Lack of IT skills is one reason why young people are prevented from entering the labor market. Photo: Musa Musa


Large distance between students and the labor market in Tanzania

The number of university students is breaking records in Tanzania, but the educations do not live up to the demands of the labor market. Young women in particular are affected when employers demand practical knowledge that is not part of their education. The development magazine has talked to Andrew Mwakalebela who works to try to bridge the distance between students and the labor market.

Over the past three decades, the academic education sector in Tanzania has grown exponentially. The number of departments, study programs and students is more than ever before. Despite this, says Andrew Mwakalebela, project manager at Help to Help, that university education in the country has shortcomings.

- The focus is largely on theoretical knowledge that does not prepare students for working life. The universities are based on an outdated curriculum that does not correspond to what the labor market demands.

Mwakalebela explains that it is above all the "soft knowledge", such as problem solving, teamwork and technical skills, that the students lack. According to a report According to the African Development Bank, almost one in three young people in Tanzania is estimated to be underqualified for their job or lack the practical skills required to enter the labor market. The fact that, despite a multi-year university education, it is difficult to find a job is something that, according to Mwakalebela, has made academic studies less attractive to young people in Tanzania. With high costs for subsistence, school supplies and tuition fees, for some it is simply not worth it. 

Women worst affected
Andrew Mwakalebela wants to give young people a chance to change society. Photo: Musa Musa

At the non-governmental organization Help to Help, Mwakalebela works to reduce the distance between university students and employers. Together with his colleagues, he arranges workshops in entrepreneurship and leadership, study visits to local companies and intensive training in computer science. Since the start, more than 6,000 students have participated and the majority of them are women.

- There is widespread gender discrimination in the labor market and stereotypes that women are not suitable for working life. Our intensive training provides women with tools that help them compete with the male students. In addition, they get the opportunity to network and meet others who are also interested in gender issues and technology, says Mwakalebela.

Young people as a societal changer

Help to Help also works to provide scholarships to motivated, but financially vulnerable university students. The money goes in full to the students' school fees and the hope is that the paid educations will give rings on the water.

- When we evaluate our scholarship program, we first look at how many people complete their education and enter the labor market. After that, we are also interested in the extent to which the students have a positive impact on their local community. We look at, for example, whether they can pay the school fee for a sibling after graduation or whether they contribute with innovative ideas that help society as a whole.

For Mwakalebela and his colleagues, a greater societal perspective is important and trust in young people as societal changers is what drives their commitment. As a project manager, Mwakalebela sees how Help to Help's activities make it easier for students to get into working life. 

- What I do is give students tools that make them more employable and an ability to develop themselves. By combining what they learned at university with the soft knowledge they gain from us, they can help change society, Mwakalebela concludes.

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