Technical education as a service to agriculture
The technical education that is currently being provided in Africa today is often poorly adapted to local needs and conditions. Too many diploma holders find themselves among the unemployed. There are some interesting initiatives coming to light in some countries which are attempting to overcome this problem. The model for technical education in francophone Africa is that of France in the '60s. Apart from the fact that economic conditions have changed radically, professional training is not something that one can copy from one country to another. It has to be set in its own socio-economic context. According to Andre Delluc, co-ordinator of the ETDI (Enseignement Technique et Developpement Industriel - Technical teaching and industrial development) network, it is not the schools in Africa which produce the skilled mechanics. Young people serve an apprenticeship with an uncle or a cousin for several years and there they learn all the facets of their trade. 'One can imagine the difference between their experience and the experience of those leaving technical school,' says Mr Delluc. In Chad a technical support unit (CAT - Cellule d'Appui Technique) is attempting to overcome this problem by setting all their activities within the context of the workplace. Whether it is groundnut processing or cereal grinding, the trainees work on prototypes only with the tools they are used to. This is not abstract or purely theoretical training but a collective practical effort involving trainees and trainers. It is the craftsman who is dominant within the African economy today; how can the education system work with this informal sector while remaining sensitive to its fragile nature? Whilst technical trainers in Africa have much to learn, there arc many mechanics whose technical expertise is poor because they have had no opportunity to upgrade their skills. A 'North-Soruth Education Partnership' in Koutiala, Mali has led to the opening of an agricultural mechanics' section at the technical school and a variety of these courses are also open to local mechanics who want training and also to school leavers. Formalizing the informal Professional training in Africa should be based on a trade or on a job which needs to be done. In order to achieve this, supply and demand within the local market must first be determined. Training centres should then be asked to provide training for the specific skills required. Contact at grass-roots level is essential. In Cameroon, for example, a market survey undertaken by the Centre d'Appui aux PME (CAPME) has revealed a shortage of cereal mills and as other specialized cereal processing machinery in the region. At the same time it also became apparent that there was a need for a workforce competent to fabricate and maintain the machines. A partnership between a French and a Cameroonian company is now setting up a local engineering works to be supported by training initiatives. According to Mr Delluc, it should be standard practice to provide the support of a resource centre which can identify, coordinate and evaluate training needs, provide the training and the necessary follow-up support. Mauritania has already taker measures which include the creation of a resource and follow-up centre for such en terprises. It is responsible for identifying needs within the employment market, coordinating training programmes, ensuring continued training of personnel, maintaining links with schools and disseminating information.
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Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation
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