Dar es Salaam. Government plan to expand issuance of education loans to cover students in technical colleges has been well received by professionals who say the growth of the sub-sector would help cut youth unemployment in Tanzania.
At a recent meeting involving the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Higher Education Students Loans Board (Heslb) board of directors in Dodoma and docket minister Adolf Mkenda revealed the government plan to cover technical institutions students with loans.
Prof Mkenda said they had looked at the importance of extending loans to technical education starting with diploma programmes offering skills that are much needed by employers.
He acknowledged that the biggest cry by Tanzanians has been unemployment and the area where employment was most easily accessible is through quality technical training.
He said they agreed that the work should be done and by 2023/2024 they should be able to allocate money to fund technical education students as well.
He also said they agreed to look for other sources of funding to enable more students to undergo studies in mid-level institutions.
As the Ministry of Education comes up with the good news for this category, education and development enthusiasts have commended the government initiative, saying it would propel Tanzania’s industrialisation agenda practically.
They pointed out that many developed countries as well those that are highly industrialised, including China, have invested heavily in technical education and strategies to make students realise the importance of joining such colleges even where their marks can enable them to join universities.
“One of the things that will increase the number of students in technical colleges is the availability of loans. The world has changed and these institutions are even more important for the fourth industrial revolution,” said Dr Musa Msofe, from the College of Business Education.
Dr Msofe noted that at that point, the concentration of students enrolling in universities every year despite employment challenges, will decrease and make many see the need to join technical colleges instead.
“This is another key turning point in improving the country’s education sector. This will also require the existence of more technical colleges due to the increase in demand when the distribution of loans begins,” he alerts.
Technical education, a crucial path
Experts have been associating the rising number of unemployed university graduates with the small number of students enrolling in mid-level institutions.
Basically, technical colleges, they say, are facilitated by the use of Competence-Based Education and Training system (CBET) which creates room for specialised graduates to become more employable as well as promote self-employment.
Universities are said to for specialists in the Knowledge-Based Education and Training system (KBET) which is designed to produce researchers, managers and think tanks required to lead, supervise and offer advice for improvement in specialised sectors such as construction.
According to TCU data, on average, some 40,000 students graduate in local universities. However, some critics claim most of them are ill-prepared for the labour market for they lack the required (practical) skills.
On the other hand, with over 400 registered technical colleges in the country, whose graduation rate per year stands at between 150,000 and 180,000 students, according to the National Council for Technical Education (Nacte).
Experts argue that building an industrial-based competitive economy, the country requires diverse competencies.
The curriculum that is adopted in technical institutions equips the learner with the ability to apply knowledge, skills and the core values taught.
“It is therefore a learner-centered system geared towards improving the ability of students to use what they have learned in college to solve real-life problems. And the plan to lend these students has come at the right time,” says Dr Msofe.
“This is why I always suggest that the focus of students, parents, alumni and the government should be capitalising on opportunities available within the technical education system because this is where direct employment skills are found,” he notes.
Dr Thomas Jabir, an education consultant based in Dar es Salaam says that doers (technical graduates) should outnumber supervisors/managers (university graduates).
He argues that the resilience of people, especially skilled academics, is the key to the success of the national development vision.
For instance, he says, the internationally recommended ratio for engineers, technicians and artisan is 1:5:25 respectively. However, in Tanzania the current ratio stands at 1:0.2:2.6, which highlights high skills shortages in the sector.
“That’s why it’s important to take technical colleges seriously in order to attract more young people who will help reduce the huge gap that exists,” he notes.
This on the other hand, he tells The Citizen, provides plenty of opportunities for young Tanzanians to grab even when they are unable to go on to an advanced secondary or university.
“Now, with the current pace the government is setting, I can assure you that days of glory to Tanzania’s education sector are coming. Let every student feel valued through access to loans,” Dr Jabir noted.
On this, Ministry of Education permanent secretary Eliamani Sedoyeka says they are committed to ensuring that more Tanzanians have opportunities to study across all levels.
“And right now our main strategies are to increase the scope of funding so that we can add more students (who receive loans). Many of you are aware of the great efforts the government has put in primary education that results in an increasing number of secondary school graduates…,” he said.
Expansion of technical colleges
Inspecting the construction of a large technical college in Dodoma earlier this week, Prof Mkenda was quoted as saying that the college, which is expected to start providing technical education next year with a capacity of 1,500 students in the first phase, will provide three priority fields of energy, medical equipment and construction.
He said the phase would be completed in December this year at a cost of Sh17.9 billion. “This is a large college and it will be the fourth in the country and will take up to 3,000 students when it is fully completed.”
“We have colleges like this (government) one is Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT) which has campuses in Mwanza, Mbeya and Arusha. So when this is completed we will have four colleges that will help us prepare students in the technical fields,” he said.
He said there were 43 vocational training centres under Veta in operation but the government expects by the end of this year to have 77 such institutions in operation after the construction of its buildings is completed.
“We have 25 district vocational training colleges being built, four regional ones, the main task is to ensure that equipment is installed and to have enough trainers in those colleges,” he noted.
He said there were currently 831 public and private technical colleges in the country.
For his part, Ministry’s technical director Noel Mbonde said the construction of technical colleges would increase the number of skilled youth by more than 30 percent.
“Every year in technical training we get at least 150,000 graduates for intermediate vocational education we get an average of 150,000 graduates,” said Dr Mbonde.
Dr Beatrice Nkya, a technical education expert, says the current revolution in the education sector provides a vision of achieving the goals (goal no. 4) of the sustainable development goals by 2030.
“Our government has realized that we have delayed in improving and strengthening the education sector, this causes us to see the minister going to places all the time. The expansion of technical colleges is a crucil step. Extending study loans to this category will further enhance,” he says.