Skills development focus should be on the marginalized of rural India : Al Yusuph, UNESCO

Gurgaon : India’s 270 million poor, 80% live in rural areas. How do you equip them with skills and help them out of poverty? These were some of the questions asked at a panel discussion on skills development.

Figures show that more people are emerging from indigence, and that extreme poverty is declining. But skilling the many millions of rural poor, and providing them with jobs, remains a formidable challenge.

Of particular pertinence was the presentation given by Al Amin Al Yusuph, advisor for communication and information at UNESCO. Yusuph has been involved with the skills development program in India since he arrived here nine months ago. “At home, I’m regarded as a Masai elder, not because of my age but because of the work I’ve done with the Masai people, in skills development,” said Al Yusuph, by way of introduction. The genial Tanzanian has had a hand in several projects in his country. But he was at pains to point out that such a program would not work unless there is community participation – and clear lines of communication.

“One of the challenges was in setting up community radio. Since there was no electricity, we trained the villagers to convert jatropha into biofuel,” shared Al Yusuph. “Then we had more electricity, which led to increased water supply. And the villagers were able to supply the excess power to neighbouring villages. And through radio, people could talk about, say, land issues. All this change came about due to skills development and communication, and social enterprise.”

Al Yusuph stressed that focus should be on the marginalized of rural India. And that means bringing the flow of migration to cities down to a trickle. “We should be focusing on entrepreneurship and vocational training. The quality of employment is very low, with almost 80 percent of workers not having job security, not enjoying social benefits.

“So we have to invest in skills development.” If there was any takeaway, it was that there’s no point in teaching skills if they don’t lead to employment. India needs to skill her unskilled, or she’ll be left behind.

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