Vocational Skills Training for self-reliance and socio-economic integration

Vocational skills training is one of the pathways for Refugees and Host Community Youth to attain Post-Secondary School Education and gainful employment. For out of school youth who may not have made it to secondary school this is the most promising solution to employment and sustainable livelihoods as well as socio-economic integration.

Windle International Uganda (WIU) in partnership with Uganda Manufacture’s Association & Young Women’s Christian Association in 2019 implemented the Market Oriented Skill Development for Refugees and Host Community in Kiryandongo and Adjumani Project. The project was made possible with funding from the European Union Trust Fund-Skills Development Fund (SDF) through ENABEL.

The project was conducted through vocational skills training for Refugees and Host Community youth in the target area. A total of 360 youth from the four settlements (Kiryandongo and Adjumani (Ayilo I, Agojo, Maaji II) were trained, assessed, and certified by the Directorate of Industrial Training, Ministry of Education and Sports. These were then furnished with business start-up kits to start their enterprises and hopefully pass on the same skills to other youth within their communities. The project aimed to enhance the self-reliance and socio-economic integration of the target communities while contributing to the development of Uganda.

We visited some of the beneficiaries and this is what they had to say;

Meet Nancy
Nancy at her workstation in Kiryandongo.

Nancy is a South-Sudanese and like most of her mates in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, could not move on to the university due to lack of finances. After being home for over a year, she was desperate for employment which was not easy to find given her lack of technical training.

So when a friend mentioned to her about the Market Oriented Skills Development for Refugees and Host Community project, she did not hesitate to apply. Her life has never been the same since.

The only female trainee in the Welding and Metal Fabrication class, Nancy knew that failing was not an option and as such ensured to top her class. Today she boasts of a daily income that takes care of her family.

My family is now self-sustaining and the delayed food distribution does not affect our daily feeding routine like other families in our community. I can buy food, cooking oil, and other household items and other basic needs. I am also saving to start my workshop in the future so that I can train and employ youth in my community in metal fabrication.” Nancy

Meet Joseph
Joseph at his workstation in Agojo Central, Adjumani.

For Joseph, the bakery has always been close to his heart. “One day, I decided to drop out of school for one term while in primary six to join some friends at one of the local bakeries. I was only a young boy in his early teens but eager to do business. I remember barely working for two weeks because the working conditions were really tough so I decided to quit. I later returned to school until I completed my O’ level but because my grades were poor, I could not afford to continue with school.”

He heard of the project’s call for applications from a friend and quickly applied. He was successful and very happy to be training in a field he is passionate about. “I loved the training especially the time of tasting the products of our work, it felt good to appreciate my efforts. I got exposed to more skills during my internship at Zawadi Hotel in Adjumani town. I learned how to bake different types of bread, how to serve guests, I even had an opportunity to learn how to cook with various recipes as a bonus.”

Thanks to the start-up kits, Joseph and five other colleagues from the same training now run a bakery from which they make between Ugx 55,000-65,000. They also cater to bigger meetings within the settlement which earns them even more. For Joseph he is now able to take care of his sick mother, he has even started up a small scale business for her to run from home. “I wake up very early every day to bake some madazis and doughnuts for her to sell before I report for my duty and she is now a happier woman,” Joseph remarked.

Meet Adieu
Adieu at her workshop in Ayilo 1 main market.

At just 24 years of age, Adieu is married and a mother to one child. Having fled the war in South Sudan in 2014, Adieu’s education was interrupted at just Senior two. Upon reaching Uganda, her hopes to return to school were squashed by her parents’ inability to afford any school fees as the war left them with nothing. As a girl child in her community, she was encouraged to get married. Life, she admits did not get any easier as she solely depended on her husband who has no fulltime job.

When news of the training landed on her ears, Adieu applied for the tailoring course which she says had been a secret dream of hers. “I always admired to learn to tailor but had no idea how I would achieve this let alone any skill in the field,” said Adieu

Like all her other counterparts, Adieu was given a sewing machine upon completion of her training as well as workshop space secured in Ayilo 1 main market. Her life has since changed for the better. With a monthly saving of at least, Ugx 20,000 Adieu can support her family and no longer gets anxious when her baby falls sick because she can pay some medical bills. Adieu is hopeful that her business will grow so that she can train other youth like her in the community. She also plans to go back to school because in her own words, “it’s never too late to learn.”

Meet Angeth
Angeth in her shop in Ayilo 1 Refugee Settlement.

The story is not any different for Angeth whose experience has inspired her to want to start up her vocational institute so that she can train other girls like her. In 2014 Angeth fled war-torn South Sudan for Uganda. Upon arrival, Angeth was very keen on pursuing and completing her education which unfortunately did not happen as she only managed to make it to O’level. A very resilient young woman-Angeth did not give up, she embarked on looking for work within the settlement so that she could earn something for her school fees still in vain.

When her brother mentioned a call for applications for vocational training, she knew this was yet another opportunity to try.” I immediately applied for the opportunity in the trade of bakery. I specifically applied for bakery because it is a very marketable trade here in my community.” Angeth

Angeth has since not looked back. With the availed start-up kits, she together with seven other trainees opened up a shop where they bake different snacks for sell including cakes, doughnuts, etc. They each can earn a gross amount of fifty thousand shillings daily and plan to expand as they grow.

“Through this training and business, I can now support myself with most of the basic needs I require, I now possess a skill that many do not have and eagerly yearn for, respected in the community and my goal is to go back to school when I’ve made more money. I also plan on starting up a vocational training school to support mainly those underprivileged girls who have dropped out of school due to various circumstances.” Angeth

Her simple advice to the youth out there is that they should embrace education. To the girls, they should take up the challenge and become education warriors. They should take a keen interest in academics and not listen to those trying to distract them.

According to UNHCR, right now only 3% of refugees have access to higher education. Education pathways like Technical and Vocational Training remain on top of the list for viable solutions to access to higher Education.

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