By Daniel Ighakpe
A sound education is the right of every person. Without education, ignorance reigns. The goal of education is not just to increase the amount of knowledge, but also to help people become useful members of society.
A successful education should also foster in children the joy of living and help them to take their place in society as well-balanced individuals. Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree, it is also about equipping one to meet successfully the challenges that life will bring.
However, the educational system in Nigeria seems to focus more attention on the need for students merely to acquire academic qualifications. Academic-based schooling seems to be thriving in most educational institutions. Necessary career skills that are required in the business world are rarely taught to students.
Sadly, the rate of unemployment amongst the youth has increased dramatically in the last decade. And, according to a recent statement by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, this trend will continue, and even get worse in the coming years. Most young people from the university lack the needed skills and competencies that would enable them function in today’s emerging society.
Vocational education needs to be integrated into the school curriculum as this will equip students with the practical skills needed for lifelong learning. Vocational training can also be taught to children from an early age. That way, they can imbibe and nurture the expertise as they grow. Thus, early childhood institutions also should look into including vocational training into their curriculum.
When people hear “vocational education”, they believe it is for those who cannot afford a quality education. However, this is a wrong assumption; the truth is everyone needs to learn valuable hands-on skills. In the long run, these skills can act as a means through which income is generated.
Bridging the vocational skills gap remains a major challenge faced by many, especially young adults in Nigeria. Vocational education and training is designed to educate youths and adults with the right skills needed to survive in the ever changing labour market. The narrative of the basic academic education is gradually changing from basic paper credentials to skill-based qualifications which can be applied to specific skills required in the workplace.
The state of vocational education in Nigeria calls for urgent attention. The Nigerian educational system requires urgent, innovative and practical reform to bring it in line with international best practices, and importantly, better equip the young people of this country to handle the never-ending demands of the 21st century.
Vocational, entrepreneurship, or skill acquisition programmes, as they are usually called, include training in skills/courses such as: cooking and baking; photography; video editing; barbing; hair styling & making; musical instruments training; cobbling; make-up and gele tying; carpentry; painting; plumbing; and so on.
For Vocational education to thrive, teaching and learning must take place in an environment where all the necessary tools, machines, equipment and facilities are in place and resemble a real work environment. Vocational education is the engine for economic growth in the country. Nigerians should invest in skill training, as no nation can compete effectively in the emerging global marketplace with poorly educated and unskilled workers.
Government, educational administrators and other stakeholders are therefore called upon to invest massively and urgently in integrated approaches to developing the educational system, as this will ultimately lead to building a better workforce and thus boost the development of the Nigerian economy.
[About the author: Daniel Ighakpe writes from FESTAC Town, Lagos.]