Ethiopia: Piloting impactful vocational education for out-of-school children

Vocational training for out-of-school children and youth was piloted based on findings from GPE KIX Back2School Project. See how the pilot improved education access in rural areas in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania.

May 29, 2024 by Opiyo Makoude
3 minutes read
Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Credit: GPE/Translieu
Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia.
Credit: GPE/Translieu

A version of this blog was originally published on GPE KIX's website.

Bringing out-of-school children and youth back to school is a challenge for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. And the lack of alternatives pathways such as TVET or accelerated programs is a major constraint.

The Global Partnership for Education Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (GPE KIX) Back2School Project piloted a vocational pathway for out-of-school children and youth in Ethiopia as part of its research on improving education access for out-of-school girls in rural areas in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The project tested methods to increase enrollment, re-entry, retention, and transition into school.

In two regions of Ethiopia, the project piloted vocational training for 132 children aged 13–17 years. They had four months of literacy and numeracy learning for four hours a week and subsequently offered training at Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) centers for another four months. The vocational skills taught were motorcycle repair, tailoring and food production.

Findings from piloting and testing

The pilot proved that providing a basic education and vocational training pathway for children who have never been to school is feasible. It offers an important avenue for children who are driven by poverty to take up income-generating roles to fend for themselves and their families.

In Ethiopia, 132 learners (55 male, 77 female) registered for the program, while 106 learners (41 male, 65 female) completed their course. Children and youth who had been trained revealed that they found the learning useful, and the skills relevant.

Government officials in Ethiopia were keen on scaling the vocational training pathway, though they pointed out that the model needed to be refined. To achieve this goal, government officials met with the Wolaitta Development Association to discuss how to create pathways to employment for young people who received short-term vocational training through the Back2school project.

One of the partner organizations involved in the piloting and testing, the Luminos Fund, is adopting a vocational pathway in their accelerated learning programming for out-of-school children.

Students in a class in at Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia. Credit: GPE/Translieu
Students in a class in at Yirba Yanase Primary and Secondary School in Hawassa, Ethiopia.

Lessons from piloting and testing

There is interest in replicating the Back2School project, but a regional workshop identified the need for longer instructional times, guidance from vocational training institutions, and alignment with local job market realities.

Also, support for access to financial services and markets is a key consideration in designing and implementing such projects.

Overall, the research demonstrates that locally driven initiatives are more effective because they create ownership and goodwill, which are essential for scaling interventions.

Building partnerships with schools and TVET centers in Ethiopia facilitated the training of children enrolled in accelerated education. For instance, Hawassa Polytechnic College negotiated with motorbike garage owners to allow vocational trainees to use these garages for practical skills training.

Additionally, developing meaningful partnerships with the Ministry of Education is critical. One major lesson is that involving government officials in the design of research, implementation, and validation and dissemination of findings offers greater opportunities for influencing policy and practice.

Engagement of parents and caregivers to address education gaps is effective but requires time and resources. Their appreciation of vocational training might act as a cushion against dropout. This was evident from interviews with some youth in southern Ethiopia who attributed their decision to join the vocational training program to advice and encouragement from parents and community members.

It is important to document and disseminate lessons learned from the pilot program, to inform designing of future programs. Regular structured reflection forums for those implementing the program including teachers, help to capture and synthesize learning, and to implement it in improved vocational programs.

Factors for success in vocational education pathways

Teacher recruitment, training and continuous professional development are key in strengthening education. Students need to acquire basic numeracy and reading skills before they can be enrolled in vocational training.

Basic literacy and numeracy are required and provided as part of the training program. Even though the duration is short, it nonetheless helps the learners to grasp the vocational training content.

Strategic partnerships, localized approaches and targeted policies in addressing the challenges of out-of-school children are also important.

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