Summer holidays and vocational learning
The 2017/2018 academic session has come to an end in schools across Nigeria, consequently signaling the beginning of an extensive holiday that usually last between eight to ten weeks.
Many parents have however come to dread this period for the chance it provides their children to explore dangerous and unpleasant terrains in their absence. Their fears are further heightened with the advancement in technology, affordable data packages and cable television. They worry that their wards would spend the holiday idling away or surfing the net and could risk wandering to adult-rated channels and sites on television and internet.
It is therefore not surprising that the long vacation for most students in Nigeria are spent in summer schools. Though summer school idea was originally meant to engage students in extracurricular activities that will keep them busy through the period, summer school programmes have gradually become an extension of the normal school year, as schools use the opportunity to meet-up with unfinished curricular or serve as test grounds for the coming session.
Working class parents also see these summer schools as safe places to keep their children during work hours while they concentrate on their businesses.
Unlike industrial countries where summer holidays are opportunities to harness students’ talents and also expose them to vocational skills, in Nigeria the programme have become avenues for schools to make extra money off parents and guardians.
Only a few schools are bordered about the essence of holiday classes or even responsive to the need of grooming students that will be equipped with entrepreneurial skills that will be useful for them in the future.
Unfortunately the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria, SMEDAN, severally linked the shortage of entrepreneurial competence to the high rate of unemployment in the country.
The Director General of the agency, Dr. Umaru Radda, had recently said that the inadequate capacity of vocational skill centres and the non-orientation of the educational system to the production of vocational skills aligned to industry requirements contribute to job scarcity in Nigeria.
The SMEDAN boss further said that only one out of every 100 Nigerian graduates are employable mostly due to their lack of vocational skills.
Similarly, the unemployment report for the third quarter of 2017 released by the National Bureau of Statistics reports that, between January and September 2017 alone, more than 4.07million Nigerians lost their jobs. The bureau reports that unemployment rate rose to 18.8percent in the third quarter with the number of unemployed Nigerians steadily rising from 11.92million in the first quarter of the year, to 13.58million and 15.99million in the second and third quarter, respectively.
Despite these grim statistics and the worrisome increase in unemployment rate in Nigeria, some stakeholders including governments, parents and schools have failed to realise that the country needs an urgent intervention in this area.
Parents would rather focus on academic excellence for their children believing that, that is their only chance at gaining admission into Ivy League institutions and also guarantee them successful future. Sadly the schools are also failing to build the necessary career skills required in today’s business world.
The situation is even worsened by kids’ and educational organisations that often come up with different camping programmes for the duration of the holiday. Students are whisked to summer camps where their social interactive skills are sharpened with little focus on building their entrepreneurship abilities.
Some developing countries are gradually acknowledging the need to make students skill ready. For instance in 2015, the Indian government announced the introduction of four years vocational training with formal education from class IX onwards. Under the new arrangement, students now have the option of pursuing long term, non-conventional degree courses to acquire skill sets.
It was also in recognition of the importance of vocational skill that the Nigerian government in 2012, revised the 2008 Basic Education Curriculum to emphasise value re-orientation, poverty eradication and employment generation capabilities in students. The curriculum reform focuses on science, mathematics, technology and vocational education to provide learning skills for socio-economic transformation of the country.
As much as parents may like to continuously engage their children in educational activities, they must realise that the children also need proper rest to grow their bodies and mind, they must know that class work alone is not enough to raise well-rounded children.
Nigerians must begin to realise that vocational education is the engine for economic growth of every country. We must begin to invest in skill acquisition especially for the young ones so they can nurture their business skills as they grow. Vocational subjects should be taught as part of early childhood education, while adequate resources are made available in teaching the subjects across all levels of education.
Thankfully most private schools are already embracing the teaching and training of students in vocational education with classes on bead making, cake baking, craft, etc. Public schools should be better funded to enable them teach similar skills to their students.
While acknowledging the importance of education, Nigeria should begin to project successful entrepreneurs as role models to students.
Summer holidays should also be used in building vocational and technical skills in children. Until technical and vocational education is taken seriously in Nigeria’s educational system, issues of high unemployment rates and poverty will continue to plague the country.