Lessons and recommendations from African countries in the management of COVID-19 in TVSD sub-sector

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Overview of COVID-19's impact on technical and vocational training in Africa

The ADEA Inter-Country Quality Node on Technical and Vocational Skills Development (ICQN-TVSD) initiated consultations with its country focal points between June 2020 and June 2021 to monitor and evaluate the responses of the ICQN’s member countries to the global health crisis related to the COVID-19 pandemic that began in December 2019.

The consultations revealed that since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on technical and vocational training in the member countries (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote D'Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Madagascar, Mali, Morocco, Mauritius, Niger, DRC, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Chad, Togo, and Tunisia).

Indeed, the pandemic has sent education systems into a historically unprecedented shock, disrupting the lives of nearly 1.6 billion students in more than 190 countries on every continent. Closures of school and other learning spaces affected 94% of the world's school-going population, and up to 99% in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

"This health crisis reveals the limits of vocational training in my country, Burkina Faso: the lack of laboratories and digital workshops; evaluation systems that are not always adapted; the content of vocational and technical training is not digitized for all classes." Bailou Diata Technical Advisor, MEAPL, Burkina Faso

And around the world, the pandemic has exposed the underlying vulnerabilities of our education systems and their difficulties in adapting quickly to remote learning. In most ICQN-TVSD member countries, the lack of contingency plans for managing a crisis of this magnitude has been a weakness of all educational institutions. But while the response to the crisis was quick enough to ensure continuity of education in the general education sub-sector, technical and vocational education, and training (TVET) struggled to continue in almost all the ICQN’s member countries.

"The health crisis led to the suspension of courses in the technical and vocational training sub-sector in Togo for 5 months." Tchalim M. Tchendo, Director of Vocational Training and Apprenticeship

Major challenges require partnerships

To limit the effects of school closures, adapt learning to the hazards of the health crisis, and build resilience, development partners such as the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNESCO have made funding available to countries to support their emergency programs. For all countries in the world, but particularly those in Africa, education should not stop even in a crisis! 

For this reason, the KIX Observatory on educational policy and practice responses to COVID-19 encouraged countries to strengthen contingency plans to better respond to the COVID-19 crisis and future disruptions to the education system and to ensure that response plans reflect the latest research evidence and best practice.

One example of a country that encountered difficulties in quickly ensuring continuity of technical and vocational education and training was Niger. Several months after the closure of training centers in Niger, the country drew up a framework document for response plans entitled "Response plan for ministries of education and training in the face of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19)", which aimed to ensure the urgent resumption of classes and pedagogical continuity of activities in the six ministries in charge of education and training in the context of the pandemic.

How did the ICQN-TVSD member countries deal with this crisis internally?

Overall, the plans of ICQN-TVSD member countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Burkina FasoGhana, and Mauritius included general provisions mainly based on the protection and control of the disease within training centers to ensure the continuity of teaching and learning in this sub-sector during and after the health crisis. 

The challenge was then to fill the remaining hours and credits of the current school year and to draw the right lessons for the development of an emergency training plan considering all the possibilities for remedying the effects of the crisis on learners and teachers.

Specifically, it was about :

  • Raising awareness and providing students and teachers with protective equipment (masks, hand gels, hand washing devices, etc.).
  • Promoting the rapid digitization of vocational training provision by adapting training curricula and finding alternative methods to ensure practical learning. 
  • Providing students with online courses so that they can continue learning at home through self-study.
  • Training teachers to create digital training content.

According to analysts, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk of school drop-out and compounded the many challenges already faced by TVET stakeholders. Countries have therefore taken action to preserve gains while constantly encouraging learners to take the initiative. TVET learners have therefore taken several initiatives ranging from making reusable masks to creating mass handwashing pumps with pedestrian mechanisms (Côte d'Ivoire and Cameroon).

The example of Mauritius below is instructive. 

"As a result of the crisis, many people have lost their jobs. This increase in unemployment has led the government to implement skills development programs to retrain the unemployed in sectors with high employment potential. The increase in open learning resources available for TVET has helped to accelerate digital learning and improve quality among both learners and the unemployed. Trainers were also provided with massive open online courses (MOOCs) in TVET-related areas as part of staff development. TVET is therefore expected to play an important role in retraining young people to contain the growing unemployment in some countries because of COVID-19." Sayadaly Maudarbocus, Ag Director MITD (Mauritius Institute of Training and Development)

Some lessons from African countries in managing the impact of COVID-19 on vocational training

According to Saliha Maïga, a professor and engineer in technical education and vocational training in Mali, "this crisis has shown us that it is essential to develop digital technology in all training institutions, by equipping premises, improving teachers' skills, and developing pedagogical kits that make it easier for trainers to share knowledge". In addition to his conclusion, the following are lessons learned by ICQN-TVSD member countries in managing the crisis that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused:  

  1. There is an urgent need to accelerate the strengthening and effective implementation of national contingency plans, aimed at strengthening the resilience of the vocational training system by making it less vulnerable to the risks associated with conflicts, pandemics, and natural disasters.
  2. The current pedagogy in TVET needs urgent revision with more emphasis on e-learning and formalizing informal training and learning arrangements in African countries.
  3. Access to the Internet is a crucial criterion for promoting the digitalization of TVET. Therefore, bridging the digital divide should be a priority for the ministries in charge of TVET. But it is equally important that trainers and learners are trained in the use of digital tools.
  4. While support from technical and financial partners is important, there is a need for each African country to have contingency/transition plans in addition to development plans, to strengthen resource/solution sharing between TVET institutions, private companies, and partners.
  5. Limited computer and pedagogical skills of some trainers prevent the operationalization of distance learning; more trainers should be trained to deliver training via digital, radio, and mobile platforms.

What does the ICQN-TVSD recommend to African countries?

For the ADEA Intercountry Quality Node on Technical and Vocational Skills Development, the health crisis following the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be an opportunity to assess the level of resilience of Technical and Vocational Education and Training in the ICQN’s 19 member countries. 

To this end, we recommend that African countries:

  1. Evaluate their system of response and preparation for distance learning with the "TVSD Toolkit" developed by ADEA.
  2. Make a complete paradigm shift from technical and vocational education and training (TVET) to technical and vocational skills development (TVSD). 
  3. Adopt digital teaching/learning to ensure continuity and increase the resilience of the sector by creating usable and accessible databases and/or information platforms in training centers.
  4. Collaborate to create more free and open learning resources for TVSD, which will help to accelerate digital learning, improve quality, and make TVET more inclusive and collaborative.
  5. Include training via Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) in areas related to TVET, IT, and personal development in the skills development plans of trainers and learners.
  6. Enrich all training curricula by including modules on self-learning techniques to facilitate learners' initiative and ensure that young people obtain the skills they need to reduce unemployment.
  7. Train trainers to deliver training via digital, radio, and mobile platforms.


The ICQN-TVSD found that in its 19 member countries, general education adapted somewhat quickly to the health crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic compared to vocational training, where continuity remained problematic and the proposed solutions ineffective. In this sense, even if the opportunity was there to promote remote learning, the lack of preparation of the sub-sector actors and the challenges related to internet access in Africa did not create much enthusiasm for TVET digitalization initiatives.

These consultations have therefore enabled us to highlight good practices and innovations but, above all, to reaffirm the importance of this sub-sector in producing a useful and qualified workforce to accompany the structural transformation in African countries during and after the pandemic.