On World Youth Skills Day, Gambian training institute shows innovative approach to post-pandemic learning
World Youth Skills Day 2020 on 15 July takes place against a backdrop few could have imagined, with vocational education and training (TVET) institutions across the globe closing their doors due to COVID-19 lockdown measures. Nearly 70% of the world’s learners have been affected by school closures at all levels of education, according to UNESCO.
An international survey of TVET institutions showed that distance training had become the most common way of imparting skills. This was the challenge met by The Gambia Technical Training Institute (GTTI).
GTTI has found plenty of innovative ways to keep the staff and students of its Vocational Training Centre engaged, motivated, and safe, from promoting a new COVID-secure handwashing device to boosting its distance and online learning capacity.
As a first step, GTTI improved a handwashing device that it had initially developed in 2014 during the Ebola outbreak to adjust to new COVID-19 measures.
The water tank in the handwashing station was reduced to 100 litres to make it suitable for smaller institutions, and it was further modified for indoor and outdoor use. The distinctive blue stations feature a hands-free pedal mechanism, an improved plumbing layout, pedal-operated waste bin and hand sanitizers, as well as tissue box holders. All these features render these new stations more convenient and eliminate the high risk of disease transmission.
‘When we first initiated the handwashing station in 2014, it was met with skepticism,’ GTTI Director-General Edward Mansal said. ‘Now that we have improved the mechanism, sensitization has been important because the handwashing station is here to stay.’
After working with the Gambia Radio and Television Service (GRTS), news of the improved handwashing facility spread fast. Many institutions across the country reached out, and GTTI has now provided handwashing stations to 45 facilities, including ministries, embassies and municipalities.
With the Government’s vision to transform GTTI into a science and technology university, GTTI formed partnerships with the DeMontfort University Leicester in the United Kingdom and the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana to provide mentorship for its engineering programmes. Classes are now offered online via Google classroom, with an initial 10-week digital course serving as a bridging course to Bachelor of Science engineering programmes.
Unexpectedly, the pandemic has allowed GTTI to forge new collaborations and to extend its portfolio of services. Following the outbreak and GTTI’s transition to digital, the institution finally received official accreditation for its distance learning courses.
Mr. Mansal plans to keep online courses available well beyond COVID-19. He is convinced that through providing these extended services, they will be able to attract and serve more students.
With these successes under its belt, GTTI is looking forward. Mr. Mansal has appealed to the Government to increase its support and strengthen internet access for students to use at home.
So far, GTTI has offered students the possibility of accessing the internet via the institute’s internet connection on campus while observing social distancing measures. However, long commutes and overcrowded public transport sometimes make this a sub-optimal option. Nonetheless, GTTI’s innovative mindset during COVID-19 has gotten the ball rolling on the transformation to digital and alternative learning − with further improvements on the horizon.
About GTTI and ITC’s Youth and Trade Programme
The Gambia Technical Training Institute was established in 1980 to provide training opportunities for the middle and sub-professional levels of the technical and vocational human resource requirements of the country. Over the decades, the institute has expanded its programmes from the original craft to Full Technological Certificate (FTC) and Higher National Diplomas in Engineering, Construction and Computer Science. Higher Teacher Training and Bachelor Degree programmes are also offered. GTTI strives for collaborative initiatives with local and international partners to realize its objectives in training highly technical staff.
GTTI is a solid partner of ITC projects implemented in The Gambia. In December 2019, GTTI improved its services by undertaking the newly developed benchmarking assessment for TVETs, developed by the Youth and Trade programme. This benchmarking exercise allowed GTTI staff and management to see where they stand in terms of governance, services, monitoring and evaluation, among other areas. The initiative is part of ITC’s ongoing efforts to adapt its methodologies to a new circle of institutions that support youth economic empowerment, with TVETs playing a special role in this objective.