Yesterday I visited our first Vocational Training Institute, one of eight we will be working with in the Gulu district. One highlight was Assembly, under a huge tree in the grounds. The age range at this college was from about 14 – 20 (although ‘youth’ technically covers 14-30). Most of the students were ‘not at school’, the Principals term for those who had never been to school, been thrown out or had simply walked out.
These ‘youth’ had been directly affected by the war that ended in 2008. Some were ‘abductees’ (ie children taken and forced to become child soldiers or sexual partners of LRA soldiers), some were ‘Double Orphans’, many were ‘child mothers’ and the school had a special hut where their children are looked after during the day. Many were traumatised (‘Guidance and Counselling’ is a central part of these colleges). All were suffering from the social breakdown that accompanied the forced movement of Northern Ugandans into camps and off their land.
The Principal, a charismatic and forward thinking man (probably still a youth himself), asked the students to talk about what they will need to succeed. The students determination, their talk of the focus and self-discipline they would need to find any work (unemployment among the youth runs at about 70%) was extremely impressive.
The second highlight was visiting other students out on ‘Industrial Training’, work placements around the town. At one hotel, the manageress told us that she was so pleased with the training the students had received, their ability, hard work and flexibility, that she would employ them as soon as their six week placement had finished; a real success for everyone.