Tracking Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Developments in Swaziland: Prospects for Employment Creation
By Gugulethu Mgabhi
Education and training is a key pillar of economic development around the globe. The education and training system of a country is a major factor in determining how well the country’s economy will do. In a 2015 report, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), acknowledges the Government of Swaziland’s significant investments in Education. The report documents that on average, about 6% of Swaziland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) goes toward education. The benefits of this investment has been the high literacy rate of 95.4% for adults between the ages of 15 – 24 years, recorded in the 2007 Swaziland Population and Housing Census Report. This distinctly shows the Government of Swaziland’s commitment to the provision of education to the people of Swaziland. It is also cognisant of the fact that education is not only a national commitment, but an adherence to a number of international development imperatives, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063, to name just a few geared towards achieving holistic social development international.
Indeed, Goal four of the SDGs implores governments in the developing world and beyond to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. The target for Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) – which is the main interest for this article – is that; by 2030, governments should ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university education. The Goal further compels governments to increase the percentage of youth, and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.
Africa’s very own developmental Agenda – Agenda 2063, on the other hand, declares that by 2063, African governments should ensure that youth unemployment is eliminated and that Africa’s youth is guaranteed full access to education, training, skills and technology, jobs, and economic opportunities as well as financial means and all necessary resources to allow the youth to realise its full potential. Looking closely at Swaziland’s developmental aspirations, we see that the National Development Strategy (NDS) also emphasises the need for an adequate education system. In particular, the NDS documents that education must be redirected in order to include more and better training facilities, focusing on youth education outside of the classroom and the strengthening of science and technology at all levels and the continued upgrading of the education system in line with developments in the sector. The idea here is to ensure that Swaziland’s education system compares closely with the best education systems in the world. Indeed, our aspirations as a country are very clear: Swaziland will be a first world country by 2022!
To that extent, and in line with international commitments, The National Development Plan reports that the country has developed a wide range of policies and strategic instruments for socio-economic development in Swaziland. The Education policy, the National Technical Vocational Education and Training and Skills Development Policy and Strategy form part of these policies that have been developed. The documents provide a roadmap for developing a quality, relevant and sustainable education system as an integral part of the country’s socio-economic strategy. One of the short term priorities of the strategic sector plan is to improve the efficiency and relevance of TVET programmes by ensuring that TVET outputs meet the requirements of the labour market in as far as employability, productivity, and effective use of resources is concerned.
Three Ministries are in charge of TVET delivery in Swaziland, and these are the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Commerce. Of all the three, it is the Ministry of Education that plays the leading role in the delivery of TVET. Other initiatives aimed at improving the delivery of TVET that are in the pipeline include the establishment of the department of TVET with personnel and the adoption of the Swaziland
Qualification’s Framework Policy to guide the recognition of prior and experiential learning and promote mobility amongst the TVET institutions.
But what do the numbers for TVET delivery in Swaziland look like? In a 2010 World Bank Working Paper, it is reported that TVET is delivered through 57 publicly supported institutions which enrol about 2, 858 trainees, a year. The 57 institutions consist of, the Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT), the Vocational and Commercial Training Institute Matsapha (VOCTIM), Secondary schools offering prevocational programs (16), Government owned training centres (19), Non-formal government centres – government assisted (18), Non-formal centres – not government assisted (2).
As can be seen from these numbers, the Government has done a lot to beef-up TVET delivery, and by default social development in Swaziland. However, and in the true style of social development, the TVET system is becoming a victim of its own success. Given the high level of youth unemployment in Swaziland, the demand and appetite for TVET amongst young Swazis has increased yet the number of TVET training centres has not improved. Take, for instance, the last time that a TVET institution was launched in Swaziland or the fact that the youth (people below age 34 years) comprise 78.4% of the Swaziland population, as per the 2007 Census. The number of graduates being churned out of these institutions is too low and risk thwarting the Government’s desire to push for equitable education system and inclusive growth.
Similarly, questions as to how relevant are the courses or how entrepreneurial are the graduates produced by the TVET system in Swaziland have arisen as youth unemployment continues to skyrocket. Then there is the cost component to it, which, whilst the State continues to be involved, now digs deeper into the pockets of the trainees who are either self-sponsored, government sponsored or company sponsored. Whilst the involvement of the private sector in the funding of TVET is certainly a step in the right direction, it is also saddening to see the low levels of commitment from the private companies in as far as helping government increase the quality, and level, of infrastructure, technostructure and relevance of these institutions in Swaziland. There is, indeed, still lots of room for private sector involvement in the funding and delivery of TVET in Swaziland.
Why? Because there are benefits to investing in TVET. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in a 2008 report states that the TVET benefits take various forms and arise at different points in time, during- or after- the course or training. At the individual level, benefits come in the form of improved earnings, employment chances, mobility, capacity for lifelong learning, measuring of working conditions and job satisfaction. At the level of the employer, benefits include improvements in the productivity of their apprentices and or work force. Labour productivity is a central and important component of economic growth. The state yields net benefits both in terms of improved social rents plus positive externalities from increased productivity due to better education and in fiscal terms, e.g. increase in tax income from higher earnings due to better educated individuals and a decrease in crime rate. Of course, better pay come with a lot of perks – access to fresh food, improvement in health etc. which have the potential to affect the fiscus in a positive way.
As the country strategizes toward the implementation of the SDGs and Agenda 2063, this article has tracked government’s great strides in TVET as a prospect for employment creation through skills development and training. Through the above discussion, we can infer that TVET ranks highly amongst the drivers of economic growth provided that enough investments in skilled manpower is increased for the absorption of the graduates from the TVET system by the labour market and through entrepreneurship development.
Since education and training are the means by which the Government can ensure equal access to opportunities and give each individual the chance to shape their future, the private sector and development partners should join hands with government, who is a major financer, in ensuring the delivery of high quality TVET in Swaziland.
Key strategic objectives to take into account could be; to increase cooperation and partnership with the private sector and development partners in the planning, financing and curriculum development of TVET education. The private sector would have to take the lead here as the benefits of TVET accrue directly to them. Introduction of online facilities such as e-registration, e-classrooms and evening classes to promote accessibility, will be key as we tinker with the TVET system in preparation for the future. Certainly, it is important to consider that the skills which are currently considered to fall under this system would change in the future. And given that the beneficiaries of TVET are young people who form the majority of the users of information communications technology (ICT) the stake are high for both business and the youth. Classes could also be divided into different categories depending on the levels of education of the trainees. TVET institutions could consider establishing linkages with international Vocational Educational and Training Institute to align their curriculum with international trends and to ensure that they provide courses that are relevant to the needs of industry.
Over and above all other means considered for the promotion of TVET, more efforts should be directed towards ensuring that learners who undergo Pre-Vocational education in high school are given first preference when enrolling in TVET centres which can be used as an attraction strategy for increased participation into the system. Increased participation of young people in TVET will enhance the acquisition of the right and relevant skills which will enable graduates to take control of their own destinies which will contribute to the realisation of Vision 2022, SDGs and Agenda 2063.
About the author: Gugulethu Mgabhi is a Research Associate at SEPARC. She conducts research on Education Policy in Swaziland. She can be reached at email@example.com. She writes in her personal capacity.