We wont solve unemployment without fixing the education system

Education is a subject that I am quite passionate about for many reasons. One of them being the fact that it is a field I have trained in and also one that I have significant ancestral attachment being an offspring of teachers. More so it is a field so important that one of the truest statements ever made remains that, “a country cannot be more developed than its education system.” It is a statement that  needs to be repeated as much as possible especially in the ears of those charged with designing development strategies for their countries or the continent at large.

The aggregate skilled or semi skilled labour force that every country relies on implement anything is often almost entirely drawn from the fruits of its education system. Therefore it goes without saying that an excellent system will spur development while the reverse is true. What this means is that countries all over the world have almost no option but to take education very seriously.

In some cases I have actually read that education is very serious a matter for some countries that it is actually perceived as a  matter of strategic importance just like military readiness. For a country to leap ahead of others it needs a very developed education system to produce the people who will come up with the latest innovations and solutions needed for the new challenges that  the world has to deal with.


One of the biggest challenges that African countries have to deal with is the challenge of youth unemployment. This challenge has often been manifested in a double dimension. On one hand you have young people who have gone through the education system being unable to find jobs to do. On the other hand you have young people having gone through the education system but lacking the required skill set to function effectively on the job.
In other words, they are ‘educated’ but not skilled to perform.

Therefore to address these challenges we need to look at the education system and fix it. One of the key flaws of the education systems especially in Africa is that those who end up in the teaching profession are people who had bigger aspirations such as becoming lawyers, doctors or engineers but make it. So the teaching profession becomes a place where dreams go to die. A collection of people who not only preferred  not to be teachers but also those who became teachers because they failed to be what they really to be.

All this comes from the fact that teachers are lowly paid so few aspire to join a career associated with misery and too much work. Another dilemma is that often times, the methods and even the curriculum used do not do a good job at keeping pace with reality. The world is changing so fast but the same cannot be said about how we teach those who are supposed to take on this changing world.

The Mastercard Foundation has over the years invested a lot in supporting education efforts in Africa especially in form of scholarships as well as supporting organisations involved in inculcating different skills like financial inclusion or better agricultural practices all aimed at uplifting the lives of different young people. During the recent launch of the Young Africa Works strategy in Kigali, Rwanda, the Foundation announced two key programs it will embark on so as to enable 30 million African youth  to secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030.

The two programs with a kitty of US$100 million focus on tourism and hospitality (Hanga Ahazaza) and education (Leaders in Teaching). Both programs are being piloted in Rwanda with a plan to roll them out to the rest of the continent. There are reasons why  Rwanda was chosen to benefit from this first. The country has been on a tremendous path of progressive that riding on this wave is the only logical thing to do.

The Leaders in Teaching initiative seeks to support the delivery of high quality, relevant secondary education and will establish the pan-African Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning in ICT that will explore new approaches to improving educational outcomes.It will focus on the areas of training, motivation, and professional development for teachers and school leaders.

In Rwanda, at least 250,000 secondary school students are set to benefit as the initiative aims to improve Science, Math, and ICT knowledge and teaching skills for new and experienced teachers, improve the capacity of head teachers to create positive instructional environments, and recruit young people into the profession.

Finding the people who are passionate about education and equipping them with the right skills, knowledge and attitude to execute this noble act is essentially what this initiative is all about. Teachers plays a very influential role in the education system and often what they have to offer is  probably the biggest influence to the learning outcomes.

The challenges that teachers in Africa face are well known to most of us and yet we often underestimate how these challenges trickle down to the learners and the general quality of life the learners are likely to enjoy. In many cases we are finding the worst people and expecting them to give their best to the learners. A clear case of working with the worst and hoping for the best and yet hope is not a strategy.

The Mastercard Foundation intends to prepare a situation where quality secondary education presents opportunities for young people. This can only happen where the teachers are qualified and skilled enough to deliver on this promise. They intend to do this through country-level programs that focus on recruiting passionate young people into the profession, and on investing in training and professional development for teachers and school leadership.

Secondly, they intend to set up Pan-African Centres for Innovative Teaching and Learning that address a key theme in secondary education relevant across Africa. These centres will support formulation of  evidence based ICT policies and set up of digital  learning resources for African classrooms. In all this Rwanda will benefit from all that the Mastercard Foundation has learnt over the years and Rwanda will also bring on board what it has learnt along its path of progress. The future can only be bright with such partnerships.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation seeks a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty. One of the largest foundations in the world, it works almost exclusively in Africa. It was created in 2006 by Mastercard International and operates independently under the governance of its own Board of Directors. The Foundation is based in Toronto, Canada. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.



About Allan Ssenyonga

I am a Ugandan freelance writer/journalist based in Kigali, Rwanda. I have an insatiable desire for understanding and trying to explain media, political, cultural and social dynamics.
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