Three busy months have gone by very quickly and the second cohort of the Vplus programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu, Northern Uganda, have just completed the first part of their six month vocational training. They are now out for industrial placement; an apprenticeship process that builds on the first cohort ‘instant apprenticeships’. Instant apprenticeships were a quick solution to the Uganda wide Covid lockdowns that closed Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU), but they have proved to be a great success and are now integral to the programme.
Disability, and behaviour towards people with disability, is a complex subject in any society. One of the fundamental aims of GDPU and subsequently, the Vplus programme is to “change the mindset of the community” as Musema Faruk, the Vplus programme manager puts it.
Perhaps this change is best shown by a story he told us about the recent School Open Day, which marked the end of the first part of Cohort 2 training. GDPU opens up to parents, elders and VIPs from the District. Trainees show off their vocational skills, take part in sports, cultural activities and dance the traditional dances (Many trainees are from communities that do not allow them to participate in cultural life).
The programme gives them training so that they can participate with confidence. One father’s motorbike broke down on the way to the Open Day, the father pushed it into the centre expecting to phone for a mechanic. His Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance trainee son took the bike, gave it both a full service and a full repair. Musema reported that the parent was astonished and really proud, he said: “I didn’t know that he could learn so much in three months, I never believed that he could do such things”.
Equal pride was shown as parents queued for trainees to mend their phones or plait their hair, while stalls sold trainee design and decoration products and more. But apparently, the biggest source of enjoyment came from watching trainees dance two traditional Acholi Dances: the Ajero and the Bwola. Few members of the community expected young people with disabilities to be able to dance at all, let alone dance so well – they have been practising very hard. As Musema Faruk said in his recent monthly report:
“All youth were encouraged to participate regardless of their disabilities, deaf learners for example were concentrating on the traditional dances. Many people wondered how the deaf could dance so perfectly to the tune of the drum, it was a mindset shift to many among their colleagues at school and in the community.”
“Nelson and Sunday are students with visual impairment, they were so perfect in the drumming that impressed many during practice and the School Open Day. Nelson specialized in drumming and Sunday concentrated in playing local guitar. Everyone was so impressed with what the two can do to beat the odds around visual impairment; many had thought blind people are not good in playing instruments.” Musema Faruk: VPlus programme manager.
When the trainees return from internships next week, they will spend time discussing what they have learnt. Instructors will organise lessons to fill the gaps identified in trainee knowledge. Business plans are put together ,and applications are made to the ‘Revolving Loan’ scheme. This innovative scheme (more on the Revolving Loan in the next blog) helps finance the future businesses that trainees are planning to begin
As their training at the centre ends, trainees enter six months Post Training Support, when instructors and managers from GDPU go out into the field to work with workshop owners or trainees in their new businesses. Everything is aimed at making these determined young people fully self sufficient and active members of their community.
Things are pushing on well.
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