Life skills can prepare our children to navigate a difficult job market
By the Values and Lifeskills Thematic group, RELI Kenya
According to the 2020 Kenya census report, 38.9 per cent of young Kenyans are jobless. These findings confirm data from a 2020 World Bank report that positions the 7.3 youth unemployment rate in Kenya as the highest in East Africa. In Tanzania the youth unemployment is 3.6, in Uganda it is 2.9 and in Rwanda it is 1.7. Ultimately, the employment market is unable to absorb Kenya’s burgeoning youth population.
However, the career pathway of one young Kenyan, Brian Sechelo can teach us about the power of an education that priorities life skills – from problem solving to resilience.
Sechelo was born in the early 90s, in the lush greenery and fertile lands of Shinyalu, Kakamega county, as the firstborn in a family of five: Three boys and two girls. His mother worked as a primary school teacher while his father was an educator at a local high school. The two placed great emphasis on education ensuring that from the onset, Brian and his siblings knew that “books” were the only way that they would succeed in life. So when he joined Shavirotsi primary school in the early 2000s, he proudly repeated to anyone who cared to listen that he wanted to be an engineer. “My eight-year primary education journey was not easy,” he recalls. “At times we did not have money at home, I had to burn charcoal and sell vegetables just to get an extra coin to help my parents.” Luckily, he did well in his KCPE exams and joined Musingu High School. This is where he developed a great passion for computers, All through his four year stay at the school he was certain that all he wanted to be was a computer expert.
After excelling in his KCSE exams, he joined Karatina University to pursue a degree in Computer Science and was profoundly convinced that this was his breakthrough. “I knew that after a few years; I would have gotten a big job in one of the big multinationals and make a six-figure salary,” Brian said. To his complete shock, this was not to be.
Immediately after his university graduation in 2015, Brian was frustrated, jobless and penniless. The once optimistic computer scientist had now joined the ranks of millions of unemployed youth in Kenya. He tirelessly shared his CV and certificates with organisations he knew of only not to receive a response. “I did not have any “connections” or “god fathers” so I could not get any internship let alone a job,”
After 3 years of “tarmacking”, surviving on funds he had generated from selling computer software to friends, Brian decided to try his hand in business: a small kiosk at Kabete Shopping Centre. Using the entrepreneurial skills he had learnt while growing up, he grew his business. In Brians own words, “the life skills I learned from my childhood have come in handy. The experiences taught me how to be resilient, a problem solver, critical thinker and built my capacity in decision making.” He added that he wishes life skills were taught in school with equal attention and detail just like any other subject. To him such lessons would support learners in preparing for the future of work and not necessarily employment.
Today Brian has the biggest retail shop in Kabete Shopping Centre and has employed three young men to assist him. He is currently educating all his siblings and plans on expanding the business to other towns.
Many young Kenyans can relate to Brian’s situation. Unfortunately, not all of them are well equipped with the life skills to chart an alternative path to gain an income. Most end up becoming discouraged, and often depressed. To prevent more Kenyan youth from experiencing unemployment, policy makers and curriculum developers should ensure that life skills are a key part of teaching, under the new Competency Based Curriculum. Teachers should be trained to nurture these skills early enough in children’s education journeys, in order to reduce the likelihood of more broken dreams, wasted talent and a high youth unemployment rate.