In december 2013 I told you about an initiative for adolescent girls in Ruhanga SW Uganda . I am revisiting this issue because of its importance and the contents of a report by the U.S. Agency for International Development on the condition of Uganda’s Youth.
According to this report 78% of Ugandans are under the age of 30 and that at least 8 million of those aged between 15-30 years old are unemployed. This situation is compounded by challenges in Uganda’s education system some of which are articulated in this article by The Guardian.
As a consequence of such challenges the quality of education provided is not fit for purpose and as pointed out by this report the Think Tank ECDPM it creates a situation where there is a mismatch between the skills needed by the private sector and those of the jobseekers across Africa and they call for an overhaul of the education system
On my recent trip to Uganda, this very point came up in a conversation with a Marketing Executive who started out as a journalist. She told me that whilst at University, they crammed and became proficient at passing exams. They had books designed for student journalists in the west and for the most part had no bearing on events in Uganda, moreover the students had no accesses to some of the technologies recommend in those books to aid them in their craft. When she left, she had fantastic grades but had no practical knowledge of investigating nor writing a newspaper article. She could not string together a headline if her life depended on it and had to learn on the job often from people without degrees.
I asked her about internships and she told me that, although these exist in some sectors often they are not well planned and therefore the intern doesn’t benefit from the experience. What I took away from this conversation is that there is an awful lot of work to do to change this situation if Uganda is serious about economic growth and the starting point should be addressing causes of poverty in rural areas and how it impacts girls in particular.
But what became apparent to me during my stay, is that the government is preoccupied with issues such as homosexuality and mini skirts and gives so much parliament time to these issues and not enough on issues such as rural poverty nor the state of the education system in the country.
I am not implying here that the government should provide jobs rather that it should prioritise the creation of an environment in which jobs can be created.
Adolescent girls in Ruhanga are part of that 78% static and amongst the 8 million without work. and the question that continues to face us is “what can we do to equip them for the world of work”.
Our first step has been to formalise the bike repair initiative, and work is underway to construct a bike repair workshop to enable them to earn more money from their newly acquired skills and work.
One of the assumptions that I come across time and time again is that if you don’t have money you can’t contribute to solutions that address poverty. I disagree with this because although money is important in ending poverty, sharing what you know is an important equation in the fight against poverty and this exactly what some of the volunteers like Ian Emm that come out to Ruhanga do. Ian has a keen interest in bike repairs and has spent a considerable amount of time in Ruhanga sharing those skills.
One of the benefits of being part of this initiative that girls like Marion and Agnes have reported is having their own money to buy sanitary towels. So we challenged a local seamstress to equip these girls with skills to make their own sanitary towels.
But we can’t scale this without so my call to action is please consider making a donation by clicking on the donate button below