How are things pushing on at Gulu Disabled Persons Union under the current Uganda Lockdown?

In response to the Delta variant raging through the country, on the 6th of June the Ugandan President announced severe restrictions for 42 days: markets and businesses closed; most travel prohibited; schools closed; heavy curfew. This had profound implications for the country, for those on the margins and for our Vplus programme, as reported in the last blog. But, Lockdown is really the only weapon against Covid in a country with few vaccines and little public health infrastructure. Has it been working?

A Design and Decoration trainee on the Vplus programme receives training materials during Lockdown

Lockdown Easing

On July 30th, the President subsequently announced some easing: greater freedom to travel; some forms of businesses to open; schools and colleges to stay closed. In Gulu, Northern Uganda our partners, GDPU are delivering VPlus@GPDU our current vocational training programme for young people with disabilities; the picture is mixed. The Lockdown has worked to some extent, case numbers are dropping apparently, although without much testing it is difficult to know. The Lockdown has been observed, but the effects on those who have so little and depend on small day to day earnings, restrictions are devasting. That in fact, explains any success the Lockdown might have. As Musema Faruk, the Vplus project coordinator explained: “they fear the Lockdown more than the disease, so they do what they are told to make sure the Lockdown can end”.

Internship Training: Hairdressing Workshop

Internships

When the July Lockdown was announced, after careful discussion, it was agreed that instructors on the VPlus programme should support trainees, by phone and by visit where possible. Trainees would be encouraged to return to their internship workshops. To begin with this was successful, some 21 out of the total of 52 trainees returned to internship. Sadly, as the restrictions began to bite that number has gone down to 12, as workshop owners lose work and opportunities to provide for an intern. Workshop owners are now asking for payment before they will host a trainee.

Internship Training: Electronics Workshop

Training Materials

Plans for providing training materials are developing. Initial thoughts had been to support instructors in making short training videos, distributed by phone, through Whats App, You Tube etc. But, under 40% of our trainees have a smart phone and with signal and electricity hard to come by in many areas, this not the complete solution. Paper based training materials have always suffered from the usual problems based around literacy. Diagrams, drawings and notes made during the course help, but more solutions are needed and will be worked on.    

Discussing training with the Design and Decoration Instructor

Apprenticeships

During our meeting this week, Musema Faruk explained that, far from the July 19th date originally proposed by the Government, it was unlikely that schools would reopen before September, possibly even October. The current plan he is putting together is for a full apprenticeship scheme. Our trainees, i.e. the VPlus programme, will pay a small amount to work and train in those workshops that can open now. Many of the instructors have their own workshops that can function in this way. Instructors will continue to support all their trainees, and the final certificated exam will be in the workshop under supervision. And, of course when circumstances allow, there will be a full graduation ceremony at GDPU. Local leaders, elders, families and member of the community will come together to celebrate the success of these determined young people.

Mr Onyango Patrick, Design and Decoration Instructor, handing over training materials

Case Study

However, there is more to learning and becoming self-sufficient than core content. Okello Emma, the VPlus Guidance Counsellor has been working on a fascinating case study with a young Design and Decoration trainee. Time spent at GDPU with the PWD (People with Disability) community made this trainee realise she was not alone, and this has radically changed her approach to life. With the support of her Guidance Counsellor, her brother and her instructor (who has been supplying her with training and materials), she is now making baskets to sell. She has a purpose and a place, is feeling more positive, constructive and rebuilding relations with her family and community.

Okello Emma, Guidance Counsellor supporting a trainee.

The Plus in Vplus

This case study reinforces the basis of the ETC programme; hence the Plus in Vplus. The Life Skills element is vital, it cannot be neglected despite current conditions. To an extent this can be remedied by a final ‘Reflections’ week before graduation, whenever that might be. But it is a difficult balance that all involved must try to keep and will work towards in the future. It is a simple, almost cliched lesson but nonetheless true: we learn better when we learn together.

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’



New Lockdown in Uganda

Design and Decoration Course: computer training

There has been a significant and frightening increase in cases of COVID-19 in Uganda and Gulu. Gulu and Kampala have suddenly, been hard hit by the virus. In Kampala, at least I in 3 have it, Gulu has been registering over 100 cases per day which is worrying everyone. This is a country with no real testing, no comprehensive health care and no mass vaccination programme, so the true situation is and will be, much worse.  On Sunday 6th the President announced, among other measures, the closure of all learning institutions/schools by Monday 7th June for 42 days, and that all teachers must be vaccinated before they get back to school.

Sweater Weavers and Tailors at the School Open Day

VPlus closure

How will this affect the Vplus vocational training programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu? Based on these directives, Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) who actually run the programme,  has closed the VPlus school for 42 days. They have encouraged trainees either to go back to their internship placements if possible and COVID-19 safe to do so, or to try to begin their businesses at home. No one knows about anything about possible teacher vaccinations, sadly it seems unlikely in the context.

How to keep going?

Subsequent meetings between ETC of PWD (the UK based charity who match fund the Vplus programme with UK Aid) and GDPU agreed, that the fundamental aim was to combine safety with the underlying aim of keeping the programme going. There is of course no Government furlough system in Uganda and, traditionally, if you don’t work for whatever reason, you don’t get paid; there are no retainers.  Primary school teachers for example will not be paid. But we do want to keep and look after the staff on the Vplus programme. Apart from the unfairness and basic obligations, if you don’t pay people they will find something else and not return.

Sign Language Training for VPlus staff

Decisions made

In a meeting on the 8th June at GDPU, the programme managers asked the instructors and support staff how they could keep in touch safely with trainees and GDPU. The brainstorming session on how they could be useful to the students and justify continued payments, agreed on the following resolutions: 

1- Each Instructor, Sign Language Interpreter, Literacy Facilitator and Guidance Councillor will have 6 students to follow up and support them remotely. 

2- They will be facilitated with airtime of UGX 5000 each, to pay for phone contacts.

3- There will be a meeting every two weeks to give feedback, learnings, challenges and best practices on the follow up. 

4- Sign language training to continue for the instructors and support staff every Wednesday to Friday morning 9:00-11:00am. 

5 – Payment for June will be full and July will be half for the instructors. 

6 – Matron will not get payment for July but her payment will come from her cleaning services. 

7- GDPU has created a Vplus WhatsApp group page for easy communication and feedback sessions.

8 – Project coordinator will do the physical random follow up to check on the safety and well-being of students back on internship. 

9 – All staff must take precautions and stay safe during these hard times. 

10 – Security/watchmen will continue with full payments and are encouraged to be more vigilant.  

Traditional Dance at the School Open Day

The Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports has released the new time table for reopening of schools: 19-July 2021 All learners are expected to start school then. So, fingers crossed hoping for the best.

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’

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

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.

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