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Technical and Vocational Education – Key to Sierra Leone Development

By: Gabriel Benjamin

Technical and vocational education has been an integral part of national development strategies in many societies because of its impact on productivity and economic development. Hence the need for the leaders of Sierra Leone to give this aspect of education the attention it deserves. Technical and vocational education also holds the key to wealth and job creation and these, have a positive impact on national development.

Technical education is a planned program of courses and learning experiences that begins with exploration of career options, supports basic academic and life skills, and enables achievement of high academic standards, leadership, preparation for industry-defined work, and advanced and continuing education, while vocational education and training prepares learners for careers that are based on manual or practical activities. Traditionally, these are non-academic and are totally related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation. In other words, it is an education designed to develop occupational skills.

Vocational and technical education gives individuals the skills to live, learn and work as a productive citizen in a global society. Thereby helping to improve the nation’s workforce by ensuring that vocational training is available for economically and physically challenged youths.

The provision of vocational and technical education has a long history which date back to between 1750 and 1830. Apprenticeship systems were the principal source of vocational education. But societies were later forced by the decline of handwork and specialization of occupational functions to develop institutions of vocational education.

The United States and the Dutch school systems are known to be paying high attention to the provision of technical and vocational education. It is a known fact that India and the “Asian Tigers” could not have become what they are today without massive investment in technical and vocational education.

However, because of recent changes in world economy, many vocational and technical schools have shifted emphasis to training in the computers and information technology.

While technical and vocational education has continued to thrive in many countries, Sierra Leone has neglected this all important aspect of education.

Consequently, the country lacks skilled technicians: bricklayers, carpenters, painters, auto mobile mechanics, laboratory and pharmacy technicians, electrical/electronic technicians and skilled vocational nurses to mention but a few.

The half-baked roadside mechanics in the country causes more harm to vehicles when contracted to service and fix them because they are poorly trained, and many commercial drivers have sent a good number of Sierra Leonean to their early but un-timely grave.

The shabby performance of Sierra Leone’s house builders – mason/bricklayers, etc is no longer news. As a result, individuals, multi nationals and non-governmental organizations with important building projects now use competent technicians from neighboring countries. This anomaly can be corrected if not eradicated.

Toiling all day in the field with crude farming equipments – cutlasses, hoes, shovels, etc would not feed a country with over 6 million people. Mechanized farming requires technical and vocational skills that can only be obtained in technical and vocational schools.

The hospitals and clinics are no longer a place where people go to get their ailments treated, but a place they go and die. Tales abound of how people die during surgeries and out of minor ailments.

Every facet of the county’s economy has been affected by lack of skilled technicians. The financial sector lacks technicians to regulate the banks and to develop financial software to properly tackle the rising fraudulent activities in the banking sector. These have lead to banks losing billions of Leones yearly.

Without security the ‘Agenda for Prosperity’ will continue to be a mere illusion. As no nation can sustain its democracy if the citizens lack confidence in the police. The police lack modern tools to track down criminals. They also lack forensic laboratory and fingerprint technicians to conduct criminal investigations.

To be continued…