Philanthropist calls for quality and relevant education to leverage Africa's human capital

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A pupil of Rusheshe Primary School in Kicukiro District engages in studies on the blackboard. (Timothy Kisambira)

For Africa to thrive, there is a need to provide quality and relevant education and training to its young people.

Jane Wales, the chief executive of the Global Philanthropy Forum, who was speaking exclusively to The New Times on the sidelines of a two-day conference, dubbed the “Africa Philanthropy Forum” (APF) that opened in Kigali yesterday, said Rwanda was chosen to host this year’s forum for her continued search for human development.

The conference, being held under the theme; “The Promise to the Next Generationm” has brought together over 50 high-ranking personalities representing global philanthropists, governments, the business sector and public institutions.

First Lady Jeanette Kagame is expected to speak at the conference.

“The main issue is no longer access to education but rather, quality and relevant education. That’s a hard task because the jobs of tomorrow will not be the same as the jobs of today. Universities should, therefore, help students to explore a range of opportunities and learn how to learn and be able to adapt to different careers,” Wales said.

Rwanda is the second country to host the Africa Philanthropist Forum after Ethiopia.

Wales said: “Rwanda is a success story and the rest of Africa benefits from its dream and understanding; it is a place that is welcoming to new and inclusive ideas and that’s what Africa needs to develop.”

She said Africa’s great challenge is to ensure that its economic growth is inclusive and broad-based, experienced by the entire population and in particular to ensure that the next generation has the opportunity to contribute to society and the economy.

Albert Nsengiyumva, the minister of state in charge of Technical and Vocational Education and Training, said there was a need to build an education sector that was not conservative but rather demand-driven.

“When you look at Millennium Development Goals, most African countries have managed to improve on the principle of access to education, more particularly in primary education. But the most critical issues, that is, skills and relevance, still remains,” Nsengiyumva said.

The minister suggested that Africa needs a collaborative public, private and social sector in order to address the issue of quality and relevant education.

He said the private sector in Africa is growing mainly due to critical structures including infrastructure, mining, hospitality and others. However, Nsengiyumva added, without a skilled and relevant labour force, the private sector might not realise its full potential.

Minister Nsengiyumva revealed that Rwanda is moving for a 60 per cent enrolment in TVET schools and 40 per cent enrolment in general education to achieve inclusive human capital development.

“We would like to make sure that of the enrolment in TVET schools, 50 per cent of students would be female. In a ‘HeforShe’ campaign, Rwanda has made a pledge that in the next five years, we will raise the number of females going to technical and vocational schools to at least 50 per cent,” Nsengiyumva said.

In addition to offering technical and vocational training, the Rwanda government has moved to facilitate access to market and promoting financial inclusion to create small and medium enterprises.

The African Philanthropist Forum is an affiliate of the Global Philanthropist Forum and is managed by African philanthropists.

The Global Philanthropy Forum aims to build a community of donors and social investors committed to international causes. Through an annual conference and special events, the forum seeks to connect donors to issues.

Meanwhile, Yale University, in partnership with Higherlife Foundation, yesterday announced a partnership to expand the Yale Young African Scholars programme to train and mentor the next generation of African student leaders.

The programme will bring Yale undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff to three African countries every year for three years, where they will collaborate with local teachers and other partners to inspire talented high school students to study at US universities.

More than 50 speakers, including  Tsitsi Masiyiwa of the Higher Life Foundation Masiyiwa, Queen Sylvia Nagginda of Buganda Kindgom in Uganda, Bruce Krogh of Carnegie Mellon University and the Minister for Health, Dr Agnes Binagwaho, are expected to speak at the forum.