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WHY POLYTECHNICS AND VOCATIONAL COLLEGES ARE BETTER THAN UNIVERSITIES IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD?

By Shingirayi Kondongwe 21/06/2021

We need more action than mere papers! More practice than theory.

In the developing world especially Africa, most students are obsessed with degrees and it has become difficult to give them career guidance. Telling a kid in Africa to pursue boiler making or diesel plant fitting is like an insult to them.

Are we forgetting that most countries in Africa during the colonization era were driven by practical solutions? Most employers during that era preferred practical skills. I am not a fan of colonialism but I am trying to create sense of what I am saying.

“Look at Southern Rhodesia (now modern-day Zimbabwe), it was built by Polytechnic and Vocational college graduates who invented things through Rhodesia’s Import Substitution program to beat trade embargo!” said Hopewell Chin’ono.

Hopewell Chin’ono is Zimbabwe’s renowned Journalist and News personality with many prestigious awards unto his name.  I totally agree with Hopewell. For us to develop, we need more practical skills instead of churning out more philosophers who are widening the unemployment gap.

To be honest, development doesn’t need more philosophical fools walking around looking for who and what to criticize! I am not saying degrees are useless, but producing philosophers whose skills don’t match the needs of the day is a waste of time…not only time but a waste of national resources.

What we need in the developing world are skilled people whose skills respond to the current industrial demands.

Developing world? Maybe you are wondering why I used this specific term. To the layman, developing world simply refers to those countries with a less developed industrial base.

For example, most countries in Africa and some parts of Asia are categorized as developing countries whilst countries such as Germany or Japan are categorized as developed countries because they have a strong industrial base as evidenced by their abilities to manufacture and produce goods.

The strong industrial base in developed countries is driven by a well-oiled educational system which creates people with strong practical skills. In developed countries, the companies they created and continue to create are able to absorb university graduates. You see! I hope it’s clear now.

In other words, universities are good, but they are mostly relevant in (countries) where the labour market is capable of absorbing university graduates. That’s why unemployment is rife in most developing countries because the small number of jobs being created are not enough to absorb all the university graduates.

So what should be done first?  Create more Polytechnic and Vocational colleges and build an economy around skillful people. More companies that manufacture and produce will be built and in the end more employment opportunities will arise. Perfect! Now bring your graduates. That’s how the system works.

I have no intention to discredit universities but honestly greater attention should be given to build more students with STEM skills (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Most people are ashamed to join Polytechnics because their friends, brothers and sisters at Universities who think that they have made it in life, will laugh at them. Some students think that those at Polytechnics are failures in life yet in reality Polytechnics are the Crème de la crème (cream of the cream) of technical and critical skills.

Being a graduate myself, we need to debunk the myth that a degree is the ultimate way to success. Let’s not judge those at Polytechnics because in reality, Polytechnics are better than Universities in the developing world. More emphasis should be given to proper career guidance.

I know some of you will say ‘it all comes down to choice…it depends on individual preference blah blah whatever’ but the truth is there is nothing like preference or individual choice in the developing world. Most students are INDOCTRINATED and made to believe that being a Doctor or a Lawyer are the only better options. That’s where the problems began.

To be continued…

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You may also be interested in the following article> In Africa, the youths are excluded from the political bus

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