What the BEAR project can do for technical and vocational training

09Jan 2019
Mtapa Wilson
Dar es Salaam
Financial Times
What the BEAR project can do for technical and vocational training

Tanzania is among five East African countries which benefit from the Better Education for Africa’s Rise II (BEAR II) project. In this interview with the Financial Times Staff Writer MTAPA WILSON, UNESCO coordinator of BEAR TEELUCK BHUWANEE (pictured) explains what the project entails in terms .....

improving Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) systems in these five countries. Read on…

QUESTION: The ultimate aim of the BEAR II project is to promote and transform TVET in East Africa. What is the project all about, and why is it important?
ANSWER: The Better Education for Africa’s Rise II (BEAR II) project is a joint initiative of UNESCO and the Republic of Korea being implemented over five years from 2017 to 2021. The project aims to support five eastern African countries - Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, and Tanzania - in improving the relevance, quality and perception of their Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) systems, with the global objective of giving young people a better chance of accessing decent employment or generating self-employment.

BEAR II draws on the knowledge and experience gained from the first BEAR project, which was conducted between 2011 and 2016 and supported TVET systems in five countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC); Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia.

Q: What are the focus areas of the BEAR II project in reforming and developing the TVET systems of Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda and Tanzania?
A: In Ethiopia, the project’s activities are focused on the agro processing sector, which is a priority of the Ethiopian government. The agro processing sector has been chosen because of its contribution to the country’s economic growth; its potential for job creation in the labour market; and for generating synergies by collaborating with other development partners such as UN organizations and bilateral development agencies.

In Kenya, the project is strengthening TVET systems with focus on the environmental sector, selected for its potential for economic growth, green jobs creation and environmental preservation. The sector was identified by the government in line with Kenya’s Green Economy Strategy and Implementation Plan 2016/30, and the National Climate Change Response Strategy 2010.

In Madagascar, the focus of the BEAR project is on the textiles industry, one of the five national priority sectors. With high potential for creating formal employment, the textiles industry’s entry point is expected to provide positive impact on social economic development in the country.

In Uganda, the BEAR project is concentrating on post-harvest management and agro food processing. Agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, and an advance in agriculture has high potential for both employment and economic growth.

And in Tanzania, the BEAR project gives attention to the agribusiness and creative industries. This is in line with the National Skills Development Strategy 2016/2026, which aims to build a skilled and competitive Tanzanian workforce capable of effectively fostering inclusive and sustainable social and economic growth.

Q: What are the outcomes of the initial BEAR project in Botswana, DR Congo, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia?
A: The BEAR I project (2011-2017) succeeded in putting TVET in the spotlight in those five SADC countries, highlighting its importance as a vehicle to address youth unemployment and support both social and economic development in those countries and in the SADC region more broadly. There has been significant impact both at the individual (learner and trainer) and TVET training institution levels in all beneficiary countries.

The project has also supported the emergence of sector skills approaches with the view to enhance public private partnerships that look at changing skill needs from the perspective of a particular sector, and ensure that skills development meets the needs of the labour market and individuals in that sector.

Specifically, during the period of its implementation, BEAR I achieved numerous results, including the establishment or reinforcement of sector skills committees/councils, development of five LMAs and 12 corresponding curricula, training of 744 teachers, and design of TVET MIS in four out of the five countries.

Q: In Tanzania, the BEAR II project gives attention to the agribusiness and creative industries (handicrafts). What are the importance of these focus areas in Tanzania?
A: The BEAR II scoping mission, conducted from 15–20 May 2017, identified key issues faced by the TVET system in Tanzania based on consultations with a wide range of stakeholders, data collection, and field visits to TVET institutions. These areas were selected by the government when the project was being formulated during the scoping mission in 2017. They are in line with one of the key economic growth sectors identified by the government in the National Skills Development Strategy 2016–2027 (NSDS), which provides for a chain of ways to obtain skills for employability, from informal alternative approaches to formal skills development.

The selected areas are agriculture, agribusiness and agro-processing; tourism and hospitality; transport and logistics; construction; information and communications technology (ICT); and energy. These sectors are also priorities in the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction Five Year Development Plan (2016–2021), which is under implementation.

Q: UNESCO in cooperation with the Tanzanian government organized a launch ceremony and inception workshop for BEAR II project on 14-16 November 2018. What was the significance of this inception workshop?
A: During the inception phase, detailed operational work plans are prepared and governance and management structures are established, including steering committees, program coordination and monitoring mechanisms.

Q: How does the BEAR project contribute to the achievements of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?
A: Sustainable Development Goal 4 ‘to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’ - pays considerable attention to TVET, with specific targets referring to technical and vocational skills, education and training.
Specifically, SDG 4 specifies targets relating to equal access to quality TVET, the number of young people and adults having technical and vocational skills for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship, and the elimination of all forms of inequalities in access to VET, including for people with disabilities, indigenous people and children in vulnerable situations.

Q: What shortfalls have been identified in these countries such that they were picked for the project?
A: It’s not a matter of shortfalls being identified to be picked for the project. UNESCO’s mandate is to support member states in policy formulation and capacity development.
When UNESCO finds a donor who is sensitive to the needs of a country, the donor is approached to support UNESCO’ efforts in assisting the country. But the priority areas are all identified by the countries themselves.

When the Republic of Korea agreed to support UNESCO, we identified a few countries in the southern African region initially for the first phase of the BEAR project. After the first phase, Korea has been generous enough to continue the project in eastern African countries. These five eastern African countries were selected because the ministers of education of these countries appealed strongly for UNESCO’s support.

Q: Based on Tanzania’s education status, what is the relevance of the project?
A: This project seeks to address some of the weaknesses identified during the scoping mission mentioned above. The key issues identified by the scoping mission are: Inadequate training environment, lack of relevance of TVET programs, and linkage with industry.

Again, lack of apprenticeship and internship programs for TVET trainees, lack of standardized curricula for informal training programs and Inadequate funding of the TVET institutions.

Q: A number of projects in many sectors have been implemented but outcomes have not been sustainable. How does BEAR intend to address that?
A: To ensure sustainability, the project is fully aligned with government policy and particularly complements the TVETDP priority areas, namely; quality of outputs, capacity to provide quality TVET, monitoring and evaluation of TVET, and focusing on quality improvement and management of the provision of TVET.

BEAR II will also work with all other development partners to ensure availability of adequate and appropriate human resources in line with the needs for improving access, equity and quality in teaching, research and innovation as well as public service within the core priority areas and beyond.

Q: What kind of support does the BEAR project need from the beneficiaries to enable successful roll-out of the project?
A: The BEAR project needs only total government commitment and engagement in ensuring that other development partners work together with the BEAR teams to avoid duplication and wastage. Also, implementation of activities and actions should be timely and not bogged down by administrative hassles and regulations.