How are things pushing on at GDPU? The Vplus programme, a New Year 2021 update Part Two: How did we get here?

How do you know when something has worked and what do you do with the ‘something’ subsequently?

The essence of the ETC of PWD approach has always been that the people we we work with already know what they need to make their lives and the life of their community strong and sustainable. Our role is to support the skills training to fill the needs they identify. We have seen far too much generic training, imposed by others, that misses its targets, so we work with people with a track record in getting it right, who are from the very community that needs the support. These people are of course: Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU).

GDPU Offices 2020

How does this work in practice?

Here are some examples of how we all worked on the new courses for trainees on the Vplus training programme for youth with disabilities, opening at GDPU on the 20th January.

Most of the new programme was worked out during the ETC of PWD trustees visit in February 2020:

  • The courses should be market driven, the training should be as flexible as possible.
  • The numbers should low to allow as one to one contact.
  • Psycho social support and sport/ physical literacy should be heavily involved at all stages.
  • Literacy, numeracy and financial training must be more than an add on.
  • We also spent hours on the difficult issue of Post Training Support, its where many vocational training courses collapse.
Socially distanced induction training for new GDPU teachers

Market Relevance

Next week the new teaching staff will carry out Market Relevant Assessment for each of their training areas, so that each course can be structured towards each student earning their own living.

Research has already told us that, for example, there won’t be a metalwork course. Under the old VSO/YDP programme metalwork was very popular, really well run by an inspirational teacher who worked with students afterwards to set up their own welding shop. But it is so expensive to establish yourself as a metalworker and, sadly, Gulu is overrun with existing metal workers and small companies. Their welding shop has closed, the market cannot sustain any new trainees.

The old Welders Workshop

‘Danger’

However, during the subsequent ETC@GDPU programme we realised that basic welding skills are highly marketable for motorbike repairers. For instance, ‘Danger’ a young man working out of the Lubanga Lakicha workshop in nearby Koch Goma has learnt simple welding. He hires the kit at a reasonable price per hour and mends bikes, cars; anything metal. Danger makes good money supplementing his main motorbike repair income and incidentally it allows him to pursue his real interest, music; hence his name. So, inspired by this knowledge and others like him, in the new Motorcycle Repair Course, there will be a welding module.

Beyond Core Skills

‘Danger’, loading his bike with welding kit

Likewise, Sweater Weavers will learn how to use, not only sweater weaving machines, but also sewing machines, how to make simple clothes, baby clothes in particular and, crucially, how to repair and maintain their machines. Hairdressers will have a ‘Body Beautiful and Cosmetology’ module to expand their repertoire. Electronics trainees will learn how to repair more than just mobile phones. We will also be introducing the new Design and Decoration course for applied design, signboards, posters, basic computer art etc. The laptops (laptops have batteries and can ride out the constant power outages) arrived this week. The plan is to establish a working computer room so that all trainees will leave with some basic computer skills.

A member of Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop with a child’s dress made for sale

Post Training Support

The training on site lasts for six months, what happens after that is equally important. There is also a post training course of equal length with dedicated skills training, psycho social support, literacy and numeracy extensions and so on, to help each trainee set up their own business or support them working for someone else.

Psycho-Social Support

ETC@GDPU members 2020

But you can’t learn new skills if, for example, discrimination and abuse has left you with such low esteem that you don’t believe you can ever learn anything; you believe you are literally, fit for nothing. Which is why the psycho social support element of the programme (that GDPU specialise in) has been and will continue to be, so important; hence ‘Vplus’, ie vocation training plus.  As the previous ETC@GDPU programme drew to a close, it was fascinating to see that most of the participants now have the self-confidence to publicly represent their community: we hope to replicate that community engagement with these new trainees. Many of the ETC@GDPU beneficiaries will also become peer mentors on the new Vplus programme, sustainability in action!

ETC at GDPU Reflection meeting

How are things pushing on at GDPU? The Vplus programme, a New Year 2021 update. Part One

So far, very well.

Working on the new gate at GDPU

The Vplus training programme for 50 new trainees with disabilities at Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) should still open in January. It has been put back from the 15th to the 20th January to avoid the Ugandan General Election on the 14th. Travelling for persons with disability is always very difficult, around election time even more so. There has been more violence than usual during this election with a heavy loss of life, although mostly in Kampala. Covid restrictions have stopped the big and often very disruptive campaign meetings of the past. Gulu has been largely peaceful and we are told that it will probably remain so, although people are fearful of the return of the military to ‘keep order’.

How about Covid 19?

Cases are rising in Uganda, though nothing like the West. In the last two days 120 cases were reported in Kampala and 3 in Gulu. In fact, the cases in Gulu came from some way away and were brought to the hospital for treatment. The disease is certainly in the community, but without mass testing the levels of severity are unknown. Anecdotally, the virus is reported as present but not rampant, and of course everyone hopes that remains the case.

Ready to Open?

The finished new gates, fence and ramp at GDPU

Under these circumstances, GDPU staff, their Board of Governors and the trustees of ETC of PWD felt that the new Vplus programme could open this month, once certain conditions had been met. The site is now secure with a new fence and a working gate with a proper entrance ramp for wheelchairs installed! A gatekeeper appointed and trained, a hut built for him to shelter in, a temperature gun bought for him to test each entrant onto site. Toilets have been refurbished, cesspits drained, washrooms built, handbasins installed and water supplied to site.  Classrooms extended, isolation zones created, boarding facilities rearranged to make suitable social distancing spaces. All staff have been trained in Covid procedures.

Registration of new students in Anaka

Recruitment

52 trainees have been recruited, their families and communities consulted and reassured. New teaching staff for the five courses on offer have been interviewed, appointed and received full induction.

Inception Meeting

Socially distanced Induction training for new GDPU teachers

The key action for all this to work is the Inception Meeting and Inspection by the District Education Officer. He will inspect the site, assess the preparations and check that staff know what they are doing. This was to have been on Friday 8th, but not all Government and District offices have fully re-opened after the Christmas break, it will be re-arranged for next week.

So, fingers crossed all involved in the Vplus programme can look forward to the future, and not only the 52 new trainees themselves and subsequently their families and community that they will, we hope, support. But also, for  the new teaching staff who now have work and an income in challenging times. And, of course, for the staff and Board of Gulu Disabled Persons Union who have, at last some stability and activity on site. As Ojok Patrick the GDPU coordinator said in a recent email: “We are so happy that after many years of no activities, we are back on our feet again and the place is getting busier.”

Working on the toilets

Exciting Times!

For more news and details about what courses will be run, try the next blog here.

Announcing Vplus@GDPU

The old toilet block at GDPU: blocked

As the old ETC@GDPU project draws to a close we have good news to announce: the first steps on our new vocational training programme at Gulu Disabled Persons Union have been taken. It will be called Vplus@GDPU, – V is for Vocational Training and ‘plus’ showing the extra elements that make training successful.

Old classrooms, waiting for a new programme

Vplus@GDPU: The New Programme

50 disabled young people will be trained at GDPU on a six months training programme, followed by six months post training support. ETC of PWD (Enhancing the Capacity of People with Disability, our UK based charity that has worked with GDPU for some time) is funding the start of the programme, and we are searching hard for other funding to expand it. There is a possibility of a major grant, but in the international development world nothing is certain so we are keen to find new ways to make this exciting programme work.

Old classrooms waiting to be refurbished

Covid 19 in Uganda and Gulu

Of course, nothing is certain in any part of the world at the moment. Africa, apart from South Africa, has been hit relatively lightly by the Coronavirus. To date there have been 14,403 cases in Uganda, 132 deaths across the whole country and 10 in Gulu with seven possible new contacts in in the district notified today. The Lockdown in March affected everyone, but was hardest on those who have the least.

Covid 19 security at GDPU

Working on the toilet block at GDPU

For the new training programme to go ahead in Gulu, the GDPU site has to be made Covid 19 secure. That means proper access to sanitation: new handwashing sinks and toilet blocks for example. Every person allowed on site must be Covid 19 free, so access must be controlled by repairing the old fence, making a proper gateway, installing a new gatekeeper, buying temperature guns for the gatekeeper to use on each entrant. We are keeping the numbers of new trainees down, partly to make sure that every trainee gets proper attention but also to keep to social distancing rules. That will demand new classrooms, extending and refurbishing existing ones and making specialist isolation zones. And lots more and lots of extra training for everyone. A busy time!

Working on the toilet block at GDPU
Working on the toilet block

Vplus@ GDPU from now until January 2021

All being well, the actual training will start in the second week of January 2021. Recruitment, including discussions with parents and communities should start shortly. There are many ifs and buts that might stall the process, but everyone working on the programme in Gulu is feeling positive, and we join them in looking forward to an exciting new start.

The gates at GDPU

Vplus @GDPU: what next and how did we get here?

There is much more to come: how we all arrived at choosing the new training courses for instance; what was learned from the old ETC@GDPU programme? What has happened to people on that programme and what role will they play in the new one? How have the sportsmen at Gulu PWDs electronics been getting on? Will sport play any role in Vplus (spoiler alert: yes). But for now, in these challenging times it is just wonderful to be able to spread some good news.

Wheelchair basketball at GDPU

Donations?

Just to remind you, our donations page is always open; every little helps.

‘When Duty Calls’: a Facebook post from Musema Faruk

The etc@gdpu project officer and GDPU Guidance Counsellor, Musema Faruk, has also been working on a liquid soap making project for people with disabilities in Gulu and the surrounding area. So that they can not only access soap themselves and provide it at cost price to others, but also earn something in these very difficult times. I thought it easier to post it here, but there is a link to the etc@gdpu on facebook page at the bottom of this page.
“WHEN DUTY CALLS, WE RESPOND!
============================
It started as a good day as we headed to Acet in Omoro district to train 5 women with disabilities on liquid soap production skills. Half way the journey, our car got a mechanical damage caused by the ball joint coming out which made our Tyres to burst. This almost made us over turn – Thanks to God’s saving grace we didn’t. This did not stop us from mission however we jumped on a motorcycle and continued to accomplish what had taken us. I’m thankful that the women were impacted with skills that can help boost their financial status.
Thanks to Etc@GDPU team and PESA, with funding support from Mary Bennell and the entire Trustees of ETC@PWDs for making this possible.”

Pushing on Well: GDPU starts up again in Gulu

The lock down in Gulu is being eased slowly. Public transport started up again on June 4, shops have reopened and Government is enforcing the use of face masks in public. The World Health Authority reported 808 Corona virus cases in Uganda on 12 June, but no death has been registered so far. As Ojok Patrick Co-ordinator of Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) says: “still not as bad as we hear in your case and other countries”. 

Ojok Patrick with Food Distribution at GDPU (4) 2
During Lockdown in Gulu: Ojok Patrick organizing food distribution at GDPU

However, Gulu hospital has about 65 Corona cases, mainly truck drivers from neighbouring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Somali and DRC. There are very few subsequent cases yet in people who had contact with them. The infection is certainly increasing in other parts of Africa, we can only hope that Uganda has done enough to be spared.

Schools are scheduled to open from the beginning of July. The Government plan is to organise testing machines for all schools so that students all get tested right at the start, and this testing should continue after every two weeks. Everyone hopes it works out well.

Life is getting back to normal again in Gulu, though with lots of hardship as many have lost their jobs because of the lock down. Ojok Patrick: “That is the situation here and hopefully, if infection doesn’t increase, we are sure most public places will open including schools.”

 

ETC@GDPU

Since the Ugandan President has eased some of the lockdown, like transport, GDPU can now implement the last parts of the ETC@GDPU project that we all agreed after the trustees visits in February.

Generator training in Koch Goma
First Generator training in Koch Goma

In particular, the gaps in generator repair at Koch Goma and the pre-vocational skills training in Acet for the deaf. (Please see this post for the background to the extra training).

Mama Cave at work (2) 2
Mama Cave demonstrating how to make a mask

Emma and Faruk (the project officers) are doing the groundwork to make it successful and safe. They shall provide the members taking part with face masks and hand sanitizers. The masks are made by Mama Cave and the Gulu Disabled Person Knitting Workshop based at GDPU. For the great work under the new ‘Mama Masks’ name and other initiatives please see this post: Pushing on well: new initiatives after Lockdown at GDPU

Outside the Nyeko Rac Salon.
Outside the Nyeko Rac Salon, this February.

In Acet, they will use the same sign language interpreter, a teacher at Laroo primary school, that we used before. She will be riding her personal motorbike to reach Acet twice a week, so that she doesn’t have to use public transport. Emma consulted with Lillan, the leader of Nyeko Rach hairdressing group in Acet, who agreed that the number of members is small enough for the training to take place.

At Nyeko Rac 2020 with Nancy and Lilian the teacher and the girl
At Nyeko Rac February 2020 with Nancy and Lilian (the teacher is on the left)

The steps made by this group of deaf students have really begun to change their lives for the better. This last round of training is to prepare them for vocational training, so that they can learn new skills and earn a proper living for themselves; good luck to all involved.

The teacher showing this years ETC calendar
February 2020, the teacher showing this years ETC calendar