The Ugandan Covid 19 Lockdowns in June and July 2021, shut all schools and many commercial activities. Recent announcements allowed some easing, but the situation is still unclear.

Vplus Design and Decoration trainees

Lockdown and GDPU

Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) had to shut its doors. Training for the the VPlus programme (for youth with disabilities in Gulu and surrounding districts), stopped at the centre itself in July. Covid had challenged the programme from the start; originally due to begin in October 2020, it eventually opened in January 21. But, the ingenuity and flexibility of GDPU staff has kept training going somehow, when similar programmes have long since halted.

GDPU sign by a Design and Decoration trainee

The last Lockdown was the biggest challenge yet. The Delta variant significantly increased infection and trainees were at a tipping point; to stop now meant losing all they had learnt. Trainees were due to return from internship placements in external workshops. The last steps were to complete training at GDPU and start up businesses for six months of post training support. How could GDPU continue their upward curve? Their trainees had gained so much, but that all important self-esteem would be lost if the only option was ‘go home and sit’ as the local phrase has it. What to do?

Instant Apprenticeship

Musema Faruk, the VPlus programme coordinator, had a proposal: extending the short internships into a full apprenticeship programme. Payments to workshop owners would ensure full participation, with goals and expectations set, learning recorded and regular support visits from GDPU staff, either virtual or actual.

Electronics Repair Trainee at at his apprenticeship workshop

It was not easy to set up, but monthly reports show that his solution is working. Much praise should go to the GDPU team for getting it going under such circumstances. After placing 49 out of the original 53 students in apprenticeships, GDPU have now followed them up. 42 are still at their workshops, quite a success given the conditions; there are many challenges on the ground.

Not only that, 2 trainees have already set up on their own and are doing well, GDPU has given them aprons and overalls, they are very smart and customers appreciate that. GDPU are very proud of them and they will be good for other learners to see.

Hairdressing apprentices with a customer

Covid 19 and GDPU

We have just had the bad news that three senior GDPU staff have tested positive for Covid 19. So far they report that, apart from loss of sense of taste and smell, they are OK. But this is extremely worrying for them and of course for their families. Although the infection has been found in Gulu, trainees and staff had managed to avoid it in the past, but the Delta variant is making that impossible. The public health service barely exists and there is little in the private sector, even if anyone could afford it. Vaccines are few in Africa, the promised rollout of vaccines from the West to Africa has, of course, hardly begun. We can only send our best wishes and hopes for their safe and full recovery.

GDPU sign by a Design and Decoration trainee

Our best wishes too, to another senior member of the GDPU staff who also recently caught Covid. She was she says, very ill and feared for her life, but managed to stay out of hospital and is now recovered. We send her and her family all our very best wishes for a full recovery as well.

The Next Newsletter

There will be more on the challenges to Instant Apprenticeship Scheme in the next ETC of PWD newsletter.

Want to know more?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. Many Thanks.

This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’

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