In the year 2000, I got enrolled at a certain local primary school teachers' college as a trainee teacher. There were compulsory subjects for everyone and we were asked to choose one main subject of our choice. Most students preferred subjects like English, Shona, and Social Studies while those who wanted to prove their high intelligence quotient (IQ) went for Mathematics. With some few colleagues, I opted for Art.
Art students were regarded as inferior, lazy thinkers with very low IQ while mathematics and science students were viewed as the learned ones. Little did they know that Art students had made the right choice with new opportunities ahead of their career.
Three months down the line, our decision to join Art started bearing fruits. We started producing very good art pieces, among them paintings, stone sculptures, tie and dye clothing and fascinating drawings using the skills we had acquired during that short space of time. After we had perfected our skills, we started selling our pieces to the local community who appreciated art works. Life changed, we could afford to raise school fees for the following term and supplementing our pocket money which students who majored in other subjects could not afford. They started to envy us.
The skills we got from the practical art subject actually exceeded our expectations. Although I got a teaching job after training, I continued to make money from art, specializing in screen printing. That was the power of the practical subject "Art".
Many such important practical subjects are being offered in Vocational Training Centers (VTCs) doted across the country. These VTCs offer courses like wood technology, motor mechanics, hair dressing and building among others. These institutions focus on skills that are on demand, and either provide employment opportunities directly or provide significant support for learners entering the job market.
Much national attention and concern is being generated over the issue of youth unemployment. As high unemployment rate of more than 80 percent sweeps the nation, it seems appropriate for Government to equip the VTCs and encourage our unemployed youths both the degreed and the school dropouts to equip themselves with necessary practical skills which can make them earn a living and be employment creators themselves. They must target opportunities in the construction and motoring industries; sectors that are on the rise.
Immediately after gaining independence in April 1980, the Government embarked on a programme to establish a network of youth centers throughout the country. These were residential work training programmes focusing chiefly on rural youths and employment in rural areas. They were organized primarily for the unschooled youth to satisfy trade skills that were needed in their localities.
These training institutions were basically used to train and equip youths with practical skills which enabled them to effectively participate in rural development programmes such as cooperatives of various types and other self reliant projects. There was a wide range of skills taught which included agriculture, building, home economics, weaving and typing. The training programmes which were taken on these farms which later turned into training centers were very practical-oriented so that trainees would also do a lot of production as part and parcel of their training (education with production).
There is need for Government and the private sector to stem lack of employment opportunities not only in the rural areas but also in urban areas by opening more VTCs that will help people with practical skills. This will create employment and curb rampant crime among youths as well as slowing rural urban migration.
The training qualifies the youth to solve technical tasks and introduce new solutions in the communities. Trained youths will have skills not only in their selected fields, but also skills to be active, productive and constructive individuals that will participate in building peace and unity wherever they are, they can opt for formal employment or creating self-employment after graduation.
The newly introduced curriculum in schools is emphasizing on the importance of practical subjects for self sustenance, hence the need to also emphasize it at a higher level for the purpose of continuity and development.
- Tendai Guta