Thousands of unemployed youth queue for the opportunity to hand in their CV at the Johannesburg Road Agency head office in the city centre. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi
One way of eradicating SA's growing youth unemployment problem is through “education with production” and “lifelong-learning”, writes Sello Mokoena.

As the 2017 World Economic Forum on Africa converged in Durban, under the theme “Achieving inclusive growth through responsible leadership”, one of the questions that arose was what interventions could Africa make to address the challenge of growing youth unemployment.

One way of eradicating this problem is through “education with production” and “lifelong-learning”. Development economics Professor Bethuel Setai defined it as: “Education with production is a learning process which combines academic learning with productive work. Such a process strikes a balance between academic studies and vocational training. The advantage of education with production is that it combines learning with productive work while it empowers the individual to be self-reliant”.

According to Longworth and Davies, “lifelong learning is the development of human potential through a continuously supportive process which stimulates and empowers individual learners to acquire all the knowledge, values, skills and understanding they will require throughout their lifetimes and apply them with confidence, creativity and enjoyment in all roles, circumstances and environments”.

In order to ensure that education and training programmes advance lifelong learning and education with production, educational goals and objectives must match the individual learner’s life experience and recognise relevant skills, which may have been acquired in both informal and formal learning environments. This implies that the employment sector should accept and recognise qualifications gained through this training approach. Furthermore, according to Voinovich, this implies that employers will have to give proper recognition to prospective employees by looking at their skills rather than their previous job titles and job descriptions.

The novelty of fusing education with production and lifelong-learning is that it calls for the creation of learning and working environments responsive to the needs of the students and it also enables them to capitalise on their individual life experiences and preferred learning styles within their chosen field of studies or industries. 

The advocates of education with production argue that emerging evidence in countries such as China, Jamaica and Zambia demonstrate that it is possible to formulate pro-poor educational policies and to implement plans and strategies in order to reach a wide range of large numbers of “under-archievers” and to ensure that they acquire skills that may lead to self-reliance and the creation of inclusive societies. Clearly, in order to turn the vicious cycle of deprivation and exclusion, African countries would have to improve the living standards of their communities through the provision of an assortment of quality educational experiences and services.

The approach offers the best possible route to equipping unemployed youth with requisite skills for competitive economies and job markets as world leaders contrive to create a future with dignity for all through various means. The authorities have to create the right set of conditions that tap into individuals’ talents and experiences to enable students to reach their full potential and to be self-reliant.

Unless the disadvantaged majority of the African youth is emancipated from the injustices of lack of knowledge and skills, it will be difficult for the continent to play a meaningful role in the global economy. All factors considered, the continent must harness the advantages offered by technology to improve the skills and creativity of the workforce in order to address the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution with the potential to radically transform every industry.

It is only through co-operation and knowledge exchange that the widening unemployment, wealth and knowledge gaps among the youth can be overcome. Thus it is imperative to establish and to maintain mutually beneficial partnerships between African countries and other continents, because their economic environments and underlying cultural, educational, social and political ramifications and consequences are not unconnected due to globalisation.

Prospects for sustainability hinge on visionary leadership, financial commitment and on building ownership.

* Dr Mokoena is head of research and policy for the Gauteng Department of Social Development. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

The Sunday Independent