Govt to tap diaspora expertise in fresh move to enhance TVET

Musanze Polytechnic students do some exercise in a mechanical workshop. The government wants to enlist diaspora to help boost TVET in Rwanda. Sam Ngendahimana.

A study is underway to determine how many Rwandans living abroad have technical, vocational education and training expertise and would be willing to return home, and help transfer their know-how so as to boost the country’s development agenda.

The local office of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) engaged a consultant in March and hopes to have everything wrapped up by September in a study aimed at finding out how many Rwandans in Belgium, UK, Netherlands and Germany have skills in the TVET industry so that they can be engaged in efforts to support TVET sector development.

“The process is ongoing and IOM works with some of our embassies in Europe. I don’t have more details but we will be informed about the outcome when the survey is done,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and East African Community, confirmed.

According to UNESCO, quality TVET is widely recognized as having an important role to play in tackling youth unemployment. In its 2013 report titled “Tackling Youth Unemployment Through TVET,” the UN agency noted that TVET’s orientation towards the world of work and the acquisition of employability skills means that it is well placed to address issues such as skills mismatch that have impeded smooth school-to-work transitions for many young people.

Integrating youth into labour markets

Claudia Roethlisberger, Economic Affairs Officer with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was in Kigali recently to launch the UN body’s 2018 Economic Development in Africa Report which argues, among others, that well-managed migration provides an important means for helping to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, in Africa and beyond.

It was during the same launch that an IOM officer revealed that they are working on the diaspora mapping project. Later, Roethlisberger told Sunday Times that human capital and skills are the key to development, and TVET can play an important role in this process if it is well designed.

She explained that technical and vocational education and training allows integrating people, especially youth, into labour markets and aligning skills with real labour market needs.

Roethlisberger said some of the top ranked developed countries such as Germany or Switzerland have built strong TVET systems and China is also investing in vocational training.

“The diaspora, especially the second and third generation, have exposure to TVET in their host countries and an opportunity to experience the use of TVET. Our 2018 Economic Development in Africa Report emphasizes that migration is an important source of upskilling opportunities for migrants. Migration thus offers a source of knowledge and experience with TVET relevant for home countries. In fact, we show that the diaspora makes an important contribution to economic development in home countries, precisely through skills and knowledge transfers, in addition to financial and in-kind remittances,” Roethlisberger said.

Workforce Development Authority (WDA) Director General, Jerome Gasana said they target to have at least 60 percent of students exiting the nine-year basic education programme joining TVET institutes. Another target is increasing the number of girls or women in technical and vocational education to at least 50 percent, by 2020.

“When we first did the count, about two years ago, they [girls] were at 30 percent,” Gasana said.

Told about the diaspora mapping project Gasana said it is a welcome initiative since when it succeeds the knowledge from Rwandans living abroad will cover crucial gaps here.

Gasana said: “Certainly we need the expertise especially since there are areas that we haven’t covered especially in specialized programmes such as in mechanized mining, and others. We need expertise in areas such as renewable energy, or generally, in the STEM or the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education field. They [diaspora] could cover these fields”.

The revised 2015 TVET policy – linked to other national policies such as the vision 2020 and the girls’ education policy – sheds light on the vision for the sector for five years including what objectives need to be achieved and what challenges need to be addressed in order to achieve the vision.

The vision for the country’s TVET sector is to develop a regional and international system that produces quality graduates, with employability skills that respond to the changing demands of employers and the country’s labour market, providing them with the opportunity to engage in decent work, work for themselves, be competent entrepreneurs and engage in life-long learning.

The policy’s objectives include improved understanding of skill needs in priority sectors, developing the human capacity within the sector’s system, improving TVET facilities and its sourcing, and improving the attractiveness of the sector.

Asked what Rwanda can draw from their research on Africa migration and diaspora involvement, Roethlisberger pointed out that their latest report highlights the different channels through which the diaspora contributes to economic development in home countries.

She added: “We discuss the contributions of financial, in-kind and social remittances, which include the importance of skills and knowledge transfer that happens through networks, philanthropic initiatives and investment. We also see a need to build coherent migration, trade, investment and technology policies. In this regard, for example, specific measures for skills development can be inserted into legal and regulatory frameworks. This implies that actors from the public and private sectors should conduct a skills mapping across sectors that bear potential for development and then align human capital development policies.

“Critically, this includes vocational training as it provides a means to youth to enter job markets, build skills that are in-demand and an avenue to further strengthen and adapt skills in line with new needs and development.”

Second chance education?

The 2015 TVET policy documents notes that TVET has historically been positioned as second chance or second rate education.

 “In many countries young persons who are seen as academic underachievers are shunted into TVET programs and institutions thus reinforcing the negative perceptions and low valuation of TVET,” reads a section of the document.

“The only way to change perceptions is to demonstrate the positive outcomes that can be achieved from TVET and to orientate students’ attitudes towards the benefits of studying TVET qualifications, as opposed to academic ones.”

The policy document notes that the status of technical and vocational education can also be enhanced by upgrading polytechnics and vocational centres, to strengthen polytechnic institutions and their role in industrial and technological development to raise their status and attractiveness as choice for secondary school leavers.

The diaspora mapping study will also establish what the diaspora wishes to see put in place to facilitate more and or better connections with the homeland, be it in terms of how they invest back home or how they best send money to friends and relatives back home.

Inbound remittances to Rwanda increased by 17 percent from $155.4 million in fiscal year 2015/2016 to $181.9 million in fiscal year 2016/2017, according to figures from Central Bank.