A sh3.8b European Union funded programme for vocational skills training for youths in the West Nile region that was run by the Italian Development Agency (ACAV) has ended.

The project dubbed “expanding access to skills and labour market for youths (EASY)” covered the five districts of Arua, Maracha, Koboko, Yumbe and Moyo.

Its target was to train 1,500 youths and equip them with start-up kits but it ended up training 1,519 people aged between 14 and 19 years, all of them school dropouts.

A raft of local actors including vocational training institutions and apprenticeship centres were strengthened and equipped while 40 staffs from the five participating districts were trained in project proposal writing under the capacity building component of EASY.

However officials say the three-year project has phased out at a time when demand for non-formal vocational skills training is rising among the young people.

Mr John Kenyi, the ACAV project officer wondered what would happen to the thousands of youths who turned up for interviews and were not selected for training.

“Is the district local government able to organise training for them or are they going to remain idle, lose hope and turn into thieves and drunkards?” he asked as he presented the overall progress report to stakeholders at the Arua Christ the King parish hall on Friday.

Those in attendance were community development officers, sub county chairpersons, political leaders, representatives of vocational training institutions and apprenticeship centres, parents and the last batch of trainees from Arua district.

Majority of them trained in building and concrete practice, tailoring and garment cutting, carpentry and joinery, hair dressing, knitting and weaving, and catering and hotel management.

The others trained in phone repairs, plumbing, motorcycle repairs, wielding and metal fabrication and electrical installation.

The closing event was witnessed by the President of ACAV Mr Giorgio Boneccher and the regional manager Mr Pierluigi Floretta.

The stakeholders were in agreement with Kenyi’s assessment that those teenagers who got the opportunity to be trained and assisted with tools for work in their various areas of interest stood better chance of becoming self-reliant and job creators.

That view was concretised by Amos Econi, a person with disabilities from Nyio trading centre in Vurra sub county who was one of the pioneer beneficiaries when the EASY project commenced in 2016.

Econi who trained in knitting and weaving says he has changed from a crippled beggar to a dependable person for his family.

“I sell each sweater at sh28,000 and in a month I can get sh420,000. I have saved sh700,000 in my account since I finished the course, I am planning to use the money to build my house and get married,” he said to a raucous mirth from the participants.

Amos EconiAmos Econi, one of the pioneer youths trained under the EASY project in 2016 says he sells seaters worth sh700,000 a month. PHOTO BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU

To sustain the training programme and reduce youth unemployment in the region, Mr Patrick Bongo, the ACAV deputy manager suggested that the districts and sub counties could adopt a similar initiative by Kijomoro sub county in Maracha district that sponsored four youths for the three months skills training and bought for them start-up tools.

“If every sub county trained four people and each district trains 50 people in a financial year, that would make a big difference,” he said.

But district officials were noncommittal to such an idea with the community development officer Mr Edward Candia and the secretary for community services Mr Augustine Vuni both lamenting lack of resources to facilitate such a programme.

West Nile is one of the regions with high rate of poverty and youth unemployment in Uganda. The 2016/2017 Uganda National Household Survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics found out that only 57% of the West Nile people are active in the labour force.

Mr PierluigiMr Pierluigi Floretta, the ACAV regional manager stresses a point to Manasseh Abangu as he hands over start up tool kits in Arua on Friday. PHOTO BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU