UN-supported vocational training centre keeping youth dreams alive in Aweil
An entertaining cultural dance greets the head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), as he visits a vocational training centre in Aweil town, located in the north-west of the country.
One would be forgiven to think the centre is an arena for riveting cultural performances, but a cursory look through the windows to the adjacent classrooms reveals that in fact, this is just a show for the visiting delegation – there is serious business going on here.
The youthful dancers also come to the centre to hone their skills in different fields, and they have different dreams motivating their coming to the centre.
“If you apply for a job you don’t even get that job if you don’t know computer,” says23-year-old Apuk Maria Dut who wants to be a journalist. “And also, all adverts are online … and if you know computer, you can apply online,” she adds.
To Maria, a lot revolves around the computer and the internet, and she has chosen to come here to sharpen her computer skills because she does not want to be left behind.
“Also, we have distance learning through computer. So, we really want this computer [centre] to be sustainable for youth and women,” Maria concludes.
Impressed, the visiting head of the UN Mission acknowledges this when he speaks to the computer class at the centre.
“As you know, computers are the future. The internet is the future. So, I think you’ve chosen wisely in terms of where you are,” says Mr. David Shearer, who is also the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
A classroom away, a creaking sound is heard, as more learners are sewing away. Wulbo Bol, is one of the tailoring students here, exuding confidence as she prides in what she can now accomplish with the skills she has acquired.
“I feel good now because I know everything,” she says. “When I go to the market, I will work and then get some money to buy food for my children,” she concludes. But she has one more thing to say.
“I’m so good now – I can even make that shirt you are wearing,” she declares, smiling.
Established with funding from UNDP – the United Nations Development Programme – and the Relief, Reintegration and Protection Section of UNMISS, the centre aims to help train South Sudanese youth in essential skills that will make them both self-reliant and competitive in the job market. Here, they are taught essential skills in computer, tailoring, carpentry, and other trades.
The centre’s headteacher, Biong Wake, believes this kind of training will help to contribute to building durable peace in South Sudan, because the youth will be preoccupied with things that will benefit their lives instead of fighting.
“These young people are being used as weapons for certain groups of people who are trying to get their interests through them,” says Mr. Wake. “So, we are trying to engage them such that they don’t get involved in to the conflict. That’s why we are trying to help them, both men and women, to be able to have means of surviving,” he concludes.
With no immediate peace and security concerns, the Aweil area, which has enjoyed a long spell without conflict, has its eyes focused on recovery and development programmes.
Through supporting such programmes, UNMISS and partners are helping to rehabilitate the youth who have been affected by war by creating opportunities for them, while creating a conducive environment for people who have been displaced for years by war to voluntarily return home.