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Educational Skills Gaps - Matching the education youth receive to employment skills required for relevancy and competitiveness

“The greatest injustice facing Uganda and other African countries is not poverty, corruption, AIDS, or even the lack of access to education; the most profound problem is failure of the education systems to empower youth as leaders to solve these challenges. ” Rehmah Kasule

Photo of Rehmah Kasule
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At CEDA International we have a strong conviction that the greatest injustice facing Ugandan young women is not poverty, corruption, AIDS, or lack of access to education; the most profound problem is failure of the education systems to empower people to solve these challenges. Uganda, like many other African countries, the Education systems and curricula have not been reformed since 1960; they are theoretical and academic-focused preventing youth from being creative. Therefore self-employment is an important way of combating the youth unemployment challenge in Africa especially through agriculture, science and technology. There is also evidence that where youth entrepreneurship has been encouraged, significant benefits have been realized in employment growth and stability of countries. Young women have a great interest in entrepreneurship and many are already self-employed by opportunity or necessity especially in the service industry. Statistics from the development partners clearly show that gender equality is "smart economics." [1] Women make up about 40 percent of the global workforce and also contribute more effectively to their societies. In addition to boosting economic growth, investing in women produces a multiplier effect; women reinvest a large portion of their income in their families and communities. The World Bank’s Report “World Development 2012” finds that increases in women’s decision-making influence accelerate development, and studies from the World Economic Forum further confirm a strong correlation between an increase in gender equality and an increase in gross domestic product per capita.[2]
Globally, recent estimates by the World Bank suggest that developing countries are home to 1.3 billion of the world’s 1.5 billion youth aged 15-24. While the youth population continues to grow rapidly, economic opportunities in the form of access to education, employment, or entrepreneurship are not growing at proportional rates. Unless the continent can find a way to promote inclusive growth, the growth of youthful population could even become a source of instability[3]. Unemployment rates are much higher for youth than for adults. According to the 2007 World Development Report, “youth make up 25 percent of the working population worldwide, but 47 percent of them are unemployed.”
According to ILO, the share of workers in vulnerable employment ranges from more than three out of four workers in Sub-Saharan Africa (76.6 per cent.). IFC further points out that Youth unemployment rates in the North Africa and Africa Sub Sahara is over 10% and 8.2% respectively[4]. Conversely, the share of paid employment account for as low as 22.9% in Sub-Saharan Africa especially for women. Africa is projected to account for about 35% of the global population growth between 2010 and 2030.[5] In some of the countries such as Uganda, Egypt, Kenya and Ghana, the population has remained predominantly young with 56% of the population aged below 18 years and about 30% being 18-30 years. Specifically for Uganda, the cultural system treats women as second-class citizens, undermines their efforts and deprives many from getting meaningful employment.
As Nelson Mandela once put it, “It is important that government structures understand that true freedom and prosperity cannot be achieved unless we see in visible and practical terms that the condition of women in our country has radically changed for the better, and that they have been empowered in all spheres of life as equal.”
In Uganda, despite efforts to close the gender gap in education and employment, women’s personal weaknesses like low self-confidence are not yet addressed impeding many from getting meaningful employment. Although enrolment of girls in schools increased from 29.2% (1991) to 42.2% (2009), formal education alone does not empower them (UNESCO). 72% of the recent graduates surveyed by CEDA International excelled at university but failed to transit into work due to lack of employment skills. Key factors affecting girls include lack of guidance at home/school, absence of role models/mentors for inspiration and guidance, and lack of self-confidence (FAWEU). Unemployment is very high among youth; women graduates on average earn $150 while men earn $320 (Uganda Bureau of Statistics). Furthermore, only 1 out of 30 women-owned businesses survives beyond 2 years due to lack of basic business skills and access to proper financing (Enterprise Uganda).
Although the young women have managed to join secondary school to get education, a great number of them lack confidence, self-belief, they cannot negotiate and lack communication skills. They have inadequate guidance at home, no support system and they have limited access to women leaders. Young women face multiple challenges, including social discrimination, economic exclusion, lack of basic necessities like sanitary towels and lack opportunities for positive engagement. This makes them a ready pool of recruits for groups seeking to mobilize violence and they often fall pray to sexual exploitation from the Boda-Boda (motor cycle riders). The segment is very critical in development because this is the period when girls form values, character and attitudes. This is the age and time of rapid transformation, involving some degree of confusion and risk-taking as young people try on new roles and responsibilities. This of young women if empowered will therefore become productive human capital for the development of the country.

[1] Supporting Women in Business is Smart Economics, Says IFC VP Nena Stoiljkovic
[2] 2012 World Development Report – investing in women at leadership levels results economic development
[3] The AfDB Development Strategy (2013 -2022) emphasizes inclusive growth as a priority operational area. Youth is an important demographic in the pursuit of inclusive growth.
[4] IFC Job Survey January 2013
[5]                  This is based on analysis of UNFPA statistics. (UNFPA: State of World Population 2011; October 2011; page 5.)

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Photo of Luisa Fernanda

This is a vital opportunity area to tackle this issue. What skills do you think are needed to prepare young people for available jobs in Uganda? Are there any examples of organizations that are trying to bridge this gap? What industry offers the majority of jobs in Uganda? It would be very interesting to interview young Ugandans and employers to learn their perspective on the educational gap.

When you get a chance it would be great to add an image to your contribution so that folks can visualize your entry.

Photo of Rehmah Kasule

Hi Luisa,
Young people need 21st Century like Goal Setting, Communication, Critical Thinking and Innovation to become relevant in the job market. Uganda has many youth who are highly qualified but with no skills. Self confidence is a major challenge that impede many from becoming competitive and take up opportunities presented. My organization CEDA International, is leading in closing leadership, employment and entrepreneurship gaps. This being a systemic challenge we know we can't do it alone, we have collaborated with ministries, private sector and other civil society organizations to get impactful and sustainable solutions.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

Self confidence is a huge barrier of entry. I myself experienced that problem earlier on my career.

I am curious to learn more about your efforts sparking collaboration across sectors. What has worked? What are the areas for improvement? What has been your biggest success on this area so far?

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