ARUA. Ediofe trading centre commonly referred to as ‘Iyitia,’ is one of the suburbs of Arua town.
The trading centre is located in the Western part of Arua town in Komite parish, Pajulu sub-county, Arua district.
It is always busy with a bee-hive of activities ranging from car washing, restaurants, bars with music sound all-over, numerous pork joints and shops among other businesses.
Besides all, there is a little-known shop-like vocational institute dubbed ‘Stress-free enterprises and skills training centre’ along Cathedral road just about 300 metres from Ediofe Cathedral, the headquarter of Arua Catholic diocese.
It is usually hard to notice any serious activity taking place at the ‘shop’ unless one picks interest in reading a small white-wooden and portable signpost placed near the roadside.
At about 11:30 am on Tuesday, our reporter visited the area only to be welcomed by an elderly man who was busy working on about six sewing machine tops at the veranda of the ‘shop.’
Mr Swali Goro, 51, is always hired by the management of stress-free enterprises and skills training centre to service the sewing machines at least after every three months.
“I’m always called here to come and service sewing machine tops. I normally lubricate rusting parts, work on blockages and sewing thread rods among other things. On average, I charge shs5,000 for servicing each sewing machine top and I have been doing this all over the town for a long period of time,” Gogo who trained as a tailor in 1987 narrated.
According to Mr George Amaka Alima, the Director of stress-free enterprises and skills training centre, regular servicing has helped them to maintain the few sewing machines which are used to train the growing number of youths in the area.
The training is mainly in the fields of tailoring, weaving and knitting, saloon and hairdressing, and cosmetology.
How the school started
Stress-free enterprises and skills training centre started in 2017 with 20 students of which 8 completed successfully after sitting for the Directory of Industrial Training (DIT) certificate examinations under the Ministry of Education and Sports in mid-2018.
Last year, Alima said 50 students were trained of which 18 happened to finish successfully. He said currently, the institution has an enrolment of 34 students. Of the 34 students, he said 5 are being sponsored by community empowerment for rural development (CEFORD), a local nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Arua.
“You can see that in the period of two years, we have trained over 60 students in vocational skills much as others dropped along the way due to lack of school fees, but I’m quite sure they went out there with some knowledge for self-reliance,” Alima said.
He noted that the training period is six months for one to fully qualify for a certificate.
“The purpose of starting this school is to skill youths, both women and men, girls and boys for self-reliance which government is promoting. We also want to fight against poverty for self-support and to support others and right now, stress-free is licensed under DIT,” Alima emphasized.
Students speak out
Vincent Munduni, 18, a primary five dropout and a resident of Ozua village in Omugo sub-county, Arua district says he now feels happy that he is finally learning something that will make his life better in the future.
“When I dropped out of school due to lack of support in 2015, I had no hope of doing anything tangible in my life anymore but by the time CEFORD officials came to our village and brought me here for tailoring, I became very happy and hopeful in life again,” Munduni said.
“Now that I know how to cut pieces of cloth, taking people’s measurement and sewing, I’m sure by the end of my course in May this year, I will be an expert,” Munduni added.
He prayed that after the training, CEFORD gives him some capital to buy a sewing machine and start making money on his own.
Zabib Driwaru, 22, another student said she chose to join the course because it is self-employing.
“For me in the future, I don’t want to expect things from other people. I want to make my own money to avoid being fooled,” Driwaru stated.
Meanwhile Ms Gloria Angucia, a former student of stress-free enterprises and skills training centre said she was forced to join the school because of her in-laws who had taken it a habit to mock her for not contributing something in the home.
“I got impregnated when I was in primary seven and after dropping, I decided to marry the man who gave me the pregnancy. But soon after marrying him, I became a laughingstock to his sisters because there was totally nothing I could bring to the table,” said Angucia, a mother of two and a resident of Robu village, Oluffe sub-county in Maracha district.
“Their action provoked me to enroll in this school and after completing last year. I worked hard during the festive season and managed to make shs700, 000. Out of that money, I used shs350, 000 for buying my own sewing machine and invested the rest in my children. Now I can be sure of at least shs20, 000 every day,” Angucia stated.
She encouraged fellow school dropout women not to despise vocational training schools but instead join such institutions to earn something for a living.
The Institution’s challenges
Mr Alima observed that their main challenge is that they don’t realize much funds to develop the institution due to low payment of school fees which is shs300, 000 per student for the six months of study.
He also said the space they are using is becoming small to accommodate the increasing number of students seeking vocational skills.
“The number of equipment (machines) we use to train students is not enough more especially, we don’t have electrical machines like designing and zig-zag machines that use power,” Alima said.
Over the past two years, Alima said they are happy that all their students are subjected to external examinations using the examination centre number they got from the ministry through DIT.
“Among our trained students, one woman was taken under the NUSAF project for training in entrepreneurship. She went through from sub-county level to the district where she was awarded a certificate and shs1m as appreciation. That is our pride!” Alima said.
He also noted that another female student, after sitting for the DIT examinations, was absorbed in Omugo refugee camp where she is now training refugees and the host community.
“We now have partnerships with NGOs. The first was with ACAV, CARITAS Arua diocese and now CEFORD that are giving us students to train. And we have another partnership with Africa Action Plan which has come to our aid by giving us threads and some other materials,” Alima said.
Alima said as they have got their examination center number, they intend to train students from modular to level one under DIT.
“Modular stage is purely a nonformal course involving practical work without theory while level one is formal training for primary and secondary dropouts where they participate in both theory and practical lessons,” Alima explained.
He said plans are underway to acquire land for the school to expand and grow, adding that it is one of their long-term plans.
“Our short-term plan is to buy more machines like electrical and manual for the training to go on to another level,” Alima said.