School leavers and secondary school students in southern Zambia have benefited from a UNESCO project designed to tackle the problem of accessing technical and vocational education and training (TVET).

Every year around 300,000 students leave school in Zambia with very few of them able to gain places on  TVET schemes. The UNESCO project, part of the Better Education for Africa’s Rise programme (BEAR) addressed the problem by incorporating practical skills learning into the secondary school curricula.

Young students and adult school leavers took part in the project at a secondary school and a Capacity Building and Learning Centre (CABLAC) in southern Zambia gaining certificates in carpentry, construction, metal fabrication, plumbing, design and tailoring, among others.

Mr Jericho Nzima, head teacher at the secondary school, explained the benefits of integrating skill training alongside the regular school curriculum.

“Before the BEAR project was introduced to this school we had a semblance of a two-tier system of education but enrolments were extremely low. With the coming of the project we have an overwhelming number of learners for our skills training programme.”

The school also awarded certificates to 50 trainees who had job experience but no formal education or training in their respective fields. Giving a seal of approval in the form of formal certificates both empowered the trainees as skilled workers and facilitated employment opportunities in their communities.

Literacy courses as part of skills training

At CABLAC in Southern Zambia, adult school leavers had the opportunity to learn tailoring, cutting and design as part of the BEAR project, but literacy classes for adults were a precondition for enrolment.

Head teacher and literacy tutor, Ms Tina Mtonga, said: “Before we started the project, we did a survey with TEVETA (Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority) around the community; we discovered that most of the people that were interviewed lacked literacy skills.”

Ms Agness Bwalya Kaulwe spoke of how happy she was to receive formal design qualifications and literacy skills at the age of 47.

“Having left school many years ago and without the possibility of continuing with my education, I love being here at CABLAC because I am learning English and maths. This means that I will be able to communicate effectively and manage my home and business well because they are also teaching us entrepreneurship.”

Thirty-one female students have taken part in the first intake of the design course and it has had a positive effect on the community.

“We are seeing a lot of changes, starting with our learners in school because most of the students we have in the centre are parents to our very own pupils (in primary school). We are seeing a positive response because light has been shed on the importance of education,” said Ms Mtonga.

The BEAR project is funded by the Government of the Republic of Korea, to help SADC countries (Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia) improve their TVET systems. The projects implement sectoral programmes through public and private partnership since 2011.  

The UNESCO – Cedefop global skills conference takes place at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, from 20-21 October 2016 exploring the theme Skills, jobs and sustainable development: global trends and local challenges.