Education and development are inextricably linked. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” noted former South African president and Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela. Where there is no education, there is no development.
Inversely, where there is no development, there is no education. In its reports, the World Economic Forum has observed that “obtaining a quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development”.
Globally, education is viewed as a human right that promotes gender equality and development. Within the international frameworks for action, the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals make providing quality education a high priority.
However, as a foundation of development, inclusive and equitable quality education needs to promote skills that are for work and life, and should enhance shared growth and sustainability. To meet this need, the Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education emphasizes ensuring equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including at university.
Technical and vocational education and training, or TVET, programs have revolutionized the education sector in developing and underdeveloped countries.
In China, vocational and technical skills are considered paramount for meeting the nation’s modernization goals. Knowing the fundamental importance of technical and vocational education, all provinces in China have established TVET programs that support long-term development.
Currently, TVET is introduced in China at the secondary education level to help initiate and train operations-oriented skilled workers, and then advanced at the tertiary education level to offer more developed skills that are needed in such areas as art and hospitality, industry and manufacturing, artificial intelligence, agriculture and infrastructure development. This has helped China build a workforce that does not rely on seeking employment but strives to create employment.
In retrospect, TVET has helped to bridge education inequality, propel economic growth and eradicate absolute poverty in China. Having successfully implemented TVET programs in China, Beijing — guided by the call to build a community with a shared future for all — has helped other countries establish technical and vocational education in their communities.
TVET is now a towering height of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation regarding people-to-people connectivity. Furthermore, the establishment of TVET programs has become a key area of cooperation between Africa and Chinese corporations as part of their corporate social responsibility.
For instance, in 2014, AVIC International Holding Corp, a Chinese global holding enterprise, launched the annual Africa Tech Challenge program. Under the initiative, AVIC provided full postgraduate scholarships to 12 winners in the contest to study at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
In Kenya, AVIC has partnered with the Ministry of Education to support several projects aimed at upgrading the quality of vocational training in the country. This partnership will help Kenya achieve the goals of its Vision 2030 blueprint as well as those of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.
Furthermore, at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, President Xi Jinping announced that Luban Workshops would be set up in Africa to provide vocational skills training for young Africans.
True to his word, China has helped establish the workshops in Kenya, Djibouti, South Africa, Mali, Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire and Ethiopia, among other countries.
In Kenya, Machakos University became the host of the first Luban Workshop and the ninth in Africa. Launched in December 2019 with the support of Tianjin City Vocational College in China, the workshop offers world-class, innovative courses in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and software development skills. The workshop promotes connectivity through videoconferencing facilities amid COVID-19 preventive measures.
Indeed, Africa is benefiting from technical and vocational education and training programs initiated by China. These provide high-end professional and technical skills training to help students meet the requirements of the emerging global market.
However, more needs to be done in rural areas to bridge the gap of education inequalities to ensure that no child is left without an inclusive and equitable quality education.
The author is executive director of the China-Africa Center at the Africa Policy Institute in Kenya.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.