VPlus: What does the ‘Plus’ stand for; Part Two.

Welcome to a second look at what the ‘Plus’ in VPlus (the vocational training programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu, Northern Uganda) actually means on the ground. Alongside the core vocational training in Design and Decoration (Computer aided); Electronics Repair; Hairdressing; Motorbike Mechanics; Sweater Weaving and Tailoring and the training in Literacy, Numeracy and basic business skills, what else adds up to the Plus?

Elizabeth: a Hairdressing Trainee explains how the VPlus programme will help her, in a video made by Musema Faruk from GDPU

ETC of PWD (Enhancing the Capacity of Persons with Disability, the UK based charity that part funds the VPlus programme along with UK Aid) have just had our first couple of monthly reports from Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) who run the programme. The reports describe some of these activities, so we can begin to get a real picture of the ‘Plus’ in action. The last blog talked about debating as a means to public self-confidence and the ability to construct and present or follow an argument. This blog follows some of the other activities

Safeguarding teaching: the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse

There has been a lot of work by the GDPU Safeguarding team on important areas like hygiene and sanitation, as student leaders have pointed out, the disabilities many of the trainees are such that they have to crawl, poor sanitation makes their life not just unpleasant, but medically dangerous. Sexual health, teenage pregnancy and substance abuse, particularly alcohol (see below), has featured too.

Teachers have been to visit other institutions, this has been invaluable, they have learnt much about basic lesson planning and how to operate equipment. Coupled with their recent market assessment trips to check the relevance of their teaching means their classes are really starting to take shape.

Music and Dance training before the big day

And of course, the Music, Dance and Drama sessions have started up again. The dramas are usually short moral plays acted by trainees with great gusto, warnings about drunkenness are the favourites with ‘drunk’ acting carried out with wonderful relish. Alcoholism is though, a serious problem, cheap plastic packets of gin, called Suckits (or Arege in Luo), are cheaper than water, technically banned they are still widely available. Recent Safeguarding work with trainees has focused on the devasting social and physical effects of alcoholism.

Dance Performance School Open Day

And most importantly, the traditional dancing. The earlier YDP programme featured traditional dancing as a way of embedding youth in their own culture. But, people with disabilities are often excluded from their own society, by refusing to let them take part in cultural activities for example.

Dance Performance School Open Day

Training in traditional dance at GDPU is another of way helping people with disabilities ‘belong’. You can see the excitement in these pictures, taken at the first School Open Day, they are dancing the Ajere, an Acholi courtship dance. The first trainees on the ‘Plus’ programme are performing for their families, local elders and members of the community; an important statement of inclusivity. The film on this page on the website by the way, shows one of the older GDPU graduations.

School Open Day

I am so glad to see that dancing has been kept as an integral part of the Vplus programme. Some of the ETC of PWD trustees hope, Covid restrictions willing, to visit Gulu in June for the graduation ceremony of this first cohort, where the dancing will be prominent. Sadly, we expect it to be a forlorn hope for the trustees, but it will a big day and a great step forward for these trainees. It is very exciting to see the programme up and running, and so much counting towards the ‘Plus’ aspect of the V Plus programme and the future of these determined young people.

School Open Day, a group photo of some of the participants

If you want to read more about the plus in Vplus please read the next blog.

f you would like to donate, please visit the Donations page

VPlus: what does the Plus stand for?

Literacy Class

So what does the Plus in the VPlus programme mean on the ground? Alongside the core vocational training in Design and Decoration (Computer aided); Electronics Repair; Hairdressing; Motorbike Mechanics; Sweater Weaving and Tailoring and the training in Literacy, Numeracy and basic business skills, what else adds up to the Plus?

ETC of PWD

Mechanics Class, note the sign language interpreter for the deaf trainee

ETC of PWD (Enhancing the Capacity of Persons with Disability, the UK based charity that part funds the VPlus programme along with UK Aid) have just received our monthly report from Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU, who run the programme) it describes some of these activities.

Debates

A key point is made in the debate

For example the debates, a standard feature of Ugandan education. They are both formal affairs with timekeeping marked by energetic bell ringing, a chairman, and due process, and they are also lively, inclusive and hugely enjoyable. Ugandan debating calls for lots of shouts for points of order and vigorously displayed arguments; debates are taken very seriously with great enthusiasm. They are wonderful opportunities for people, like our own trainees, who have little experience of public speaking or formal presentation. They can gain some self-confidence and learn how to put together and then express a considered argument.

“ kwano tic cing ber loyo kwan me karatac”.

The debate

The first debate, they take place weekly, was on the important topic: Non-Formal education (or practical vocational skills training) is far better than Formal (or academic) education, This in Luo, the local language, is “kwano tic cing ber loyo kwan me karatac”. Luckily, as the trainees are after all on a vocational training programme, the non-formal team won! The winning argument for many was that skills-based training needs no particular level of education, as most of our trainees have little if any education, compared to formal education where every level is important. Skills training helps someone to become self-employed, compared to formal education which prepares people become jobs seekers. The main points in favour of Formal education were based on the raising of status, a white collar career and higher levels of income, possibly. Although, as many pointed out, an academic education does not prepare you for actual work. Further debates concern self-employment, sexual behaviour and: “the Future Holds More: planning is necessary”.

Leadership Elections

Electing the Student Leaders

Student leaders have also been elected; they play a big role in running the place well. As a school leader will always tell you, student leadership, apart from keeping the programme going, plays a powerful role in developing young people, not just leadership skills, but how to work with responsibility and how to organise others are some of the areas not to mention an understanding of how voting processes work.

POSITION
Guild present
Head girl
Entertainment prefect
Asst entertainment prefect
Welfare prefect
Asst welfare
Health and Sanitation
Asst health and sanitation
Game and sports

These are the positions by the way.

This is a short video by the newly elected Head Boy/ Guild President, explaining why he think this course matters.

Pushing on Well

So as they would say at GDPU, things are pushing on well.

If you want to read more about the plus in Vplus please read the next blog.

If you would like to donate, please visit the Donations page

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