Training and learning in the informal sector in the Gambia
Over the last 30 years or so, there has been growing international interest in the "informal sector" of the economy in developing countries, and there is now the recognition that to operate successfully as artisans in the informal sector, "apprentices" require a range of knowledge and skills. The general aim of the present, qualitative study, was to investigate how apprentices in informal sector enterprises in two trades (the Motor Vehicle trade and the Tie-dye trade) in The Gambia learn at the workplace and how such learning was facilitated. Twenty enterprises were selected for the study, ten in each trade. A variety of data collection methods were employed, namely, (a) individual, semistructured interviews of the entrepreneurs (who owned these enterprises), and of the apprentices, (b) observations of the tradespersons and apprentices at the workplace, (c) accounts of "critical events", and (d) documentary studies. The study has shown that (a) the tradespersons did not demonstrate to the apprentices the procedures for the tasks that they were undertaking, (b) the apprentices were not allowed to practise on the tasks that the tradespersons were contracted to und(rtake; (c) the apprentices practised their skills privately in their leisure time. (d) the tradespersons did not explain to the apprentices the theories underpinning the technical procedures; and for the apprentices, the term "theory" referred to the technical procedures, as such, rather than to the scientific and technological concepts and principles underpinning the procedures, (e) although the apprentices were often outwardly passive they did observe closely the tradespersons at work and made associative links with their own previous knowledge and experience. What has also emerged from the study is that apprentices' learning at the workplace in the informal sector is: (a) a multi-dimensional process, largely self-motivated and conditioned by the rigid hierarchical structure of the workplace. (b) (i) productivity-driven, (ii) atheoretical, (iii) unplanned, (iv) unstructured, (v) facilitated through role modelling. The study compared the concepts of learning which emerged from the study with the traditional concepts of learning and teaching in Vocational Training Institutions. This study has also shown that the tradespersons failed to assess formally competent performance at the workplace. There was no end-of-apprenticeship assessment for the apprentices in the Tie-dye trade; and in the Motor Vehicle trade, the assessment was adhoc. Importantly too, from the entrepreneurs' perspective, the workplace was about production and not about apprentice learning. The tradespersons were expected to concentrate on their jobs and not on training, in sharp contrast to the apprentices' expectation that the tradespersons should concentrate on skills training.