How TVET can unlock the potential of out of school female youths: A tale of two sisters! By Renaldah Mboje

Despite the sweltering sunshine in Vitengeni, Kilifi County, crowds gathered in their numbers to pick a cue from the vocational training enrolment campaign dubbed, #FormNiTVET[1], Skills for Life.

Two ladies stood out like a sore thumb in the crowd that had perched on Vitengeni Vocational Training Centre (VTC) grounds. The duo was clad in khanga[2] just like the other women who had heeded the campaign call to ‘Join a VTC Near You.’  The taller one, had a young baby wrapped on her chest. From time to time, she would lift one corner of the khanga to peep at the baby, then quickly cover the baby again from the baking sun.  I was intrigued that the ladies were too cautious to accommodate any neighbours. They would discretely move away to maintain a gap whenever someone made a step toward their direction.  After observing them for a while, I braved a move to close the gap! A quick introduction and some diplomatic tact, and we landed on a safe zone together, away from the snitchy multitude.

Mary and Anne (not their real names) were sisters.

Mary, the younger and taller one, patted her five-month-old son lovingly as she told me she was 16 years old and in Standard 8.  Mary’s grandmother hosted her and her newborn for some three months, she explains. Fortunately, Mary’s parents welcomed her back home and offered to tend her baby so that she could resume school. The young teen mother had two hefty loads on her shoulders. On the one hand, she had to cut the mother child bond with her son and go back to school. On the other hand, she had to do odd jobs in the village including herding and hawking firewood, to supplement their starving family budget.

Anne said she was 26 years old and already had three children aged 12, 7 and 3 years old. Tragically, Anne’s husband who has been behind bars for one year.  She shily explained that her fate was sealed with a pregnancy that invaded her teenage relationship with a local motorcycle rider. She was only 15 when it all happened, and she had to settled down with a man who was only 3 years older than her. A teenage love experiment robbed her of her childhood and education and plunged her prematurely into motherhood. Now, an offence she can hardly explain has put her and her young husband a sander!

Mary and Anne represent many youths who are not in education, employment, and training (Youth NEET).

A disproportionate burden on women for childcare leads to a halt on education and employment as women take on these familial jobs (Dalberg, 2019).

According to a study conducted by Dalberg in 2019, the Youth Not in Employment, Education and Training identified inability to continue school as the top shock that they faced because of considerable negative impact on their life and career goals. The study that included 2361 Youth NEET from 41 counties in 250 villages in Kenya, revealed that over three-quarters of Youth NEET had not been self-employed or wage-employed in 12 months prior to the survey. The findings also indicated that 56% of those who were actively seeking work were looking for any job available.

The TVET Option

Fortunately, there are Vocational Training Centres (VTCs) across the country which are open to the likes of Mary and Anne. The VTCs can support students to gain a skill toward a livelihood.  Moreover, the learning path in Kenya has now been cleared so that students can progress from certificate and artisan levels all the way to the doctorate degree level.

In early 2023, the Ministry of Education State Department for TVET led several stakeholders in TVET, including Zizi Afrique Foundation to come up with the National Integrated TVET Communication and Advocacy Strategy (NITCAS). This was meant to popularize and elevate TVET’s position as one of the first choices for post-basic education students through outlining the available education progression pathways. NITCAS aims to bring together all TVET stakeholders to roll out a revolutionary strategy to rebrand TVET as the go-to-place by the youth with support of their guardians and other stakeholders.

Six counties, namely: Turkana, West Pokot, Kilifi, Baringo, Bungoma and Kakamega were selected for the physical roll-out meetings because the study identified the arid and western Kenya regions as some of those more negatively affected by unemployment rates, which was over 80% in some instances.  The county governments helped to popularise the messages ahead of time and mobilizing the public to attend meetings which were held in at least four different VTCs in the counties. The objective was to create an opportunity for members of the public to access the vocational training centres (VTCs) and acknowledge the potential it had for them. Other VTCs within the hosting sub counties also exhibited their products. Graduates from such centres shared their testimonials with a hope to woo young people like Mary and Anne, to embrace vocational education and training in order to contribute to self and societal development.

Join a TVET Near You! #FormNiTVET

[1] A campaign that is pushing for enrolment in technical and vocational training institutions.

[2] Khangas: A light African fabric wrap

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