The importance of hands-on learning

The Ministry of Education, in partnership with Workforce Development Authority (WDA), is on course to have at least 60 per cent of students completing the Nine Year Basic Education join Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schools by 2024.

Jérôme Gasana, Director General of WDA, says the programme will ensure that more youth are able to create jobs or gain competencies that help them get jobs in the labour market.

So far, over 52 per cent are joining TVET schools.

Success stories

Rigobert Uwiduhaye is a visual artist and attributes his achievements to the skills he got from TVET.

Growing up, the 22-year-old entrepreneur used to love drawing, and would sketch just about anything he saw.

His dream came true in 2014 when he joined Ecole d’Art de Nyundo in Rubavu District, Western Province.

“The skills and knowledge I got from the institution helped me realise how I could use my talent to earn a living, instead of seeking for a regular job after graduation,” he says.

Uwiduhaye, who works with Inshuti Arts and Culture Centre in Musanze, says he has already opened a community library that serves people locally, and also has an art class for disabled people.

This, he believes, is just one way to create jobs, using skills he acquired in school.

Marie-Anne Ingabire, a 24-year-old fashion designer, is using skills she acquired in making footwear from TVET.

She says, while at school, she had already started making the shoes and immediately after, she started the business on a larger scale. 

“Because what we were doing at school involved practicals, it pushed me to come up with something of my own before even graduation,” Ingabire says.

The good thing about joining technical and vocational training, Ingabire says, is that one is taught how to create jobs and make use of what they have (be it knowledge, hobby or talent).

She adds that it’s not a guarantee that one will get a job immediately after school, but they can’t fail to find what to do in the meantime.

Hands-on skills

Some of the companies Education Times talked to say they prefer graduates from TVET and Integrated Polytechnic Regional College (IPRC) to join their staff for numerous reasons.

Said Hitimana, the managing director at UFCO&VLISCO NL LTD, a private company that deals with manufacturing of clothes, says some of their employees from TVET have the skills and competency any company needs.

He says such individuals always have hands-on skills that make them unique, compared to other players.

At their company, Hitimana says, when taking in new employees or interns, they have to assess them for a period of six months.

“During this period, we assess our employees and in most cases, we see a big difference between those who passed through TVET and those from other institutions,” he says.

He adds that for a period of only two months, they reveal additional skills and are able to fit in the organisation with ease.

He notes that because organisations need such skills, it’s easier for students from such particular areas to be engaged.

Gregory Mutabazi, the manager at Arc Consultant LTD, an engineering company based in Kigali, says while hiring people, they consider those with employable skills such as a positive attitude, good communication, management, problem-solving and decision-making skills, among others.

He says to find such employees, especially those who have just graduated, is not easy; but when you find those from TVET, it takes them a smaller amount of time to get familiar with everything that is going on.

“They will see a problem and not wait for someone else to solve it. They always find a way to fix it. And in most cases, they are ready to give it their best,” he says.

Focusing more on practical work

Gasana says for the past four years, they have changed their curriculum to reflect on life after students are done with school.

They started the competence-based approach, where students have more time for practicals and immediately after the training, they are accessed.

This, he says, has almost tripled the time students use to do their practicals. For instance, he says at secondary level, students are trained at a competence-based level and then they are able to do practicals, which is what they will do after graduation.

Gasana believes that this gives students the opportunity to face life after graduation head on. Additionally, he says, they also have increased opportunities for students to interact with companies so that they continue to experiment and use more time for practicals.

“This will continue to sharpen students’ minds when it comes to hands-on experience and practicals outside the school environment. Before, they used to do internship after graduation. But now, they do it while still in school,” he says.

Every year, Gasana says, they are supposed to go to different companies to test their skills and this should be an addition to the practicals given at school.

Alphonse Uworwayeho, a lecturer of mathematics at University of Rwanda, says there are some skills that can only be learned through hands-on practice and in such institutions, this is always assured.

He says that educators should focus more on practical work than theory while teaching students.

“Students who practice what they are learning in a hands-on environment are more likely to have a greater retention of what they are learning compared to those who spend their time on theory,” he says.

Uworwayeho says that some studies have suggested that the rate of retention can be three and a half times higher for students who get involved physically with a lecture, regaling them with an endless stream of facts and figures.

He, however, adds that such students always graduate with a better understanding of how the industry works; in fact, they have a better feel for the processes involved in their particular careers.

Their views

Yvette Mutesi, student

People need to change the mindset that TVET is for failures. In fact, there are many students who prefer learning in such institutions despite doing really well in their national exams. What matters is what you come out of school with, and not where you studied from.
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Pascal Mugisha, parent

All learning institutions should strive to involve their learners in practical work. Being familiar and exposed to doing work practically prepares one to face the real world without difficulty.
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Eliud Kayishema, entrepreneur

In today’s world, what matters is to be able to know how to adjust to new changes that keep on occurring in day-to-day life. It is not just about having a career, people need to be critical thinkers as well.
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Greta Gwiza, student

I think depending on what one wants, they are in a better position to know what is best for them. There is a lot that should be done to ensure that all learners get what is required for them to fit in the labour market.
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editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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