Key Lessons on Effective Higher Education Leadership During the Pandemic and Beyond

TVET: Key Lessons on Effective Higher Education Leadership During the Pandemic and Beyond

It is an interesting time to be a leader. It certainly is not business as usual.

These are disruptive times and as technical training institution leaders we have to navigate new pathways.  We have to come up with new thinking driven by strong leadership to create inclusive and equitable training systems. We have to be the thought leaders for our institutions.

As the Kenya Private Sector Alliance, this pandemic has been particularly traumatizing. With this lockdown triggered by the third wave, the sector is worried about the recovery of various sectors as this will impact how students in training will access attachment/internship and apprenticeship opportunities. The slowed down movement of goods and services directly affects the Micro/Small/Medium Enterprises and thus young graduates who complete vocational training will struggle to get entry points into self-employment.

For us in policy, we have to ensure our vocational training  system is resilient.  The pandemic came in the midst of a turnaround strategy. For years Technical and Vocational Training in Kenya was viewed as the purview for failures and the sector saw diminished student enrolment.  Funding gaps saw institutions struggle to keep vocational training affordable and this affected access to training.  Developments and technological advancement  in industry also exacerbated the divide between training and industry. The blossoming of private sector unregulated training in reaction to the gaps in the industry-training linkage has led to a growth in apprenticeship and other forms of training which are unacknowledged by the regulators. The Kenya Private Sector Alliance is excited that the Kenya National Qualifications Authority is now rolling out the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) Framework which will enable millions of young people to have their work experience recognised and equated.

As the pandemic continues to spread, we are reminded that we have to adapt. The world is changing faster than ever, the jobs that we train the youth for are morphing. We have to train for this 21st Century. This pandemic gives the sector an opportunity to leapfrog.  Technical and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TVETA) has already put in place an Open and Distance Education and Learning (ODEL) framework and  regulations.  This gives the sector an opportunity to train beyond the 4 walls of a classroom.  It gives the sector an opportunity to tackle the pain points which can hamper effective use of Educational Technology to train in all Kenyan vocational settings;

  1. Devices- laptops, smart phones
  2. Connectivity - power and internet
  3. Content-OERs ( Open education resources)- the sector will need to move up from here to build up online communities to share promising practices, resources in ICT enabled teaching and training contexts
  4. Training of trainers - Professional Development Programmes for trainers. ‘Teachers need to integrate  technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, and afterthought or as an event’ - Bill gates

As a way forward as we make the move to take our teaching and training online let us ensure our trainers are facilitated with data/connectivity.  There are existing agreements with private sector telecommunication companies  in place from the first lock-down which can be revived and strengthened. We need to communicate to all our students and stakeholders. We need to show case our trainers at work. The power of social media needs to be harnessed. Let all institution leaders use various social media to showcase their online teaching and training.   We really have not had documentation of the effects of the pandemic on vocational training.  In partnership with TVETA, we will need to highlight the societal impact on this space. This will have the double effect of documenting this as we tackle future emergencies.

I note that this inclusive approach will help jumpstart the universal shift to the use of education technology in vocational training.

Stay safe, wear a mask, sanitize, get immunised.

Author: Mutheu Kasanga, Education Sector Board Chair, Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)