Year in review: Reviving agricultural TVET in Ghana
One year ago, the project “Reviving Agricultural TVET in Ghana by Integrating Farm Institutes in the Wider Agricultural Education System” officially commenced. The project is part of the Orange Knowledge Programme, and a partnership between five organisations was established to implement the programme. CINOP joined hands with Asuansi Farm Institute, Wenchi Farm Institute, Adidome Farm Institute, the Maastricht School of Management, Kwadaso Agricultural College, Sunyani Technical University, In-Holland, Q-Point, Graafschap College and KNUST. In September 2019, the project was officially launched with a come-together of all partners in Ghana. Since March 2020, the COVID-19 crisis has brought many challenges worldwide, also for continuation of activities in this particular project. Some challenges remain, other obstacles have (often creatively) been overcome. Now that the project is well on its way and will soon enter its second year, it is time to look back and reflect on the activities carried out so far.
Setting the baseline
During the kick-off of the project in July and September 2019, one of the main points for discussion was the cooperation between all the partners in the project. Because the partnership consists of relatively many different parties, a clear sense on the division of responsibilities and complementarities the organisations bring to the table is crucial.
Additionally, all partners need a good understanding of the context in which they will implement their activities. Therefore, a baseline survey at the very beginning of the project (2019) has been conducted among current students and alumni of the three farm institutes. Some main key points that we took away from this analysis:
- A majority of graduates is unemployed after finishing their education. 18% of graduates is still unemployed 3 or 4 years after graduation;
- Student enrolment has dramatically diminished during the last years, reaching unprecedented low levels in 2019;;
- Vertical mobility to diploma level was not possible in the current ATVET system, creating linited career perspectives for Farm Institute students;
- Some points of improvement mentioned by the participants: entrepreneurial and financial skills training should developed, curriculum quality and infrastructure of the institutes should be improved.
And then COVID-19 shook the world
From the start of 2020 onwards, countries around the world were and still racing to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. In the meantime, it has forced students out of schools, colleges and universities in staggering numbers, also in Ghana. It was felt to be crucial that the project in Ghana continued during the COVID-19 crisis, as improving education during this difficult time, provides chances and opportunities for young people otherwise absent. Moreover, the vulnerability level of students of the three farm institutes is relatively high, students come from rural and poor backgrounds and especially these youth cannot lose out on necessary education and training.
Re-designing activities for online implementation
Based on the baseline survey conducted among current students and alumni of the three farm institutes, the first steps in the development of new curricula needed to be undertaken. And new curricula can only be built from the premise of the labour market. We needed to grasp the needs of the labour market, and we needed to seize these in a virtual and online manner.
As a result, online stakeholder sessions were organised in June 2020 in which 5 representatives (employers) of local medium enterprises were able to discuss and validate the occupations and tasks their current and future employees need to perform. Next to this, they analysed the knowledge, skills and attitudes they would expect their employees to have so they can do their job well. Thanks to the input of the participating stakeholders, COTVET has validated the occupational standards for the following newly developed courses: livestock & meat production, agribusiness, mechanization & irrigation, tree crop production, arable crop, and poultry production.
Whether individuals or organisations work with Moodle, Skype, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, one thing is clear: everyone is more and more connected with the help of virtual conferencing tools and everyone is getting more and more used to it. This accustomedness causes online training sessions to grow in quality. Both trainers and trainees are becoming better in developing and contributing to interactive and fun training sessions.
During the fall, three online ToT workshops were organised for the staff of the farm institutes and of the Colleges of Agriculture, in the field of leadership, entrepreneurship and value chain management. In total, 7 Agro TVET institutes spread over the country participated in these online courses. In various groups (per Farm Institute/College) they worked on assignments in multiple sessions, in a blended approach. The courses were very interactive, where the colleagues of each institute worked together to work on a business idea for income-generation on their campus, while applying practical for optimal Value Chain Management. MS Teams was used to have short plenary sessions between the colleges, which were interlaced by many interactive assignments and peer to peer learning.
The entrepreneurship ToT was connected to the value chain management ToT by cooperation between QPoint and CINOP, and allowed the institutes to further develop their business ideas for income-generating activities on their own campus.
How to move forward?
From November 2020 onwards, activities will continue in an online form –or if possible- in a hybrid form (a combination of both face-to-face and online activities). The curricula need to be developed further based on the occupational standards that have been validated by COTVET in year 1 of the project. Among other activities: teachers need to be trained to provide quality education to their students, gender equality needs to be mainstreamed within the institutes to ensure learning without barriers for both students and teachers, and students need to have the chance to connect to the local private sector. We are looking forward to continue this partnership and project in the second year; to impact quality education and learning for Ghanaian youth in agriculture.