Hands-on skills wow showgoers at TVET Expo

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Mediatrice Mukansaga, a student at VCT Gacuriro, makes a motor rewinding system at the ongoing TVET expo yesterday. The New Times/ T. Kisambira.

Students from 40 Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) schools, members of the private sector and foreign exhibitors are showcasing advanced skills at the third TVET exhibition that kicked off in Kigali yesterday.

About 290 exhibitors are taking part in the exhibition at Gikondo Expo Grounds.

Among them include 16 foreign exhibitors from regional countries as well as across India and Singapore.

Speaking at the opening of the expo, the Minister for Education, Dr Vincent Biruta, stressed the need for hands-on skills to address unemployment, transform lives and contribute to national development.

“The private sector has played a significant role in advancing the TVET vision and if everyone had a similar role, there is no doubt we would go far in achieving our target of becoming a knowledge-based economy,” said Dr Biruta.

The minister said the expo shows the level at which the country has advanced in promoting hands-on skills.

“The percentage of girls enrolling in TVET schools is still very low but we need to change this trend and have a bigger number of girls in TVET schools. Generally, only 38 per cent of secondary students are enrolled in TVET schools, we need a paradigm shift and our target is to have 60 percent enrollment by 2017, but to achieve this, there is need for mass investment,” said Dr Biruta.

To realise that, government plans to gradually scale down the number and student population in conventional secondary schools, with more expected to join TVET institutions upon completion of O-Level.

The whole idea is to put emphasis on courses that are demand-driven and which increase job-creation opportunities.

In effect, government established the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) in 2008, to oversee the implementation of the country’s TVET system, and later on this year, a ministry particularly charged with TVET was established.

Dr Biruta said there are still challenges mainly related to public perception and attitude toward technical and vocation education, which should change.

“Some people think that TVET is not the ideal form of education, others believe it’s a course for failures, but this is completely very wrong, TVET is the major answer to the labour market demands. Those in TVET schools obtain enabling skills, knowledge and a positive attitude in the labour market,” he said.

The chairperson of the Private Sector Federation (PSF), Benjamin Gasamagera, praised the skills development initiatives but hastened to add that there is a lot that needs to be done mainly in changing public attitude towards TVET.

Exhibitors speak

Jean Damascene Habagihirwa, a mechanic student at Expert Motor Vocational Training Centre, in Remera, Kigali, is exhibiting vehicle engine.

“I made this engine out of scrap and now it is running. As soon as I finish school my dream is to establish my own garage, with the skills I have, I don’t intend to be employed by someone for long,” he said.

Another exhibitor, Mediatrice Mukansanga, a motor rewinding student at VCT-Gacuriro, explained what rewinding coils is all about and how it is done.

“This is a rare technology that can’t easily be done by anyone. Electric motors are relatively simple mechanical devices, but rewinding the coils is a precise task that should only be undertaken by those with a sharp eye, patience and knowledge of how it is done,” said Mukansanga.

A motor rewinding is a mechanical item that appears mostly in industrial machines and it is made up of many closely tied together wires.

Gad Niyitegeka, the director of VCT-Gacuriro said most factories have to ship a whole machine back to the manufacturer to repair the motor rewinding which is very expensive.

“Repairing a motor rewinding requires precisions and patience, that’s why women succeed most in this sector… we are now exhibiting our technology to show the factories that they no longer need to look West for solutions, we are able to solve their problems,” said Niyitegeka.

The TVET Expo is expected to run for six days ending on December 3. A TVET symposium is also scheduled to take place today at the sidelines of the expo and seven line ministers from the region are expected to attend.