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Transformative vocational education in Benin

Transformative vocational education in Benin

CFPP-IRETI N’LA is an educational institute in Benin facilitating the integration of young individuals into professional life. This vocational school is a beacon of practical learning, offering students theoretical and hands-on courses, valuable internships, and government-approved courses and diplomas. Notably, the institute’s focus on solar energy distinguishes it as an innovative institution. Its dedicated management and team collaborated with PUM, first to formulate a strategic plan and then to procure materials and organise a teachers’ training for the solar energy course. The ultimate goal is to shape a brighter future for both students and the broader population of Benin.


The ‘Centre de Formation Professionnelle Parascolaire IRETI N’LA’ (CFPP-IRETI N’LA) is a vocational training institution established in 2014 by Mr. Roméo Gobou, designed to help young people transition into working life. It operates as a vocational school in Benin, consisting of three branches across the country: Parakou, where it originated, Ouaké, and Bassila. The school’s curriculum emphasises practical classes, utilising real-world materials, and includes work placements for students lasting from three to seven months. The courses, approved by the Ministry of Secondary, Technical and Vocational Education of Benin, span one or two years, leading to recognised diplomas. The institution’s target group encompasses a diverse array of students, including those seeking an alternative to traditional education or facing difficulties in resuming studies. CFPP-IRETI N’LA, with its young and dedicated management and enthusiastic team, strives to provide accessible vocational education to young people from rural areas. Its most prominent programme revolves around solar energy, particularly off-grid systems of photovoltaic panels and solar irrigation. This innovative course sets the institution apart from similar schools in Parakou.

Transformative vocational education in Benin

Empowering youth through practical vocational education 

The current number of students for the ‘Installation and Maintenance of Photovoltaic Panels’ course is 32, and this number is growing every year. From the point of view of teaching electricity and installing solar panels, CFPP-IRETI N’LA is the first in Parakou to offer theoretical classes and practical on-the-job training in the classroom. The school’s income derives solely from tuition fees, which makes it difficult to expand in terms of a new building and teaching materials. The institution approached PUM to collaborate in different areas: on a managerial level, for a grant and for a train-the-trainers project.

PUM expert Marina Versluis worked with the team, first online and then on location: “I analysed policy documents, held many brainstorming sessions with the client and the team, made a SWOT analysis with them and finally wrote a strategic plan together. The strategic plan contains actions that can generate more income to realise a new educational building and actions to improve the visibility of the school among the large target group for vocational training.”

Practical training equipment 

Marina noticed that the practical training for the ‘Installation and Maintenance of Photovoltaic Panels’ course was lacking enough modern equipment of sufficient quality. Consequently, the students had to rely on internships to put their skills in practice and a train-the-trainers workshop by PUM experts for the teachers would not be possible. Together with two PUM experts in Energy, Etienne Vollebregt and Martijn Schootstra, the school successfully secured a grant from PUM’s Hans Blankert Fund. During numerous contacts via Teams and WhatsApp with the director of the school Roméo Gobou, the experts agreed on which materials to purchase. With the new equipment and after training the teachers, students will be able to engage in comprehensive practical exercises before doing fieldwork. Furthermore, this will not only assure parents’ confidence in the institute’s dedication and commitment, but will also act as an enrolment incentive.

Roméo Gobou

“As a result of the improved solar panel course, we are confident that more students will register, providing us with more income to invest in our own building in the future. Last but not least, a larger number of educated solar specialists will have an impact on the entire population of Benin, in social, economic, and ecological fields.”

Training the teachers

Once the grant was awarded and the materials delivered, Etienne and Martijn visited the education centre in May 2023. They first took the time to install the equipment after which they trained the teachers in solar energy, mainly for off-grid applications. The training consisted of a theoretical part and practical demonstration sessions. Etienne: “These hands-on solar panel lessons enhanced the technical knowledge of the teachers. The group was very diverse and sometimes we needed to explain the basics, before getting into more detail. The teachers were keen to learn, asking a lot of questions, and almost all participated from start to finish. Since we only had a week, the time lacked to do a lot of practical exercises, but in general the training was a success. The overall credibility and competitiveness of the ‘Installation and Maintenance of Photovoltaic Panels’ course have clearly improved.”

This was the first time that PUM experts conducted this training in French. With the basic resources now in place, they are equipped to replicate this course in various other French-speaking regions and countries across Africa.