Technical and Vocational Education and Training: Africa's Major Challenges in the Face of COVID

10 Mar 2021

The pandemic is challenging the solidity and agility of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems. However, the crisis is also giving rise to new practices and effective initiatives that can inspire and strengthen future policies for TVET management and planning in Africa. How can we take advantage of the pandemic and address the major challenges facing TVET?

Around the world, the sudden break out of the COVID-19 pandemic forced TVET stakeholders to reorganize at extremely short notice. Priority was first given to health issues, learning continuity and maintaining a connection between learners, training centres and companies. Digital technologies have been a key lever for short-term responses, however some underlying challenges, including the lack of equipment and internet connection access in Africa and the practice-oriented nature of TVET, limit the scope for distance learning.

Digitizing TVET and adapting learning environments

Numerous initiatives – whether public or private, local or national – are providing promising responses to the realities and challenges of TVET in Africa, including digital training platforms, free access to e-learning content, practical exercise modules remotely delivered, low-tech and offline solutions. Examples include the e-learning platform atingi, digital tools developed by the companies Lucas-Nülle and Festo, and the e-learning platform Ejàng initiated by the Senegalese government.

Many of these systems were designed prior to the pandemic, and they proved crucial when schools were closed and physical distancing became the norm.  While the COVID-19 crisis has helped to accelerate the adoption of these emerging practices, they will remain essential in the longer term to diversify TVET learning modes, combining in-person and distance learning.

Improving the employability of learners

Some structural weaknesses of TVET systems in Africa have been coming to the fore in the pandemic context. In particular, TVET skills development struggles to respondto the needs of an ever-changing labour market and to tackle youth unemployment in the continent. Yet, this crisis may also provide an opportunity to speed up the transition towards more flexible and effective ways of delivering job-relevant skills.

A number of innovative tools and public and private initiatives to improve the employability of learners have enjoyed renewed visibility and legitimacy in recent months. TVET managers and planners can draw inspiration from best practices such as pooling tools and resources between countries, online mentorship sessions, micro-credential schemes to facilitate skills development and recognition, or a web-based application that uses big data to track and guide learners. Some of the most notable initiatives include the application InserJeunes developed by the Institut de la Francophonie pour l'Éducation et la Formation (IFEF), the online school Openclassrooms and the eCampus Ontario in Canada.

Adapting to new labour market skills needs

Matching the supply of TVET programmes to employer demand for skilled labour force is a major challenge in many African countries. This means designing systems that are flexible and agile enough to allow learners of all ages and backgrounds to acquire the right skills at the right time. On the one hand, labour markets are changing, increasing the need for reskilling. On the other hand, digital upskilling is necessary at the global level, in all economic sectors.

Faced with this twofold concern, IIEP-Dakar has begun efforts to identify innovative practices and initiatives, mainly from the private sector, that facilitate reskilling and lifelong learning. Among these new training providers is the Kenyan company Fundis, which develops digital upskilling content for home repair people working in the informal sector. In a similar vein, the transport company Max, in Nigeria, is helping to improve the digital literacy of taxi and motorcycle taxi drivers, who are increasingly dependent on technology for their work.

To read about all the other examples, tools and resources selected and commented on by TVET experts from IIEP-UNESCO-Dakar, go to the TVET/COVID page on the Platform of Expertise in Vocational Training (PEFOP):

Managing and planning TVET during COVID-19