Education and quality learning
Education is a key vehicle to leverage adolescent and young people’s growth and development, since competencies associated with positive development include many that are best cultivated through a structured process of education and learning.
High repetition rates within the schooling system, particularly at the primary school level, are likely to further perpetuate socio-economic issues, such as high unemployment. There is a potential “demographic dividend” that could be realized if these issues can be addressed, but severe negative consequences could follow if they are not addressed timeously.
Challenges affecting adolescents in the education sector (in 2015) are high repetition rates (16.6 per cent in primary, 13 per cent in lower secondary and 6 per cent in upper secondary); low survival rate in primary education (74 per cent of children enrolled in Grade 1 complete Grade 7) and high drop-out, affecting the returns to the Government’s Free Primary Education, and overall outcomes for children and the country. Contributory factors to the high drop-out rates include pregnancy (41 per cent of drop out in lower secondary and 52 per cent in senior secondary is due to pregnancy); poverty and the inability to pay “top up fees” at primary levels, the high cost of secondary education, and high levels of sexual violence. The problem of violence at school is aggravated by a lack of parental involvement in the school community; norms around the sexualization of female students within the school; and the continuing use of corporal punishment of school children.
Consistently low enrolment rates in secondary schools remain an issue for educational attainment and skills development. In Eswatini, often income and gender-based inequalities, poor relevance of school curricula to labour markets, lack of support for the school-to-employment transition, including provision of vocational training are further keeping many adolescents and young people from achieving a better future and empowered livelihoods.
The current technical vocational education and training system is characterised by fragmentation and lack of coordination. Other challenges include: a) low efficiency of the system (there is great variation in institutional size and trainee-trainer ratio among the TVET institutions. There are many institutions with a small numbers of trainees); b) limited range of programs; c) lack of strong quality assurance mechanisms at both national and institutional levels; d) insufficient public investment in TVET; e) and the weak alignment between current TVET provision and labour market requirements. As a result, unemployment rates are high, at 25.6 per cent in the general population and 54.8 per cent among the young people between 15 and 24 years), with a large economically inactive rural population.
UNICEF Eswatini provides technical and financial support to strengthening policies that enhance learning for both girls and boys, strengthening management systems at national and sub-national levels; the development of relevant strategies and plans to promote inclusive education; promote completion and address drop-out, repetition and poor learner achievement and development of positive discipline mechanisms within school systems; and strengthening of data generation and utilization for evidence-based programming governance within the education sector through a strengthened EMIS.
UNICEF Eswatini will also support national plans for employability of young people by promoting gender-responsive competency-based school curricula relevant to labour markets, support school-to-employment transition, including provision of vocational training and skills acquisition to enable adolescents and young people achieve a better future and empowered livelihoods through attainment of key competencies and social entrepreneurial skills through alternative pathways to employability. UNICEF Eswatini will support solutions that prepare young people for the transition to work by connecting secondary-age education and training for employment and entrepreneurship.