In Tanzania, youth unemployment is most prominent in urban areas, and somewhat paradoxically, those who are more educated are most at risk. According to World Bank figures, young people aged 15-24 are six times more likely to be unemployed in Dar es Salaam than in rural areas[1]. Meanwhile, nationally 92% of primary educated youth are employed, compared to only 71% of those educated to secondary level[2]. This state of affairs exists because the traditional career path – the agricultural sector – continues to hold the most promise for jobseekers, while many young urban Tanzanians who choose to stay in education are not subsequently equipped with the skills required to access more professional jobs. “The system of education in Tanzania—it teaches people general things, not skills they need for employment,” Ally Mawanja, a Program Coordinator for the charity Restless Development claims. “We just give them a degree, but it’s hard to use that degree.”[3]

Something that further exacerbates this problem is that at school, students are given an incredibly limited amount of guidance about their future careers. Without the ability to follow the conventional agricultural career pathway, students are struggling to make appropriate subject choices and gain the relevant information necessary to enter their desired career. During the Think Big Challenge, an entrepreneurial programme CDI Education ran in the summer of 2016, we spoke with a number of secondary school students in Kinondoni, Dar es Salaam, about their aspirations. They did often have an (albeit generic) idea about what they wanted to be – doctor, lawyer and pilot were a few popular choices. But when pushed they didn’t actually know much about what those jobs entailed, or how to access them (i.e. which qualifications, experience and connections were needed). It was apparent that they were usually just deciding based on what their parents wanted, what they had seen on TV, or what they thought we wanted to hear. This is not surprising considering the lack of alternative inspiration. In a study carried out by the University of Dar es Salaam, none of students in the public schools they investigated had received careers counselling, none had attended career exhibitions, and only 13% had benefited from careers speakers[4].

It is this gap in the current curriculum that Career Network Support, a new programme organised collaboratively by CDI Education and local Tanzanian NGO Bridge For Change, is attempting to fill. The afore-mentioned study by UDSM claims that careers education should have three main functions. Firstly, it should give individuals an understanding of themselves – their abilities, interests and attitudes. Secondly, it should relay to them the conditions for entry into and success in a particular field. And thirdly, it should allow them to explore the link between the first two things: themselves as an individual, and the requirements of success. CNS does all three of these things. In preliminary workshops entitled ‘My Identity’, ‘My Decision’ and ‘My Plan’, students are given the rare opportunity to think deeply about their personalities and preferences, on top of being provided with detailed information about how to access a range of careers, thanks to Bridge For Change’s comprehensive local knowledge. The Dream Sharing Event, which doubles as a closing ceremony for the end of the programme and a careers networking event, then allows the students to bridge the gap between the two. After hearing local professionals speak about the link between their dreams and the reality of their career trajectories, students will hopefully be better positioned to see the connection between ‘individual and entry requirements’ discussed in the UDSM report. Having the opportunity to then speak to these professionals one-to-one about their hopes and achievements should solidify this notion further amongst the students.

Of course, this programme is still in its pilot phase, so the extent to which it will be successful is still unknown. But one thing is clear: the problem of unemployment among urban educated Tanzanian youth is an urgent one that will undermine the whole country’s progress unless mitigated. CNS aims to enable secondary school students to leave school more informed, employable and self-sufficient, which in the current climate seems to be at least a step in the right direction.

[1] http://blogs.worldbank.org/africacan/youth-in-tanzania-a-growing-uneducated-labor-force

[2] National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) [Tanzania] 2014. Tanzania Integrated Labour Force Survey 2014, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: NBS.

[3] https://www.pri.org/stories/2013-10-29/tanzania-s-perplexing-youth-unemployment-crisis

[4] Mabula, N. 2012, ‘Career Services Provision to Secondary School Students in Tanzania: Is it a dream or Reality?’, University of Dar es Salaam, http://dx.doi.org/10.5296/ijld.v2i2.1674

 

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