The current job market in Uganda demands specific skills and expertise in applied fields. To ensure the employability and long-term success of our scholarship students, five of them are now being trained at an excellent vocational institute.
Youth unemployment is a prevalent problem in the 21st century in Uganda. A 2010 International Labor Organization (ILO) report reveals that the share of unemployed youth among the total of unemployed persons is as high as 83% and therefore poses serious political, economic, social challenges to the country and its leadership. The President of Uganda called upon all youth to opt for skill-oriented courses to enable them to compete favorably in the current job market. Such practical courses include plumbing, hotel management or medical laboratory assistant.
Aware of the many challenges young people are facing regarding both educational and employment opportunities, Fontes Foundation is sponsoring 17 students from under-privileged families through student-donor relationships. The majority of the students have yet to complete lower high school, but this spring several of them were confronted with the difficult choice of what path to continue their higher education on. In line with a general trend highlighting the importance of practical skills in Uganda, Fontes Foundation advocated applications for institutions of practical skills. In a capacity building the advantages of joining such an institutions were discussed with the students in an attempt to overcome the perception that only a university degree will ensure a successful career and gainful employment. Letting the students make up their own minds, five decided to join an institution for practical skills, the Young Men Christian Association (YMCA) Comprehensive Institute in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. It was started in 1986 to enable disadvantaged youth to gain skills through vocational training. The courses offered include computer science, hair dressing and salon management, hotel management, business and project management, electrical installation, industrial art and design.
Unlike other institutions and universities in the formal education sector that are theoretical and whose degrees are based on outdated curricula, YMCA Comprehensive Institute trains students to be self-employed by equipping them with life and entrepreneurship skills. The students are encouraged to be creative and innovative and are supported in developing a high self-esteem. YMCA Comprehensive Institute focuses on the promotion of the students’ moral, physical, spiritual and mental development through co-curricular activities such as sports and debating among students. Such activities improve the students’ confidence in speech and appearance.
The other students who joined YMCA Comprehensive Institute in 2014 include Justus, Cleophas, Gloria and Justine. Their training brought the students to Kampala for the very first time – a very exciting moment for all of them. Their first experiences at YMCA Comprehensive Institute have led to important realizations for these students. A university degree is not a guarantee for a secure future. It is far more important to have a skill set, which is in demand and through which one can provide a useful service and make a sustainable living. With the girls becoming computer wizards and the boys future electricians, they have all chosen courses which match their interests and also provide them with valuable expert knowledge and training.
After their first semester, the students were very excited to go back home and share their first experiences. With high hopes for the future, all of the students are certain that they will become job creators rather than job seekers and offer important opportunities to the future generations.