Uganda’s Minister for Information Communications Technology and National Guidance Hon. Frank Tumwebaze while representing the First Lady and Minister of Education Hon. Janet Museveni, At the 12th International Conference on ICT for development, Education & Training Linking Education to Employment delivered the following address in Mauritius.
Our host, The Hon Minister of ICT and innovation of Mauritius, Hon Ministers of ICT and Education from the African continent and other parts of the world, Educationists, ICT practitioners, Content developers, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning to you all.
I am glad to be here and I bring you greetings from the Government and people of Uganda. My colleague, the Minister of Education and First Lady, Hon Janet Museveni, should have been here but was unable to make it because of other earlier planned commitments. She sends both her apologies and greetings. Thank you Our host for organizing this e-learning conference. E-learning or e-education is a very important component for any e-government master plan. Any digital blue print that we must discuss and adopt as a continent, should certainly encompass this aspect of e-education. E-learning therefore, is and should be part parcel of any country’s digital journey. This conference therefore is very timely and relevant .
In order to understand where we are, we must reflect on how we arrived here, look at the challenges faced and leverage them to plan our future. In the grand scheme of things, we have gone through several revolutions starting from the agricultural to the information age we now live. The first is where we relied heavily on agriculture as the main source of livelihood. The motivation to produce more output led to mechanization and industrialization. This is where the service industry was born that required specialized skills. The successes of the industrial revolution, further propelled us into the information age where information and communication technologies have taken center stage. Similarly, in this age, we are experiencing the rise of service based labor that requires fast adjustment in workforce skills to remain relevant. Furthermore, the speed of technological change is faster than other revolutions which requires us to transform how we carry out teaching and learning for our children, to make them relevant and avoid getting disruptions. In the earlier revolutions, Africa lagged behind. However, technology now gives us a platform on which to grow and become active participants in this information age.
Linking Education to Employment.
Based on the above background, our education systems in Africa, largely have been slow in keeping with the speed of change in the information age. We still see a heavy use of the old traditional methods of teaching that rely on instruction from the teachers on pre-defined content and pathways for learners. Whereas this was working a few decades back, we cannot continue using the traditional methods in this fast paced word. As a result, we are churning out more youth from these learning environments into a workplace whose skills requirements are changing leading into a mismatch between formal education and employment. In studies carried out by UNESCO, there is now a realization that we need ‘to move beyond simple access to schooling and address deeper issues of education and relevance’ in this age. Today, there are increasing opportunities within, employment for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The solution today lies in mainstreaming technology into teaching and learning so as to meet the current and future workplace skills demanded.
The World Economic Forum research on the future of jobs and skills in Africa indicates that, ‘as one of the youngest populations in the world, it is imperative for nation states in Africa to ensure that adequate investments are made in education and learning that holds value in the labor market and prepares citizens for the world of tomorrow.’ And the world of tomorrow starts with the world of today. This is the world defined and driven by ICTs. It’s important therefore, that policy makers and Political leaders appreciate this fact.
Furthermore, there will be strong demand for professionals who can blend digital with traditional subject expertise. In order for us to link education to employment, there is need for us to start discussions on the following fronts:
- a) First, there is need to create a unifying environment where policy makers, educationists and businesses can collaborate to define the employment requirements. This will create evidence based information on which to start reform in our education systems right from elementary to university;
- b) Second, the educationists need to leverage this information so as to create ‘future-ready curricula’ that enables us to constantly release into the workforce, youth that are agile and relevant for technology driven economies; and
- c) Third, beyond the formal education paths most focused on in Africa, there is need to similarly transform our traditional vocational education and training into institutions that leverage technology to produce youth that are robust in their critical thinking.
At the core of achieving the above, is technology-assisted learning to help transform our approach and current education practices. E-learning is one of the affordable ways of blending technology both within teaching and learning. It has the following advantages:
- a) Scalability which helps with ease of design and rollout in learning environments;
- b) Enhanced capacity due to breakdown of traditional barriers of time and distance to access knowledge;
- c) Availability of a medium that achieves higher knowledge retention in learners;
- d) Cost savings due to the avoidance of high financial costs of accessing knowledge from developed countries; and
- e) Support for innovation to develop localized content that fits our various demographics.
To achieve the advantage of the above, we’ll need concerted efforts from both Government and private sector in Africa to address the challenges we face in creating an enabling environment as noted below;
- a) Increasing access to affordable and reliable broadband to enable both rural and urban areas equally access the internet resources for learning and collaboration. Internet here becomes critical and therefore a very necessary utility and enabler.
- b) Reducing the cost of access devices such as the computers, laptops, smart tabs and related software to make them more available for learning;
- c) Re-tooling our teachers and other educators to adopt ICT and educational technology and apply the same to enhance teaching;
- d) Teaching our students to become computer literate and provide them the necessary foundation to confidently learn using technology; and
e)Supporting innovations and Leveraging them to create local educational content to complement existing traditional methods.
With the above in mind, it’s clear that the only way the youth in Africa can transform into a competitive labor force, is highly dependent on how policy makers and educationists quickly respond and continuously adapt to the speed of progress in the information age. This will gradually remove the blur in the linkage between education and employment.
I thank you for listening to me.
Frank K. Tumwebaze
Minister of ICT & National Guidance