ANYANWU, ODINAKA GIDEON
Department of Vocational Education
Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka
A Paper Presented at the Maiden Annual Conference of Women in Colleges of Education Holding at Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education Auditorium, Owerri, Imo State, from 24th to 28th November 2014
Woman is a term usually reserved for an adult, with the term girl being the usual term for a female child or adolescent. However, the term woman is also used to identify a female human, regardless of age. This paper examines the place of vocational education as a means of women empowerment in Nigeria. How much a nation develops has a lot to do with the quality of human resources and educational attainment of its citizens. The impact of vocational education programme as a positive instrument for the empowerment of women in South-East, Nigeria was discussed. It was predicated on the assumption that vocational education acquisition is closely related to economic empowerment of women. This programme as well as the curriculum could be designed to take care of the needs of the learners in order to acquire skills necessary for employment, self-reliance and economic development. The acquisition of these vocational skills will greatly help to empower and transform women into self-reliant persons and make her economically viable. This economic empowerment will greatly help to ameliorate the incidence of prostitution, kidnapping, and other social vices that are prevalent among women in South-East, Nigeria. Hence, it is recommended among other things, that government, private organizations and NGOs should adequately support the funding of vocational education programme.
Keywords: vocational education, economic empowerment, social vices.
Women play a central role in the socio-economic development of any society. In fact societal sustainable development is possible only if women are actively involved. Women must therefore be both participants and beneficiaries of development programmes. The United Nations Development Programme UNDP (1997) observes that women worldwide constitute half of population, perform two thirds of the hours worked, are registered as only performing one third of these hours, receive only 10% of the world’s income and have 1% of the world’s property registered in their name. This is injustice at its peak, and no sustainable development will take place in such situation of inequality. The Nigerian woman has not pressed hard to derive the full benefit of her economic activism and activities. Going by the 2006 census, almost 50% of the total population of the country of over 170 million is women. The Federal Office of Statistics, (2006) reports that 70% of this population (about 59,500,000 women) reside and work in the rural areas. In the last few decades, a consciousness has been awaken globally that unless something is done to empower women as an interest group, global development will remain a mirage. Vocational Education has been recognized as “an instrument for promoting environmentally sound sustainable development” (FRN, 2004:30) as well as “a method of alleviating poverty.” It is the basis for the full promotion and improvement of the status of women. Vocational Education empowers women by improving their living standards. It is the starting point for women’s advancement in different fields of human endeavor and a basic tool that should be given to women in order to fulfill their roles as full members of the society. Education of which vocational is an aspect, constitutes the single most important institutional boost to women empowerment. Vocational Education especially is an excellent tool for bringing about individual and national development. However, a cursory look at the pattern of women’s involvement in vocational education in Nigeria reveals abysmal low levels. In spite of all the laudable goals and objectives of vocational education, Nigerian women still suffer a lot of constraints and inhibitions which militate against their personal and national development. Vocational Education focuses on the learner who is made to imbibe or acquire knowledge, skills, values and even attitudes that enable him to solve his and societal problems. Educated persons who acquire knowledge and skill can easily manipulate goods and services to create wealth for themselves and the society and thus create employment opportunities for others thereby reducing poverty. In absence of this, what is obtainable is a whole lot of women who lack skills, knowledge and appropriate value-orientation to survive in a knowledge-driven economy. They turn out to be societal misfits – prostitutes, armed-robbers, kidnapers, cause crises and upheaval in the society. This paper examines the importance of vocational education as a means of empowering women in Nigeria. It investigates socio economic and political factors impeding this noble field. It presents a case for improved women’s economic status through greater participation in vocational education to fight hunger, poverty and unemployment through wage or self employment in the face of insecure and corrupt society we find ourselves. VOCATIONAL EDUCATIONAL IN NIGERIA
FRN (2004:29) described vocational education as ”those aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related science and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economy and social life.” Fakes (2005) defined vocational education as that type of education that has specific relation with working life. According to Ogbuanya (2006), it is practical oriented and spans across areas like agriculture and related trades, building and wood work trades, commercial and related studies, electrical, textile and related trades as well as hospitality trades. Going by the above definition, vocational and technical education are interwoven as both are geared toward development of skills needed in the world of work, it is based in manual and practical activities which prepares one for gainful employment in recognized institutions and fields. Vocational education has passed through a series of trends ranging from pre-colonial era to date. Fafunwa (1991) noted that formal (western) education started in Nigeria in 1842, however, prior to this time, traditional and Islamic education have been holding sway in Nigeria. Traditional education has some features of vocational education like smiting, building, craft to mention but a few. Even with the commencement of Christian missionary activities in formal western education in Nigeria, emphasis was not placed on vocational education in the formal education sector. Pure literacy as against vocational skill acquisition was the goal of education then. However, by 1863, it occurred to the missionaries that the plough and spade should go together. Hence this principle made some missionary schools to include elements of manual work like farming and bricklaying in their extra-curricular activities. Worthy of mention is that the attempts made by some of the missionary organizations towards industrial and agricultural education failed in most cases. Today, as pressure mounts in long unemployment queues, youth restiveness, high cost of living and insecurity in the nation, there is growing need to embrace vocational education as a tool for women empowerment for real national development Goals and Objectives of Vocational Education and Training
The Federal Republic of Nigeria, (2004) highlighted what the goals of vocational education should be to include: Provision of trained manpower in the applied sciences, technology and business particularly at craft, advanced craft and technical levels. Provision of technical knowledge and vocational skills necessary for agricultural, commercial and economic development. Giving training and imparting skills to individuals who shall be self-reliant economically. It is believed that trainees on completion of vocational education course will have employable skills, set up their own business and employ others or pursue further education in advance technical programmes or other institutions of higher learning. Vocational education plays a vital role in improving the overall wellbeing of the people by empowering individuals through skill acquisition. UNESCO (2006) affirmed that since education is the key to any effective national development, vocational education is the master key that can alleviate poverty and improve the quality of life for all thereby achieving sustainable development through empowerment of women and youths alike. CHALLENGES OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION
The importance of vocational education in both personal and national development cannot be over-emphasized. Such type of education is paramount towards the grooming of the citizens that would not only be innovative and productive but having acquired general education could patriotically contribute towards the development of their respective societies. In contrast, in spite of the gain that could be sourced from vocational education, Nigeria is yet to attain the level of impressive satisfaction as far as formal vocational education is concerned. This situation could be attributed to the following factors: Inadequate personnel in vocational colleges: Vocational education in the formal education sector had not been yielding the expected dividends as a result of the paucity of teachers of the vocational courses recognized by the National Policy on Education. This has brought about a situation whereby the personnel readily available are made to take extra work loads which in effect is not beneficial for the development of vocational education. This practice had raped the official teacher-student ratio of 1:20 as provided by the Federal Republic of Nigerian in its National Policy on Education. Poor delivery and reception of the expected skills has been a resultant effect. Another problem that had been undermining the development of interest towards the study of vocational education courses by individuals is the issue of lack of industries or job opportunities where the skills thus acquired could be meaningfully utilized (Mohammed 2009). It is obvious that most of the industries in Nigeria are winding up. In view of this, studying a course that will make an individual wallow in unemployment is not in the best interest of the individual. For this reason, individuals do opt for other courses where they have brighter job opportunities. This in fact would bring about the reduction in number of people who would be enthusiastic towards furthering their education along the line of vocational education. In addition, the proximity of the secondary schools to any university that is offering vocational education courses could be a factor towards the development of the zeal for studying vocational education courses.
Lack of adequate materials: Vocational education is about the development of motor skills. This cannot be achieved where materials are not adequate. In the case of Nigeria, most of the secondary schools or technical and vocational colleges do not have the workshops, laboratories and the materials cum equipment that would facilitate the teaching and learning of vocational education courses (Mbakwem and Anyanwu, 2013). This had led to the teaching of theoretical aspects of the courses thus making the learner deficient in the actual use or practice of principles delivered to them. As a result, the products of formal vocational education schools have failed to meet with the demands of employers of labour as they lack cognate vocational training. Sector-specific corruption and the crisis of funding manifested in grossly inadequate budgetary allocations as well as generally collapsed standards in virtually all levels of Education manifested in symptoms of mass failure, cheating, fraudulent and criminal tendencies in schools. These and other numerous obstacles do exist but this work had confined its discussion within the scope of the above stated. WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
Empowerment is a call to action and it involves a process of fundamental change in quality of life of any material being. It is the ability to effect change and make meaningful choices. Empowerment is investing legally or formally with power, authorizing, licensing, enabling, permitting, giving people more control over their own lives. Sako (1999) defines empowerment as the process of strengthening the existing capacities and capabilities of disadvantaged groups in society so as to enable them perform better towards improving themselves, their families and the society as a whole. It involves the provision of enabling environment for their productive and intellectual abilities to be realized. Wiki defines empowerment as not giving people power but letting out the power in them. It opines that most women across the globe rely on the informal work sector for an income. If they are empowered to do more and be more, the possibility for economic growth becomes apparent. Ighodalo (1990) views women empowerment as a process of enabling women to develop the capacity to actualize their potentials. Ighodalo further adds that women should be looked at as individuals that possess some hidden potentials for greatness and so should be encouraged to develop such to the fullest. The process of empowerment must necessarily also include the expansion of women’s access to educational opportunities, facilities for skills acquisition and positions of authority. Empowering the woman is empowering all of humanity. This is because the woman is the pivot of the family. United Nations was apt to capture this in this year’s international day for violence against women titled “From Peace in the home to Peace in the World”, it is believed that empowered women can do more to contribute to peace in the world. Empowerment is a drive towards realization of the innate potentials found in an individual. Thus, the potentials found in the woman can be enhanced if empowered. Women empowerment involves issues like (a) How women perceive themselves and are perceived by intimate and distant others in society. (b) How women treat themselves and are treated by others.
(c) Ability to make key decisions on matters relating to themselves and their children. (d) The kind of opinion they have in other aspects of decision making in the family. It must be noted here that all these are virtually impossible without proper and adequate training especially at the higher level which includes vocational education. BENEFITS OF WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
Women empowerment could be likened to leveling the playing ground for women, and this would offer huge potentials to everyone. For example, UNICEF information sheet (2007) states that educating girls and women help develop self confidence, protection from sexual exploitation, improved health care, better child education and poverty reduction for generations to come. Women empowerment is a global topic. The United Nations included gender and women empowerment in its development goals as it is an important tool for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In Nigeria, a good number of women are now found in many prestigious occupations such as law, medicine, architecture, the armed forces and so on and they are really living up to expectations. At the same time, an equally large number, especially those living in the rural areas are engaged in menial jobs to earn a living. Most jobs performed by women, according to Egunjobi (2005) have no economic values .Explaining further, Egunjobi states that all the work and activities which do not require financial reward are the responsibilities of women. This would explain the global call for women empowerment. There are high prospects in women empowerment. First the potentials of women will increase, resulting in building a virile nation, producing better women, better home makers, better future leaders and a better society. The contributions of females in top management positions revealed that females are up to the task. Women in leadership positions, especially in developing countries, have the responsibility and the potential to influence their society through leadership, particularly when they are enabled. Enabled women are empowered to aspire, attain and perform well in leadership positions while still carrying out the home front roles. Women are enabled when they are educated, exposed and economically emancipated. Throughout the ages and in all countries, women in leadership positions have impacted positively on the society. The history of mankind is replete with such women. The last century saw the emergence of great women leaders in various spheres of human endeavours, notable among who are Mother Theresa of Calcutta, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia and Winnie Mandela, who relentlessly battled the apartheid regime in South Africa in spite of the fact that her husband was incarcerated at the time. Here in Nigeria such women include Queen Amina of Zaria, Idia of Benin, Moremi of Ile-Ife, late Professor (Mrs) Dora Akunyili, the former Director, National Agency for Food Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and former Honorable Minister of Information and Communication, her Re-branding initiative is still fresh in our minds, the coordinator of Nigerian economy and Minister of Finance, Dr (Mrs)Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Prof Mrs Grace Alele Williams the First Female Vice Chancellor in Nigeria, the Late Professor (Mrs) Jadesola Akande and even the keynote speaker of this conference, Prof. G. G. Agulanna, among others. Women from time immemorial have exhibited unparalleled ability in policy development and implementation. Education of which vocational education is an aspect remains a veritable weapon for women empowerment in all facets of life and a source of strength for national development. With vocational education, women will have greater self-fulfillment and would be able to contribute meaningfully to the social and economic development of their societies. Again for economic reasons women no longer stay at home. The present economic recession has turned things round. Both male and female now cooperatively maintain the home even though the man is still regarded as the head of the family especially in the Nigerian Culture. In such instance, women with vocational skills will be able to earn additional salaries and support the husband and the standard of their living will be high and they can easily survive hard times. This will make for reductions in social vices like prostitution, theft and other corrupt acts perpetrated against and by women. In a situation where there is need for empowerment, vocational skills acquisition programmes is a sure means for women learners to gain basic education and or a vocational skill. The National Open University Centre for lifelong learning vocational skills acquisition programmes are designed to enhance the skills and knowledge of students, women included, for immediate employment whether in the private or public sector or be self employed. As at June, 2013, enrolment figures stand at 1066, 381 of this figure are females. These run their programmes in study centres in the cities with the exception of Awa-Ijebu, Ogori and Gulak. Women of all ages deserve to be integrated into the mainstream of a national economy through training.(Olakulehin and Ojo 2006) CHALLENGES TO WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
The importance of vocational education in both personal and national development cannot be over-emphasized. Such type of education is paramount towards the grooming of the citizens that would not only be innovative and productive but having acquired general education could patriotically contribute towards the development of their respective societies. In contrast, in spite of the gain that could be sourced from vocational education, Nigeria is yet to attain the level of impressive satisfaction as far as formal vocational education is concerned. This situation could be attributed to Illiteracy, according to Olakulehin & Ojo (2006), remains at the centre of women empowerment problems in Nigeria and that there is a palpable deluge of problems besetting the Nigerian women, all of them arise from illiteracy. Also, socio-cultural restraints such as limited parental resources, early marriages, pregnancy, childbearing, sexual harassment etc. negatively impact on women empowerment. In many societies, the education of women especially at the tertiary level is considered unimportant since they believe girls do not normally pay back in full measure the money invested in them. Again, religious practices of keeping women in purdah and the Shariah system (mostly in the northern part of Nigeria) hinder women from participation in education especially at the higher levels. In addition special protective measures aimed at protecting women and enhancing their effective participation has turned round to work against them. For example International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions ban women from night work, underground work and stipulate maximum weight to be carried by women. It also provides for maternity protection and welfare facilities at the work place. Some employers have capitalized on this to discriminate against women and spend less on training them. Added to the foregoing some have suggested that women are their own worst enemies. Some women married to wealthy men sometimes have lukewarm attitudes to education. Some women are lazy, lack proper education and are not making positive efforts to improve themselves. All these pose formidable challenge to the empowerment of women. MEASURES TO BE ADOPTED TOWARD EFFECTIVE WOMEN EMPOWERMENT
The hub of development of any country lies on how productive and creative its population are, for a country like ours, where women constitutes a reasonable percentage, the government, parents and men in general have obligations to ensure that women are empowered to discharge their obligations to the society and to better their life. In the light of the issues discussed above, the following recommendations are proffered. Funding of vocational education should be taken seriously by the federal, State and Local governments. This they can achieve through increase in the budgetary allocation to educational sector which will reflect in the vocational education sub-sector. Vocational education should be inculcated into the school’s curriculum to promote human empowerment and development through vocational skill acquisition. It is a means of reducing unemployment since it is skilled oriented and employment motivated. All school programmes should be geared toward providing vocational skills. Government and other stake holders in education should embark on awareness programmes through workshops and seminars to educate girls, women, parents and general society on the benefits of vocational education for women. The private partnership and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) should be encouraged to participate in vocational education through funding or contributions in kind. This involvement should be seen by firms as a long term investment, and as an aspect of their corporate social responsibility to the nation. To empower women, federal government should provide enabling environment and all the necessary equipment and materials for the teaching and learning of vocational skills needed for economic enhancement in Nigeria. The women should shun joblessness and criminality through the cultivation of vocational spirit and acquisition of relevant skills that will launch them into greatness and economic independence. Conclusion
Vocational Education has been viewed in this paper as a panacea to the endemic problem of poverty, hunger, Prostitution and other corrupt tendencies, paving way for women empowerment. When women are trained, they explore opportunities in their immediate environment instead of chasing shadows and uncertainties in the urban centres. The development of Vocational Education will go a long way in creating employment, give women the opportunity to develop their enterprising skills, empowering them to be job creators and not job seekers and by providing them with the necessary skills and knowledge to raise their output; income and wealth thereby ameliorate the incidence of prostitution, kidnapping, and other social vices that are prevalent among women in South-East, Nigeria. Vocational Education would also contribute to improve the image and highlight the role of women in society.
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