With over 1.2 billion people aged 15-24 in the world today, youth are the largest generation in human history. As these young people seek their way into the world of work, they are increasingly opting out of agriculture-related careers, even in countries with high agricultural potential. Rejuvenating and skilling the agricultural workforce are vital to establishing a sustainable agricultural future and resilient food systems. School-based agricultural education can make the difference, for youth development as well as rural livelihoods.
As farming communities are rapidly aging and many young people are struggling with un(der)employment, it is fair to ask about the role of education in preparing youth for work in the agricultural sector. On the whole, education – especially secondary education, which has become the critical link that prepares young people for the world of work – is not very successful at motivating youth for agriculture-related careers. Especially in countries where secondary attainment is not close to universal, the share of youth with at least this level of education is much lower in agriculture than in industry. Compared to the services sector, the difference is even greater.
What can secondary education do better?
Teachers as change agents
To make school-based agricultural education a reality, agriculture teachers need to be trained as change agents. Too often, they themselves have only experienced education through lectures, which leaves them ill-prepared to teach agriculture practically. VVOB is invested in breaking this vicious cycle.
In Uganda, three pre-service colleges – two that prepare agriculture teachers for lower secondary general education and one that prepares agriculture instructors for secondary TVET – are changing their own approach to teacher training with support from VVOB. In essence, the colleges want to provide their student-teachers with quality examples of experiential learning. The colleges are re- organising student-plots to be entrepreneurship projects, turning production units into learning spaces, strengthening their ties with actors from the agribusiness ecosystem around them and encouraging their students to try out learner-centred, experiential pedagogy during their mandatory teaching practice. Additionally, the National Instructors College Abilonino is diversifying its network of ‘industrial attachment’ partners to make sure future instructors understand that being a “farmer” can take many different forms — from planting your own crops to working for an agrodealer or input supplier to leveraging science, technology, and innovation to transform the way that farming is done.
As the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports is also getting ready to expand the provision of continuous professional development, we are keen to unlock these new practices for in-service teachers and instructors as well.
Call to action
School-based agricultural education requires the commitment of both the education and the agriculture sectors, from the level of policy to the level of schools and farms, extension services, agro-processing facilities, and so on.
The upcoming UN Food Systems Summit 2021 is an excellent platform to forge ties across the two communities and to confirm SBAE as a game changing solution for youth, schools and farmers. The Movement for School-Based Agricultural Education and VVOB have already engaged in the discussion. You should too if you believe SBAE can make the difference, for youth development and rural livelihoods!
Pictures: ©Movement for School-Based Agricultural Education