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World Youth Skills Day: An Innovation Contest to Celebrate Resilience and Creativity in the Face of the Pandemic

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Every year, on the 15th of July, the world celebrates World Youth Skills Day. That day is today.

The current situation that has been forced upon us by the unprecedented Covid-19 has ensured that congregating is now a thing we can only remember, and hope to have again.

Last year, the 15th of July met a world that was brought to its knees by Covid, and the celebratory events had to be taken to the online spaces. This year, too, World Youth Skills Day will be observed online.

This year’s theme is Re-imagining skills post-pandemic.

Many geniuses wait to be uncovered in the space of technical training, and we can only get to see these geniuses if we give TVETs a chance. Click To Tweet
So, what’s the fuss about this day?

It’s about the youth. It’s been reiterated and broadcasted adnauseam, that the youth are the leaders of tomorrow. This day plays a strategic role in reflecting on steps taken, and those to be taken, to equip the youth with practical skills for employment, decent jobs, and entrepreneurship. Speaking of which, let me use this as a great segue to toot the horns of a few youth entrepreneurs that we have featured right here on Qazini.

Daniel Kimani, the youth who has never applied for a job but has employed others. Read about him. And Daniel Muraba, a resilient young man keeping a day job while moonlighting as an artist to earn an extra coin.

The focus of this day is on TVET colleges (Technical and Vocational Education and Training). These colleges aim to mold students into becoming functional workers in a skilled trade. The technical skills these colleges impart are often practical, and from where I stand, it’s technical courses that will turn on the light and save us from the darkness of unemployment.

We need to consider and reconsider the saving hand of TVETs, and encourage more students to take it. I often say that a genius is not a unique kind of person but every person is a unique kind of genius.

Many geniuses wait to be uncovered in the space of technical training, and we can only get to see these geniuses if we give TVETs a chance. Because they are important.

The pain of unemployment among the youth

I came across an interesting question on Twitter and it stoked the flames of my curiosity: Should we be preparing the youth for the future or preparing the future for the youth?

The current circumstances are ugly. Youths have no jobs despite inks being still fresh on academic certificates. There is widespread unemployment, and leaders now encourage youths to start their own businesses. Our defeated economy doesn’t make it any better.

Keen to see the role this day plays in easing the pain of unemployment, I hope that marking it only serves to pensively ponder youth unemployment and the innovative leadership cards nations must play to offer generational solutions. That brings me to Zizi Afrique, and their plans for this day.

An innovation contest that celebrates resilience and creativity among the youth

Zizi Afrique describes herself as an NGO committed to improving learning outcomes for children and youth furthest behind. They get this done by contributing to the nurturing of a generation of children and youth who are well-equipped with skills for learning, skills for living, and skills for working.

With the theme for this year in mind, this NGO has partnered with Safaricom Foundation and the ToolKit iSkills to organize an innovation contest. The target is their partner TVET institutions in Kenya. The challenge is upon students to come up with and pitch inventive ideas from the skills they have acquired. An ideal pitch must rise above any doubt that it is capable of intervening to pull our country out of a current problem gnawing at the nation.

Celebrating resilience and creativity in the face of the pandemic

Walter Odondi, the program officer, TVET, at Zizi Afrique, revealed their aim, “The pandemic has thrown learning as we knew it into vast challenges,” he told me in an evening catch-up I had with him over a phone call. “While the system showcased agility and adaptability by shifting to online and distance learning, considerable difficulties including but not limited to curricula adaptation, trainee and trainer preparedness, connectivity, or assessment and certification processes have struck.”

“But that’s the sparking point of resilience,” he proceeded. “We want to support the inventive ideas that students have come up with in the face of the pandemic.”

To get an idea of what to expect during the pitching, I asked him about the skills they have been imparting at their partner TVET institutions.

“The skills are diverse,” he told me. “There are two main groups of TVETs. One is the Safaricom Foundation Scholarship which trains in only welding, plumbing, electrical installation, and food and beverages. And then there is Ujana 360 which trains all the TVET skills taught at the Vocational Training Center level.”

The contest: What is expected of each participant school

1. Each institution is expected to create a team of 5 students led by an instructor
2. The team is expected to have a representation of each gender with exception of single-gendered schools
3. For the Safaricom scholarship program institutions there should be a representative of the beneficiaries. This doesn’t apply to the Ujana360 program institutions
4. The presentations will be made virtually with each institution presenting for a duration of 5minutes.

A panel of judges will then select and award the most innovative team. It’s interesting to also note that there will be prospective funders of the selected projects. The pitching, selection, and awarding will go down later today in the evening, during an online event that is open to the public. See the poster below for details on how to join the event.

Challenges, when met with resilience, spark creativity. Covid might have demeaned our way of living, but make no mistake, this ‘enemy’ gifted us. It gave us an opportunity to re-group, re-think, and be creative. How eager I am to see what ideas TVET students are warming up to pitch! See you there?

A Happy World Youth Skills Day!

Lesalon Kasaine
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