REMARKS OF RT. HON. RAILA A. ODINGA, EGH, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA DURING THE NATIONAL
YOUTH WEEK CELEBRATIONS AT THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS, GIGIRI, NAIROBI ON FRIDAY, 9TH AUGUST 2019:
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure and a privilege to be with you this morning for this year’s National Youth Week.
The theme of the “Intersection Between Education and Global Opportunities” ties well with Goal Number Four of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, that requires governments to ensure inclusive and sustainable quality education that promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all.
I congratulate the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs for the dedicated coordination of the observance of this day and for recent initiatives, including the transformation of our National Youth Service to ensure it serves our young people and our country.
The Kenya Integrated Household Budget Survey Labor Force Basic Report in 2016 shows that youth who lack early learning and basic education are the most vulnerable and most likely to experience unemployment.
We all know youth unemployment is a bomb waiting explode not only in Kenya but also across Africa and much of the world.
We must therefore adequately transform education to become a powerful tool for achieving the 2030 agenda for sustainable development of our national Big 4 Agenda. We must work at making education provide young people with a realistic, affordable and attractive path to productive employment.
Kenya has made robust strides in education over the last seven years with youth access to education improving significantly.
I am aware that Gross Enrollment Rate improved from 69.4 per cent in 2012 to 77. 1 per cent in 2017. By January, 2019, we had attained a 93 per cent transition rate from primary to secondary levels of education.
Despite these strides, education mismatch with the industry remains a big challenge. While there are more educated young people looking for work, employers say they cannot find the skills they need. The labour market is suffering from this significant skills mismatch.
The qualifications and experiences that young job seekers possess clearly do not to align with what employers are looking for.
This means that even as young people struggle to find work—and millions are out there seeking jobs—many high-skilled jobs remain unfilled.
Left without the type of training they need to meet the demand for highly specialized skilled labour, young people especially in the developing world risk being left behind further.
There is therefore need to do more to focus young people, employers, and education providers on improving employment readiness. There is need to give our students more and better-quality information about different career paths. There is also need for our education to focus more on what happens to students after they leave school.
Education providers have no option but to work more closely with employers to make sure they are offering courses that really help young people prepare for the workplace. We must also do away with a situation where employers sit and wait for the right applicants to show up at their doorsteps. We need to create an environment where employers and education providers work closely to design curriculum that fits business needs.
We must work on providing on-the-job apprenticeship system that has worked for other thriving economies.
In some advanced economies like China and Germany, employers even participate in teaching by providing instructors.
This is an area in which the United Nations has a lot to share with the government and partners present here today.
As a country, we are agreed that transforming education to connect with local and global opportunities is a MUST if we want to succeed and be among the world leaders.
I am informed that it is against this background that the government has rolled out the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) with the aim of emphasizing the significance of developing skills and knowledge and also applying those competencies to real life situations.
I am further informed that the focus of CBC is to inculcate competencies in seven key areas namely: communication and collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving, creativity and imagination, citizenship, digital literacy, learning to learn and self-efficacy.
This is expected to lead to the emergence of innovative and transformative minds from our education system able to provide solutions to the challenges besetting our society.
We are alive to the fact that the technological changes sweeping the globe, including rapid advances in automation, artificial intelligence and robotics will likely worsen the problem of mismatch between skills and employment opportunities.
I am aware that it is in this regard that the ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender is implementing the Kenya Youth Empowerment and Opportunities Project with the support of a Ksh15 billion grant from the World Bank.
The program is currently being implemented in 17 counties seeking to provide skills to the youth and increasing their employment and earning opportunities through training and entrepreneurship support.
It is our wish that the agencies present here join hands to expand and upscale the program to cover the entire country.
The government is also implementing the Ajira Digital Project being spearheaded by the Ministry of Information and communication Technology to empower over one million young people to access digital job opportunities.
If implemented according to plan, the project will position Kenya as a choice labor destination for multinational companies as well as encourage local companies and public sector to create digital and online work.
The government is also striving to reform and revamp the National Youth Service to make it more responsive to current demands.
This institution holds tremendous potential and needs support to enable it cater especially for segments of our youth that are not geared towards white-collar employment.
I know many of us associate the institution with corruption but I note with satisfaction that many structural, management, procurement and financial changes have taken place.
All these efforts ladies and gentlemen, are geared towards addressing the problem of youth unemployment and ensuring education meets the practical needs of our people. We need your helping hand and your cooperation.
I thank you.