinking about the kind of skills market need are beginning to yield better effects for students and thus for the economy at large.
If thinking like these could take broader hold over the coming years, the way young people get trained in their career development path could become more effective for them, instructors and businesses that is, every day keep on changing.
The concern and questions underlined above is one issue that would heavily impact our young people’s future and that if we want an opportunity to start afresh, we need to choose a different course which would led us to a more successful terrain. Ideas that might help us think differently about the skills desirable in the market are many, but for clarity, I will only hint on few ones.
A traditional three or four-year degree in most of our universities is comprehensively measured the standard requirement for career success. However, in a wide range of fields, three or four years of higher education are avoidable. Fairly than trying that students arbitrarily extend their education over the course of three or four years, more motivated, affordable and practical alternatives should be encouraged to seed in entrepreneurship culture.
The first-class placed on a three or four-year degree can inhibit many young who do not have the resources or prospects to delay their careers for three or four years from obtaining the same level of success as their peers elsewhere. Experts studying students’ performance have established that about 60 per cent of full-time college students fail to complete their degrees within prescribed time schedule.
This is not an exceptional idea. Michael Spence, Kenneth Arrow, and Joseph Stiglitz, all Nobel Prize winners in economics, made inspiring contributions to the theory of educational signalling. Every college student who does the least work required to get good grades silently endorses the theory.
But according to these Nobel Prize winners, signalling plays almost no role in public discourse. Forging stronger ties between industry and education, perhaps through internships and the like remains best alternative for everyone to benefits.
Our region needs home-grown, local talent to solve today’s problems and prevent tomorrow’s catastrophes. Our graduates have begun to develop financial products applications for mobile phones and other applications. They are working in emerging finance sector, agricultural high tech etc. attracting needed capital for local undertakings. These young people need deliberate support as ICT based platforms is continuing to be a household name in all forms of business and service delivery.
One thing we all need to remember is that sitting in Africa’s classrooms today are students whose education will set Africa’s course over the next two or three decades to come. Why? As region, we are running into unmatched social challenges, economic and environmental encounters driven by hastening globalisation and a faster rate of technological innovation. These dynamics are new opportunities that our young people cannot afford to miss.
The future is uncertain and no one can predict it but there is a need to be open and ready for it through the kind of skills and mind set imparted to our young people at all levels of training. The children who returned to school this week following government permission to re-open all schools in 29th June 2020 will be young adults in 2030.
The closure of school and collages following Covid-19 pandemic will never go away from their mind. It is high time for policy makers and universities, colleges and schools prepare them for jobs that have not yet been created, for technologies that have not yet been invented, to solve problems that have not yet been anticipated. It will be a collective responsibility to seize opportunities and find answers. The future of our kids at all levels of education lies in our hands.