Youth Unemployment in the 21st Century: Education as a channel for Rwanda.
Benjamin Disraeli once said: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches, but to reveal to him his own”.
Rwanda, like most of the African countries, is privileged to be one of the youngest countries in the world. About 70% of the country’s population is the youth. With 7.2 million people in the labour force, 44.2 % of them are young people between the age of 16 to 30 years. However, there is an increasing trend in the unemployment rate of the country and youth unemployment increased to 20.06% in the last quarter of 2019 which is almost half the 43.9% unemployment rate in the whole country.
So, What with Education?
The late legend in Africa’s history, Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world”. Looking at the rising trend in Rwandan youth unemployment rate, we have the same opinion with him when it comes to the role education can play in tackling youth unemployment.
With different forms and definitions of education, we simply focused on education as acquiring various skills and being able to use those skills in various domains. One of the identified causes of youth unemployment is skills mismatch. The now known as the 21st-century skills are the main skills that are considered to solve to tackle the problem of skills mismatch and boost young people’s chances of employability and entrepreneurship.
In comparison with other institutions in East Africa, Rwanda’s public universities have benefited from an unusually high level of policy and financial support in recent years, primarily due to the importance of higher education as a key component of the country’s national development strategy. As in many other countries around the world, much of Rwanda’s support for its higher education institutions is based on the assumption that university graduates have developed the potential to contribute to a wide range of important industries through the skills they acquire, as a result of their ability to think critically about intractable social issues and to propose creative, evidence-based solutions. Despite all the efforts, students admit that the challenge to this assumption is that they have no significant improvement in their critical thinking during their studying time.
What are 21st-century skills and what are they to us.
The term “21st-century skills” is by dictionary “generally used to refer to certain core competencies such as collaboration, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving that advocates believe schools need to teach to help students thrive in today’s world.” Those might be big words; nevertheless, it just means skills that are needed to adapt for a job for today.
However, we are not talking about all of the 21st-century skills, but only four, which are the follows Technology, Communication, Critical thinking, and Creativity. Technology is by dictionary ”The ability of an individual, working independently and with others, to responsibly, appropriately and effectively use technology tools to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create and communicate information.” However, to us, it means to use the tools which are around you to do work effectively. Also to what we mean for a student it is ICT and smartphones do not determine the level of technology in a country. When we are talking about a student, we want them to be situated with all types of technology, so they can use it. Communication is by dictionary “The imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.” It means to speak and write in a way that can understand to those who are around you. Also to what we mean for a student it is effective communication can boost a child’s confidence in speaking their mind. The student should speak their mind when it comes to their learning, so we can improve on their feedback. Critical thinking is by dictionary “The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.” It means to think and look at things in a way that does not close your mind to only what is front for you. Also to what we mean for a student it is to guide the student’s mindset on the right path and as many might what the right path. However, we want our students to keep an open mind about everything when it comes to learning that is what our right path means. Creativity is by dictionary “The use of imagination or original ideas to create something; inventiveness.” This means to look which have been given to you, to create something new out of it. Also to what we mean for a student, it is that classes should be self-learning driven. This means that we want our students to learn in their own space which means that they should learn what they want to learn.
The reason why we defined every word is to understand what the word’s originals meanings and how we will be using it. Because as already said, communication is vital to one to another, which is the reason for the defines. Therefore, we should all be in the same mind as when looking at those words. As to the idea, what we use 21st-century skills is because we strongly agree that is one, if not all, as to the reason why the youth had yet to be employment.
“From a different point of view”
Considering the responses students from public universities, we reached out to students from African Leadership University who have a chance to get these skills for us to be able to see if they make any difference. Our questions were: How do skills gained from high school differ from those you gain in university? Another one was: What are the advantages of having 21st-century skills as a young person?, We got answers from 4 Rwandan students at ALU.
Regarding the difference in skills from high school to university, they said that it is totally different because high schools are mainly based on theories whereas university skills require one to practice what he or she is learning. And on the advantages of 21st-century skills, they related to how those skills are what mainly help them to get internships which they are required to do every year. They said that those skills provide a real-world image and through learning by doing, they can easily adapt in the workplace.
It makes sense now…!
Internships are neither a permanent job or a paid work all the time but the experience that one gets from is undoubtedly essential. Internships are another form of learning but they also provide a platform to practice your gained skills and all of these are what build the experience of a person who did an internship and they get an idea of what is in the workplace. Looking at ALU student’s experience from internships, we can say that they are essential for a person who is preparing to get in the workplace. However, having 21st-century skills gives one a very seamless experience as an intern and they enable one to embrace the working experience boldly.
Internships are believed to provide skills and experience which are needed in the workplace. The issue of skills mismatch is because the skills gained academically are not the skills that are needed in the workplace so, doing an internship gives you access to the skills that are needed in the workplace and that closes the skills mismatch gap for those who get a chance to do internships.
“The way forward”
We believe that it is important for Rwanda to enhance the provision of practical skills like 21st-century skills to students, especially young people in university because they are expected to enter the workplace sooner than high school students. Getting in the workplace does not necessarily mean being someone’s employee, you can get in as an aspiring entrepreneur who might soon need to employ other people. In both cases, having workplace experiences and skills is undeniably important.
Doing this through the curriculum being used can make it more effective. Another important point to make is that looking at the dynamism of our world today, these skills really help you to adjust to changes that are regularly being made in systems. That is also a reason why once you have those skills, it is better to apply them because it gives you an experience of how they are fitting in the workplace. A vivid example is on technology skills; you can not have them and that is it, you need to stay updated on the new technologies and make sure you are updated on them.
The information shared is our opinion on how 21st-century skills are something that is needed for the youth of Rwanda and for that reason, we provided context by defining those skills as they are universally defined and showing how we narrowed them down by defining them too. The opinions shared were based on our experience with 21st-century skills and the experience of other students in Rwanda as proof of how 21st-century skills are key to tackle youth unemployment in Rwanda. We used data and information to show statistics on the rate of youth unemployment globally and in Rwanda.
We also want to encourage the youth of Rwanda to not wait for such skills from curriculums because they can learn some of them by themselves. It is important to understand that their efforts are also required. The need to learn new things and getting new experiences is also important as far as creativity is concerned. Employers also need to create an enabling working environment for graduates that gives them room to learn so that they can get workplace experiences and skills. This is because some employers are not willing to give fresh graduates employment because they want experienced personnel yet the only way to get that experience is through working.
Let us understand that this will not be a one-sided initiative, for the country to be able to tackle youth unemployment, the government through the ministry of education and the ministry of youth, sports and culture, the youth and employers needs to come together and work together in this situation.
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Rebecca, S. (2016). Barriers To Teaching Critical Thinking in Rwanda. [online] Discovery.ucl.ac.uk. Available at: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1475377/15/Schendel_687035.pdf [Accessed 13 Dec. 2019].