In my view, the way to provide tomorrow’s skills for young Africans in Guinea is to bypass the traditional forms of education.
For example, each sub-prefecture could capitalize on the installation of fiber optic cables that significantly improve internet connection speed and create a data center for youth under the age of twenty. Young learners could be introduced in these centers to the skills of tomorrow, in a two-year program that could run parallel to their regular schooling. The centers could provide classes on subjects such as the basics of programming and the use of different kinds of software. All you need is a building and about 10 good quality computers in each sub-prefecture for the project to take shape.
“But where will the teachers come from?” you may ask.
They will be Guinean, either people residing in or actually from these sub-prefectures, who have training in digital technology. Their job will be to ferret out the real talent and potential of pupils at the different stages of the initiation process. They will select the most promising and motivated students, who will then be mentored and, where necessary, given scholarships to pursue their studies.
Ensuring that proper arrangements are in place for teachers and paying their salaries are the biggest challenges facing this project. That said, it could, for example, commence with a pilot phase in Konkouré, the sub-prefecture that I am from. Ideally, the State would assume responsibility for paying teachers. But the situation in my country is dominated at present by a strike of unionized teachers that has been going on for the longest time. It is therefore not conceivable that the Government would agree to cover the total cost of this initiative that would eventually incorporate over 300 new workers on the payroll. Nevertheless, the Government could finance the pilot phase of the project that would only require about 10 teachers. NGOs could be requested to donate the computer equipment. At the same time, the most well-off parents could help defray the center’s running costs.
The pupils selected at the end of the two-year training exercise at the center should receive personalized support until they finish school, to ensure that they receive the best possible guidance when deciding which university to attend and to ensure that their higher studies will allow them to exercise the profession of their choice in the field of new technologies. The teachers at the center will be responsible for mentoring the pupils, and will work in close collaboration with the surrounding schools.
The pilot phase of the project will last six years and will only take in lower secondary and upper secondary school students under twenty years of age. At the end of the pilot phase, we will be in a position to assess the real impact of the center. If, in the end, the majority of pupils make a wise choice and opt for promising sectors, then the project could be considered a success and the Government could be encouraged to expand the program across all sub-prefectures.
Dear friends of the Konkouré sub-prefecture, what do you think?
Mohamed Alimou Diallo, a Guinean national, is a winner of the World Bank Africa 2019 Blog4Dev regional competition.