ETC@GDPU was a support project for youth with disability who have already had some vocational training. So, the obvious next question is: what about the young people with similar needs in Gulu and surrounding area who have not been trained? The aim of the annual ETCof PWD trustees trip to Gulu and Gulu Disabled Persons Union was to pull together the last threads of that project and see what might come next.
ETCof PWD applied to DFID last year under their Small Charities Grant, although we do not have high hopes. But, as we all sat together in the GDPU board room looking at that bid, we began to put together a Plan B, a no-grant bare bones vocational training programme financed by ETCof PWD on what might raise in the UK.
GDPU ran vocational training for people with disability before, they are very keen to do so again. They have the expertise and the space. We finalised on five vocational training courses that are flexible enough to allow trainees to set up a wide range of possible sources of income:
MCR (motorcycle repair). But a mixed course including generator/ mowing machine/ small engine repair, and some training on gas welding.
Knitting (ie Sweater Weaving) handicrafts/ tailoring. The knitting machines are the problem here. If Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop can become a centre for mending them then the problem might be solved; after extra training a number of them can now repair machines if they have the parts. Sweater weaving is seasonal, GDPKW have shown that making clothes from strips of cloth for sale ready-made can work well. Ocira Brenda from the group has recently been trained in Mpigi on handicraft skills, another a possible income stream,
Design and Decoration. making posters and signboards in Gulu is a good business and often carried out by the deaf. A DaD course could include design for banners/ posters/ signposts, taught by different instructors. This DaD course could be a really exciting innovation for GDPU and PWDs (persons with disabilities), but see below re. computers.
Hairdressing and Salon. The DFID bid had some expensive requirements for this course, but GDPU have some equipment in stock that might bring down the price a little. And it always a good business as we have seen in Acet
Electronics. Phone repair of course, but also all small electronic machine repair. As Akera Robert has demonstrated there is a good market for this sort of business. The growing use of smartphones means that trainees will need to be able to mend broken screens and sockets (which are apparently the major repairs). But, this raises problems.
With a computer element the DaD course could move into desktop publishing, the electronics group into smart phone repair, other trainees into basic PC use and for the long held plan for a business hub/ association for past GDPU trainees/ now business people? But that begs some important questions:
- Funding for a computer suite?
- Where to be put?
- What about power outages?
Post Training Support and computers
Post Training, what access would these young businesses have to a PC? Would training on a PC only set them up to fail at the first step. Would the business hub solve this problem?
Post Training Support
As ETC@GDPU proved, it is the Post Training support that is the key to sustainable success, including Life Skills/ Literacy and Numeracy/ Health and Sanitation/ Guidance Counselling/ Sport. These elements are probably more important than core skills training for subsequent personal development and business success. The work on extra literacy for ex-Youth Development Programme trainees in Acet for example has made a real difference.
Musema Faruk talked about running a physical literacy programme: ‘which game can you play best?’ as a way of extending the physical and therefore mental confidence of PWDs; to be included in the future programme.
As well as the usual elements of Dance/Music/ Drama and Debate. Given that many of the ETC@GDPU trainees are now looking to politics to improve their lot and that of their fellows, some teaching about governance etc would be useful. All of these inclusions have cost and timing implications for any course structure.
Exciting possibilities and some very big questions to answer, mostly solved with finance which begs the most important question of all: how will we pay for all this?
By the way, our donations page is always open.
The ETC@GDPU project is drawing to a close. It was set up to give support to young people with disability who had already received some vocational training and had started their own business. As we all know, in any context, those first years of running your own business, earning your own living are hard, you need support, be it extra core skills training, maybe literacy or numeracy training or even just advice. That’s what this project gave, via project officers from Gulu Disabled Persons Union, where all the trainees gained their initial vocational training under the DFID sponsored Youth Development Programme some years ago.
The final evaluations and assessments are just getting going, but visiting the groups and individuals on the annual trustees visit to Gulu made certain things clear. Three headings: Consultation; Flexibility; Sustainability.
Consultation: different people in different situations have different needs to get their business going. Asking people what they need rather than telling them what they’re going to get, well that’s always a good idea isn’t it?
Flexibility: from the consultation you find out things like, motorbike repairers outside the town could have a range of options for other small machines to mend, adding significantly to income. We subsequently organised training in repairing generators/ strimmers/ etc. Talking to groups in Cwero and Koch Goma this year, we found that they were now building up a good business repairing small machines.
Sweater weaving work is seasonal, based around the start of the school year, learning other forms of making, ready made dresses for children for example brings income at other times.
The machines break easily, we have paid for Mama Cave, an instructor, to train up sweater weavers in basic machine repair so that their production does not stop at key times.
Hairdressers out of town need to know what the new styles will be, and how to make them. All small steps, but important ones.
Sustainability: once you establish that free cash and materials are out of the question, trainees know that their efforts must keep them afloat. In the jargon, they become ‘empowered’ and the ETC@GDPU project officers will support and train that ‘empowerment’. So many previous development programmes in Gulu have not lasted because people, based on past experience, become serial beneficiaries. Waiting for the next programme to give you money and more materials, which you can sell as you wait for the next, and so on. “Our people must not be beggars” we are told often by other PWDs.
What has been noticeable this year, is that many of the people in this programme have built on their own self confidence to become politically active, getting elected and involved in improving their own lot and that of their fellows; true empowerment.
We still haven’t got trainees to keep record books, or planning on paper. But look at the success of someone like Akera Robert. Last year he told us that he would move away from working on a veranda on the street, and yes, he has; so many congratulations to him. He has a shop, a house, his child is at one of the best schools – all through his own efforts – and he helps other trainees when they get stuck with technical issues; a star.
Or look at the team at Tam Anyim. the combination of motorbike and small machine repair and taking in students of their own means that Jokene (one of the two that runs the group) can now send his own child to school – a very important measure of success here. They also think they can put up a new building behind their existing workshop to expand the business; equally impressive and all plans kept in his head of course.
Through the ETC@GDPU project everyone has learnt a great deal about how to develop post training support that works and will last. Now that this project is ending, how can we use all this knowledge? See the next newsletter to find out. We welcome individual donations, please visit our donations page.
If it’s February it must the annual ETCof PWD trustee trip to Gulu and District. Visiting Northern Uganda to see the ETC@GDPU project, the business groups and individuals we have been supporting in their search for independence, a sustainable business, respect and dignity.
Nyeko Rac, the hairdressers group way out of Gulu in Acet, on the road to Moroto, has always been lively. When we saw them last year Lillian, their self-declared leader, (who said firmly that the key to business success was having a strong leader) asked for further literacy and numeracy lessons. We agreed, but were worried about Lakot Nancy, a profoundly deaf member of the group who wouldn’t get much from spoken lessons. Last year Nancy was withdrawn and had little communication with her fellow hairdressers, there was obvious tension.
After some discussion about Nancy with Gulu Disabled Persons Union who deliver the programme, we paid for a sign language interpreter, also asking that other local young deaf people be included. Isolation is an obvious side effect of profound deafness, particularly if you only have a little ‘local’ sign language. We were concerned that Nancy might find lessons with people who were not in her business or at her level, difficult.
On the contrary, Ajok Emma, the ETC@GDPU project officer, reported that Nancy was really enjoying it, helping out with the teaching, making new friends; company and interaction. Musema Faruk the other ETC@GDPU project officer, also told us that her sign language had significantly improved too. Nancy just repeated phrases before he said: “often it was not a conversation, she just signed the same thing over and over. Now she is ‘talking’ well.”
That improvement was clear when we met the hairdressers and new deaf students in Acet last week. Nancy was the liveliest we have seen her, sparkling someone said. She has a new business place with another hairdresser and was continuing her mobile work, travelling to clients. Her relationship with Lilian seemed good and Lilian was using some sign language with her too, which she hadn’t before; confidence all round.
As we have learnt to expect in development work, every step forward leads to a new issue. In the small hairdressing salon room at Acet were, along with their signing literacy teacher, two profoundly deaf young lads from the classes, obvious candidates for vocational training. Bright and lively but with no skills training and not much schooling. Their new teacher was very proud of them, they could now write and read their own name and were progressing well. But they need so many more lessons, who would pay for them? They were desperate to work, to learn more, but how?
Not only that, we were introduced to a primary aged school girl, also profoundly deaf and awkward and shy with so many strangers, especially white people, although very smart in her uniform. Her father had brought her, there is no provision in this district for the deaf and he didn’t know what to do. She goes to a local school, yet there was no support there and the teacher could not help, we saw the girls school book, it was just scribbles. During our time in the salon, the girl slowly opened up, started to enjoy the company. Although her signing was rudimentary, she began to use it well, lots of ‘chatter’ with the others, lovely to see but her overall situation was heartbreaking.
ETCof PWD is not set up to deal with disability as such, what we know about is vocational education and project management, we rely on delivery partners like GDPU for specific expertise. To date we have been working with those who have already had some basic training. So, what to do about the young lads and the small girl and probably many more like her? Apparently Acet is a notable cluster for profound deaf cases.
Because the father was there, Faruk and Emma the two project officers from GDPU could tell him that there were possible primary schools in Gulu for his daughter, although she would have to board and there would be extra costs. They would continue to advise him.
And the two young men? They are very keen to become motorbike repairers: “Otherwise we just sit” they signed to Faruk. Currently there is nowhere for them to train, and no fund to pay for the literacy, numeracy and signing lessons to get them to the level they need. Can ETCof PWD help? Will there be a new vocational training programme for them? Well, interesting you should mention that. Why not see the next installments of this newsletter to find out?
PS We have just had an email from Ojok Patrick (GDPU Co-ordinator) to say that he has arranged an interview for the girl and her father with Laroo Primary School in Gulu. It has good provision for the deaf. He hopes they can also find a sponsor to pay for her boarding. We keep our fingers crossed.
By the way, our donations page is always open.
Gulu Disabled Persons Union Meeting
After our visits to business enterprises in Gulu, Paicho, Acet and Koch Li, our meeting in Gulu with GDPU included the Chairman of the Board, the Treasurer the GDPU Co-ordinator and the Project Officer.
It was a genuinely productive discussion about what we have all learned so far and where the ETC@GDPU project might go next.
GDPU is keen to set up again as a training hub for Persons with Disability, this will not only provide a route to sustainability for trainees, but bring an income in for the institution itself
Investment: Literacy and numeracy, sustainability and habituation
As we saw in our field visits, groups and individuals need to understand how and why to invest in their own businesses (and how to search for other forms of funding) if they are to develop and to reach their sustainable aim. What holds them back?:
- Low literacy and numeracy skills are one element. Few, despite training and support, have working record books/ records to help analyse success and aid planning; although there is far more to this issue than that. If all transactions are very small amounts of unrecorded cash, it dissapears quickly.
- Low self-esteem is certainly part of the mix.
- Life events; it is a vulnerable and precarious life with no safety margins. Common events like a bout of malaria for instance or a family funeral, will wipe out any savings instantly. Insecurity is rampant, if you are successful someone will prey on you, if you are unsuccessful, even more so.
- The familiar problem of what you could call ‘habituation’. Beneficiaries who have been through constant development cycles often expect that someone else, i.e. ‘The Whites’, will just turn up and give them the money they want to solve short term problems or give them materials that can be sold for money. After all this is what has happened in the past, and most vulnerable people in these circumstances expect the pattern to repeat, so they wait for it. For example, the constant poor electricity supply badly affects mobile phone repairers. A portable solar system would solve these problems for the Gulu PWDs enterprise, but some members refuse to pay anything towards it and all of their income has more or less collapsed.
Habituation and financial support for groups
The’ habituation’ challenge has been built in our programme planning. The new trustees asked whether we should we be providing capital funds for groups. It is a legitimate question but we have never done this in the past, deliberately. ETC of PWD has always believed that it is skills training, support and monitoring that make the difference, cash and materials handouts cause more short and long term problems than they solve. The GDPU board firmly agreed on this point, they stated quite strongly that it would be better to:
- Link the groups with existing structures
- Help them to fill in forms to access other funding; local and government grants for PWDs do exist.
- Develop confidence in themselves.
If GDPU is to become a training hub again, what courses should it run?
A productive discussion about which courses would be most suitable, particularly noting the difference for urban/ rural training needs; market requirements are different between Gulu and outlying areas.
Electronics/ phone repair?
Although a popular course with students it is high risk. Changing technology means that people increasingly use smart phones, they are harder to repair than the simple feature phone on which previous students were trained; current and future PWD enterprises will be left out of this market. Lots of expensive software and hardware is needed, the expenses and demands will only get greater as technological complexity increases. Training in smart phone repair is currently beyond the potential of available trainers to offer and of any small institution to support, and will not get any easier.
Courses with different modules offering students the ability to diversify
For example, future skills training for motor cycle repair and maintenance (MCRM) workers going out to the villages should include: training in small motors eg: slashing machines; generators; milling machines etc. Whereas urban MCRM trainees will need to know how to mend a range of bikes (eg Yamaha) that are increasingly common in town but which never get out into the country.
Peer to peer training/ On the Job training and training others.
It was noticeable, visiting groups in the field recently, that many of the members were training other youth. This raises a series of questions:
- What is the quality of the training that these peer trained trainees receive?
- In the future should GDPU give training modules on training the trainer?
- Should the project officer be monitoring the quality of peer to peer training?
Conclusion: pilot training courses –
It was agreed that it would be a good idea to develop and run a pilot in 2 areas, which could also make for relatively even gender coverage. It was agreed that GDPU should focus on developing training programmes for:
- Motor cycle repair and maintenance/ agricultural and small machinery with suitable training in diversity for students from town and country
- Knitting /tailoring and upcycling with a very strong focus on diversifying away from the sweater weaving machines and all their associated problems.
Knitting machine technician
GDPU should also try to train up a knitting machine technician for the whole area.
Peer to peer training
Modules should be developed within each core skill training programme that can begin to help trainees to deliver meaningful training to other PWDs in the future.
How long should post training support last?
GDPU groups have succeeded and have lasted longer than other Youth Development Programme business groups because GDPU still has contact with them, they are family and still looked after. Six month post training support on the earlier YDP programme was too short; ECT has supported post YDP business groups for over two years and it is only now starting to bear fruit. So any future training programmes must involve long post training support proposals.
Ongoing support for existing groups
ETC @GDPU agreed to continue low level support to all existing groups (Phase 1 and 2), support tailored to each group. Faruk is still the person who is in contact and has the guidance experience. ETC can just about fund this from existing resources.
GDPU to provide a proposal and further discussion on the resources required to start the training pilot. GDPU to amend current proposals to develop programme and costings
Loans and grants
ETC trustees will try to carry out fundraising for these new courses and will research possible future funding streams and how to apply for them.
The meeting finished with further reminders of the importance of safeguarding beneficiaries, staff and all those who might be vulnerable and that come into contact with GDPU.