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Improving access to quality vocational education and training of youth from Nairobi region with particular emphasis on girls (Kenya)

Unemployment among the young (15-30 years of age), who constitute approximately 30% of the country’s population, is an enormous problem in Kenya. In the quest for better life, many of them leave their hometowns or villages to migrate to Nairobi where they become inhabitants of the surrounding slums. Most of them have no professional skills, making it difficult to find employment, and  the difficult living conditions are not conducive to appropriate social development of people on the verge of adulthood. This, in turn, breeds further problems: alcoholism, substance abuse, crime, and disease. Their victims frequently are young women.

To provide at least a partial solution to this situation, for more than thirty years, the Salesians of Don Bosco East Africa have been operating the Don Bosco Boy’s Town Technical School in Nairobi. The school enables young people of 18-22 originating from underprivileged social groups to acquire a profession. Over the many years of its activity, the school has won a good reputation and the trust of the local community. It is perceived as a youth-friendly place, not only taking care of their education, but also providing upbringing and imparting values. Known as an institution open to accepting even the poorest youths, the school enjoys the recognition of local authorities and entrepreneurs and its graduates are valued not only as highly qualified employees with practical skills, but also individuals with positive personal characteristics (honesty, industriousness, and good manners).

Initially, the school provided boy-oriented education, however, but since 1994 it has also been open to girls. In 2016, 175 boys and 35 girls attended classes in such subjects as IT, tailoring, carpentry/joinery, car mechanics, electrical engineering, and course to train secretaries. Over recent years, the school’s management has recorded increasing interest among young women, yet insufficient infrastructure prevented the institution from accepting a higher number of students.

Improving access to quality vocational education and training of youth from Nairobi region with particular emphasis on girls (Kenya)

The project was carried out from 1 April to 31 December 2016 by the Salesian Missionary Voluntary Service ‘Youth for the World’ in cooperation with the Don Bosco Planning and Development Office. The aim was to achieve the ‘Entrepreneurship and Private Sector’ priority measure. Its framework assumed:

  • erecting and fitting a building suitable to house 100 girls, with a hall which can also be used as a canteen, a changing room with bathrooms, storeroom, security guard room, three classrooms, and an occupational advisor’s office;
  • facilitating the use of the school’s educational offer for 250 female students annually (60 girls in year-long courses and approximately 50 in three-month courses);
  • conducting a 24-hour training workshop in occupational consulting for 190 young people;
  • raising the competence of 25 teachers, in particular by conducting a 40-hour training workshop for teachers in working specifically with girls;
  • advertising the school’s activities and recruitment for girls in five high schools and four parishes;
  • distributing 10,000 flyers with information on recruitment for vocational courses among female high school students;
  • ensuring the support of an occupational advisor for 500 students annually.

Improving access to quality vocational education and training of youth from Nairobi region with particular emphasis on girls (Kenya)

The project assumed creating a friendly and comfortable space for girls, providing not only a place to study, but also to have a meal and rest after classes. With that in view, the school’s infrastructure has been expanded with a two-storey-building, consisting of (among others) three classrooms, a hall with a canteen, a changing room with bathrooms, and an occupational support office. The building has also been fitted with all the necessary furniture and equipment. As a work-placement opportunity, students from the school’s construction and electrical department were engaged in the construction work, and the welding department produced all the windows and banisters, giving students an opportunity to put to practical use and further develop the skills they acquired in the course of their education. As a result of the school extension, 250 girls will be able to take advantage of its educational offer annually.

30 teachers were also trained in methods of teaching young people, as well as in the specificity of working with children, many of whom are frequently coping with traumas. The 40-hour course included elements of psychology such as self-awareness and coping with stress, and discussions also covered interactive methods of working with youngsters, the educator’s attitude towards the problem of addiction, and challenges faced by adolescents. The training also provided a platform for exchange of experience and good practice used in the everyday work of teachers at Don Bosco Boys’ Town.

The project also included a 24-hour course in entrepreneurship and career consultancy for the school’s 190 students. It was conducted by local trainers possessing the best knowledge related to the labour market requirements and challenges encountered by young people in their search for employment. The topics included practical issues, such as writing a CV and cover letter, preparing for job interviews, managing personal finances, creating a business plan, and launching one’s own business.

A promotional campaign addressed to children from nearby high schools was also conducted, informing them about opportunities of acquiring a profession through this institution.

In further perspective, an occupational advisory office will be launched. It will cooperate with local businesses to organise work-placements for students and ensure job opportunities after graduation.