By Gugulethu Mgabhi and Mangaliso Mohammed

A lot has been done by both the government of Swaziland and its development partners, such as the Republic of China on Taiwan, to nurture technical vocational education, and training (TVET) in Swaziland. TVET is an important but largely underexplored, and underfunded frontier of human development in the country. TVET has the potential to provide practical solutions to reduce economic stagnation, long-term unemployment – joblessness, and job-seeking that lasts at least a year – and economic stagnation.

Youth unemployment was a major challenge for Swaziland at the inception of the National Development Strategy (NDS) in 1997. Fast-forward to 2014, the Integrated Labour Force Survey (ILFS) (2014) reports that youth unemployment stood at 51.6% in 2014. Simply put, these figures suggest that one in every two young people are unemployed in Swaziland. Swaziland’s Labour Market Profile (2013) confirms that of the 10,000 young people that complete high school each year, only 2,000 (20%) are absorbed by the labour market.

To address the high rate of chronic unemployment, Swaziland needs innovative labour-market policies to stimulate job creation, and reduce long-term unemployment, which can be particularly destabilising for society. As we have seen elsewhere in the world, unemployment has been a key driver of the rise in crime, and populist ideologies. Being without work for any reason can affect people’s lives in many ways. Aside from the loss of income, studies have shown that there are emotional effects associated with long-term unemployment. For example, a 2012 study published in Social Forces considers how job loss affects well-being, while a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Public Health examines the impact that unemployment, and insecure employment has on an individual’s health. In both studies, the results highlight the deep and intractable hardships caused by unemployment to individuals.

However, job creation on its own is not sufficient to address the unemployment crisis. According to the World Economic Forum, the key to economic growth lies in the talent, know-how, skills, and capabilities of the work force. This suggests that it is necessary to ensure that the skills provided by a country’s education system, including the provision of technical and vocational training, are relevant to the labour market. The implementation, and coordination of the TVET system is therefore a vital ingredient for industrial development, and employment creation in Swaziland.

The country adopted the TVET policy in 2010 after using the Industrial and Vocational Training Act of 1982, which helped establish under the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the Directorate of Industrial and Vocational Training (DIVT). Key functions of the DIVT include responsibilities for grade testing, and facilitation of apprenticeships between TVET trainees, and potential industry employers. The Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) is the custodian of the policy, and is responsible for its implementation, and coordination amongst other tasks.

The TVET Policy emphasises coordination (indicator 4 out of 12 indicators) as one of the key performance areas necessary to implement an effective TVET system in Swaziland. However, currently, there is no Department that deals with TVET within the MOET. Confounding the issue is that there is still no TVET Act governing the establishment of TVET as a sector, which compromises the implementation, and coordination of TVET in the country. It also thwarts efforts geared towards establishing collaboration among stakeholders, which results in each of the stakeholders “working in silos”.

The coordination challenge is however not unique to Swaziland as the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) indicates that the TVET sector in general lacks coordination. This is evidenced by the ratings of TVET governance (which plays a major role in effective coordination) in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in 2013. It reveals that only Tanzania, and Mauritius are rated 4/5 and 5/5 respectively, while 11 other SADC countries rate between 2/5, and 3/5. Swaziland is amongst the lowly rated governance structures (UNESCO, 2013), at 3/5.  This rating reflects the existence of the TVET policy adopted in 2010, the draft Bill for TVET governance, and the Vocational and Industrial Training Act of 1982.

So, what has Tanzania and Mauritius done to achieve such high ratings? Mauritius’s high rating in TVET can be attributed to the following indicators: (1) TVET policy and legislation in place; (2) quality assurance agencies in place; (3) assuring quality of provision by public, and private providers, regulatory, facilitator, and provider roles are clearly demarcated, and distinct; (4) separate institutions have been set up to fulfil each of the roles, under the administration of the Ministry of Education and Human Resources, and each institution is still evolving towards its full maturity. On the other hand, Tanzania’s high ratings have been achieved through: (1) policy and legislation for governance of the TVET; (2) quality assurance for TVET are in place, and, have 12 years’ experience (UNESCO, 2013) in coordination of TVET, and (3) of assuring quality of provision by public, and private providers. Such good governance, and institutional structures provide a learning opportunity for Swaziland to transform her own TVET system to respond to industry needs, and contribute to employment creation, and increased productivity.

The question is how can Swaziland achieve a well-coordinated TVET system? It begins with the MOET establishing a Directorate of TVET to direct, harmonise, and coordinate all TVET programmes in the country. Without this TVET-dedicated department/directorate within the MOET, TVET activities will continue to unravel in a haphazard manner.  Through establishing the Directorate of TVET, the MOET can assume the much needed one-stop-shop to engage all the TVET participants in planning, implementation, and coordination of TVET activities.

The African Union (2014) demonstrates that the major conditions necessary for successful coordination of a national TVET system is the development of a policy that identifies the government’s mission, and vision for skills development and, defines synergies between the national, and regional plans. Important players in the effective coordination of TVET include, the government itself, parliament, TVET institutions, the productive sector, funding bodies, parents of TVET beneficiaries, and, the TVET beneficiaries themselves.

The adoption of the Regulations for the Swaziland Qualifications Framework (SQF) in December 2016 shows that the country is heading in the right direction in terms of harmonising the education system on the supply side of skills. The SQF sets the standards for the curriculum provided to learners to match the qualification given at the end of the training. The grade tests of TVET skills provided by DIVT and certificates from TVET training institutions can be embedded in the SQF to give clear benchmarks on the required technical and vocational skills within the different sectors of the economy. These kind of synergies between industry and TVET training institutions can only be realised with the establishment of the Directorate of TVET within the MOET. Over and above the coordination, the Directorate of TVET may through involvement with all the key TVET players in the country, change the traditional belief/stereotypes that TVET is for the poor and the uneducated.

About the authors: Gugulethu Mgabhi and Mangaliso Mohammed are Research Economists at the Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre. They can be reached at and They write in their personal capacity.