10 November 2012

Tanzania: Try Agriculture in Schools, Employment Opportunities Continue to Dwindle


A NEWLY released report on education by the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) paints a gloomy picture on the future of the youth in Tanzania and the entire African continent.

According to the report, one fifth of the youth in Tanzania do not complete primary school. Further, it shows that two million boys and girls who finish primary school every year have no job skills. The report also shows among other things that students finish primary school without the strong foundation they need to take them to a second level of education.

The outcome is that many of the youth find themselves trapped in jobs that keep them under the poverty line.While the report is essentially about the lack of adequate education and skills which in the end translates into unemployment and consequently poverty, it also advises that relevant education is essential from the very first day a child enters the class.

Poor education background and lack of skills have triggered urban migration. Thousands of unskilled youth flock to towns and cities hoping to earn a living whether decent or otherwise. Some of the young, energetic men are hawkers in the cities like Dar es Salaam selling petty items, including bubble gum targeting motorists caught in traffic jam.

Those who fail absolutely to earn a living turn to criminal acts including robbery and drugs.All this is happening in a country of plenty arable land, river and lake waters ideal for farming and irrigation.

While UNESCO positively advises that children need to know their goals right from their first day in school, it is up to decision-makers and educational experts to carefully assess the challenges.

Is it viable for example, to teach children that they are attending school today so that they have a job tomorrow? Would it make a lot of sense if they were gradually oriented into farming which is the country's economic mainstay? Such an option does not suggest that all the youth will have to turn to agriculture where education has failed to provide opportunities. Other areas like fisheries and livestock keeping may also be part of the learning process in schools.

However, in the long run, our emphasis is on agriculture as other areas have limited opportunities. We trust that farming, whether large scale or subsistence, has not depleted all fertile land and plenty of it is lying idle. While we recommend orientation of agriculture in schools, we also predict many challenges as children may see things differently.

There is the urge to get quick money, coupled with inclination to the fast world of information and technology. Nonetheless, it is not bad to have multiple choice in life.

It is only sad to see young, energetic men loitering in the streets while they could be engaged in meaningful income activities. The current situation in which thousands miss opportunities because they lack in skills, and even those who finally graduate from schools, cannot secure decent jobs because in a world of stiff competition, primary and secondary school levels are not sufficient to guarantee them employment.

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