April 20, 2024

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Salesian TVETs in Africa: Unveiling the Secrets of Communication Success with Mr. Patrick Wachira from Don Bosco Tech Africa

Mr. Patrick Wachira, the Project Officer at Don Bosco Tech Africa

Kigali-Rwanda: Last week, we met with Mr. Patrick Wachira, the Project Officer at Don Bosco Tech Africa, to discuss the significance of having a responsive communication strategy for the Salesian TVET Centres in Africa. Mr. Wachira spoke to us after the conclusion of the weeklong training session for participants from Burundi and Rwanda, where they exchanged ideas regarding the development of the communication strategy for those TVETs. Here are some excerpts from our interview…

You will start by introducing yourself and tell us what was happening during this whole week.

My name is Patrick Wachira, I work for DB Tech Africa and I’m based in Nairobi, together with a bigger team of other people with the management and also the project officers. I’m working as a project officer under the Global Programme.

Global Programme is a project that is funded by BMZ through Don Bosco Mondo and we have been implementing activities with the aim of uplifting the standards and the performance of our technical and vocational training centres in the Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the areas that we focus on is capacity development for the managers of the TVET centres, for the staff, the instructors and the people that collaborate with our TVET centres.

One of the areas that we realized was lacking through this programme and the challenges that were there and we are trying to resolve is that Don Bosco TVET institutions are doing a lot of work within their own locations, in their own countries but we have a challenge because the work that is being done at Don Bosco is not given the correct prominence in terms of visibility, in terms of ability for them to be able to reach out to their partners and their partners to understand the programmes that are run by Don Bosco TVET centres and that’s why we came up with the idea of coming up with a communication strategy, a document that is aimed to support the TVET centres be able to speak more to the network of the stakeholders that they have.

 We have done this work, we started with Malawi some time back in May. We moved to South Sudan in June. In August we did in Madagascar and right now we are here in Rwanda and we have combined Rwanda and Burundi because those are participating countries within the Global Programme. In entirety all the countries that are participating are 11 in Sub-Saharan Africa. So, key areas that we want to support our TVET centres to work more is increasing their advocacy, increasing their networking and also partnership building among the partners that they are working with.

When we are talking about the partners here, we are talking government ministries, departments, that are in education, in labour, in entrepreneurship, in trade, private sector. We are looking at chambers of commerce and associations. We are looking at also industries where our students end up offering their services as fresh graduates. So, we are looking at how we can help Don Bosco Centres collaborate better with industries also for creating opportunities for our young people to be able to go to the industries for apprenticeship, for internships, for job placements and so on and so forth. And therefore, besides that we are also looking at how well we can collaborate with other stakeholders who are working in TVET, non-governmental organisations, NGOs, technical schools. We are also focusing on the donor community, how well we can be able to speak about our programmes to the donor community, those who have already been supporting our programmes and those probably we look forward to incorporating them in our programme.

So, in summary, that is all what we have been doing for the last one week. We started on Monday. We had the representation from TVET managers, the principals. We have the job service office. That is one critical office in the work of training and of course the transition from school to work. And that is why we needed this communication strategy as a tool that will also help our TVET centres be able to communicate more to the world and to the partners in each of these countries.

There is an issue where some people develop a communication strategy but fail to implement it. How have you considered this problem, and how are you prepared to address it?

 We know very well one big task is to develop a document, but the main work lies in the implementation of the document. And as I told you that this work begun in May. So, the initial stage between May and towards the end of this year, most probably November, we shall complete. We were targeting to have six communication strategies. That will be the first phase. In the coming year, God willing, we are looking forward on how we can now empower these offices, job service offices and also the school management to begin to implement it. And of course we hope that we shall be able to support them, of course remotely, but we shall also be coming on the ground. One of the ways in which we are going to ensure that the communication strategy is implemented is the inclusion of the strategy in the events that we normally have.

For instance, those national events that are related to education, that are related to labor, that are related to innovation, such as exhibitions, national exhibitions, maybe roundtables on labor, on education, roundtables on the challenges that those sectors might be having. So, we are going to ensure that before the implementation of an event and after the implementation of an event, the aspects that are enshrined within the communication strategy will be coming out clearly.

So, we look forward to supporting our partners all over where we are working to see that the document is implemented. And of course, even ourselves from DB Tech Africa, we shall be taking initiatives to move to the countries when they are organizing and planning events so that we see that besides the usual way of planning an event, there is a lot that is also being disseminated out there through mainstream media, through the TVs, through the print media, through radio stations. For instance, like this interview that we are doing, we hope that it is going to reach out too many people, but also we want to maximize the use of the social media platforms, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and so on and so forth.

Currently, there is a shift happening in TVET education where focus is moving from a local perspective to the international level. Have you considered the possibility of incorporating strategies that can connect them to the international labor market? And again, I have heard that you will have six strategies which I think It can be one that respond once for all? If one is going to have one strategy, and while we are considering Don Bosco TVETs as one brand, Isn’t it going to be difficult?

I like your question. Actually, almost one month ago, we had a meeting in Nairobi where we are rethinking about the deliverables of the global program. What we have done more is that most of the interventions are at local level, and we are looking at how well we can do interventions at national and even regional level. So I can clearly tell you that the communication strategies that we are going to develop are not just limited to the country level. The importance of developing them at the country level was first of all to appreciate what is already within the context of each country. One of the things that we have realized is that in as much as Don Bosco TVETs Centers are doing great work all over Africa, they have also been thinking in a very narrow way within the confines of that particular TVET. For instance, the example you gave of Gatenga, they do a lot of good work, but probably the work is so much localized to Gatenga. So now what we are looking is to help Gatenga and other TVET Centers in Burundi and Rwanda, understand their context, understand the teams, the partners that they collaborate with. But the communication strategy, when it begins to disseminate information about what they are doing, it will help them to find space within the national TVET forums, TVETs platforms, such that they can now begin to advocate at the national level.

From our perspective and where we stand, Don Bosco Tech Africa, we are best suited now to begin to mobilize and to advocate at the regional level. But what we want our countries is at least to move from the centers and be able to shape their agenda of advocacy, partnership building and networking at the national level in the area of TVETs. And this is what we are pushing. But they cannot do that if they don’t understand their context. They cannot go national if they don’t know their context. They cannot go regional if they don’t know their local context. So that is why we had first of all to do it at the country level. It is not meant to disintegrate the operations. But first of all, each country to be able to map their sector very well and identify the entry points, identify the gaps that need to be advocated. And so doing, they will find prominence at the national level.

Through national level, of course, from there, now through the collaboration with DB Tech Africa, we can be able to do regional interventions.

 Now, let’s touch the issue of the budget. It is extremely difficult to execute a strategy without having a budget. How does Don Bosco Tech Africa ensure that the strategy is effectively implemented considering the budget?

Well, there is what DB Tech Africa we can do. DB Tech Africa is also an organization that relies on donor funding. We don’t have money of ourselves. Basically, what we aim at is giving capacity for local Don Bosco. When I mean local, here I also mean at the national level, through the Planning and Development Office. And probably also for them to be able to see and take initiatives. It is not just the work of DB Tech Africa to be able to identify opportunities for funding and do the funding. But it is also for the countries to identify that through the power that, for instance, this tool is going to give, we can be able now to, with a lot of courage, we can be able to approach agencies that can be able to fund some of our programs. But at the same time, we are also looking at, and we have been challenging, not only through this one document that we are developing. I think Don Bosco Tech Africa has also supported in development of strategic plans. And the strategic plan, besides having the strategic goals, big goals and objectives, in it also comes with it on the aspect of how to fund that. Our idea and our dream is that these initiatives should not end by themselves. These initiatives should be able to challenge our Don Bosco TVET centers, PDO level, technical schools level, to begin to think in a way that they can be able to support their own programs. And it is possible. It is challenging, but we have to move away from just waiting for one project, but also to try to see how we can maximize the resources in one project to be able to sustain part of our expedition tomorrow and the day to come.

Any message to the beneficiary schools?

We want to first of all to thank all those who participated today, I mean for the whole of this week and we have completed today, starting from Monday. Congratulations so much to you all of you. I know that you invested a lot of your time and energy and your brains to bring out your ideas. So I really want to thank you. Congratulations for that. Congratulations for the good work that you are already doing. But the needs of the young people remain to be more pressing to us. The realities are changing, technology is changing. The choices, even for the trades, some trades probably in a few years’ time to come, they will not be there. So I still challenge the Don Bosco TVET centers. Let us think in a different way. Let us think in years to come. Today we are already talking about the jobs of the future. So in as much as there are those trades we are giving today, and they are able to ensure employment for young people, but the jobs of the future are going to different directions. We are talking about artificial intelligence. And that’s why a tool like this communication strategy will be challenging us. Can we create collaborations with even universities? Can we create collaborations with other institutions that are advanced, unlike we are? But can we be able to establish some engagement that would ensure that the jobs of the future are also catered within our TVET centers? And we can be able to do. It is possible. There are jobs that are being done today online. But are we able to train our young people that they can be able to deliver services online? So we are already doing what we are doing good. But will it take us five years to come, ten years to come, twenty years to come? That is how we need to think. So congratulations to all for this part of the work that has been done. But much more. The tasks lie ahead. But we need to think beyond where we are now.

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