2020 has been a challenging year for all of us, but especially for the most disadvantaged in our society. With a very strict lockdown imposed in Uganda, and the closure of all educational institutions, we had to address one very difficult question: How can we continue our courses when most of our students do not have access to smart devices or the internet? And, how can course material be delivered to them when no public transport, no private cars and bodas were allowed on the streets?
A great deal of dedication of the centre manager then, Denis Ssebugwawo, was key. He showed undivided commitment and dedication to enabling the students receive course materials in their various places of residence including Bunga, Kansanga, Ggaba, Kabalagala and other areas. This was done by cycling to and from these places so that the students could continue with accessing their reading materials.
Furthermore, Isabel Odida (the Director) introduced the use of conference calls to deliver facilitation to the students by the various facilitators. Phones were procured with the facilitator being given access to one. Conference calls were made to groups of up to five students each and students were taught. Online methods like use of zoom were not effective because 90% of the students did not have smart devices that could be used to conduct online facilitation. Therefore, a facilitator had to make up to 6 conference calls delivering the same course material to enable students to attend classes. A case in point was the facilitator for Business English who had to have up to 6 sessions delivering the same material every day. After the lifting of the lockdown on academic institutions, we resumed our normal facilitation program. However, it has been intense with extended hours sometimes, so that our students can have all that the courses have to offer most especially with the kitchen practical lessons and Applied ICT. We have managed to complete what was set out at the beginning and also conducted the evaluation exams. I am happy to announce that we have held our graduation ceremony on the 15th December, 2020.
The Fontes Football Club was also revamped with brand new equipment. This motivated the footballers in the team. This team has up to 40 members all of whom are youth who would have otherwise chosen life paths that are detrimental for their destinies. The coach does not only conduct football activities but also holds several capacity building sessions for the youth so that they make better life saving social and economic decisions.
There has been progress in the demand of the services that the commercial kitchen provides some of which include baking and oven use. Marketing of the kitchen services offered has been given priority during the community mobilization sessions that are currently going on.
Our Job placement program (JPP) is in full gear as we have been able to place up to four students from this cohort even before their graduation.
The external examiner for the business plan presentations was impressed with the business ideas of two of our students and immediately established contact with his overseas friends to showcase the products and ideas of these students. This has gone further to bring to life the goals and objectives of the youth centre some of which include to tap into that untapped potential of youth who have not had an opportunity to go through the formal education system. The other goal is to make youth more employable with better skill sets or enable others to start up their own businesses to improve on their income bases. These goals would not be achievable without the continues support Balder Foundation, the main project donor, has given us throughout the years.
There is already an intense mobilization exercise going on in the community where the centre is located and other surrounding areas to register students for our next cohort for January 2021. Already we have up to 41 registered students. This mobilization and registration will be ongoing until we open the youth centre doors next year.
Youth Centre Manager, Fontes Foundation Uganda