Ugandan Youths and Refugees Trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Ugandan youths and refugees trained in Business and Vocational Skills

Finn Church Aid with partner Enabel has provided Ugandan and refugee youth in Palorinya settlement with necessary business understanding and vocational skills to find opportunities for sustainable livelihoods.

The war in South Sudan forced Alex Lojuan, 27, to flee his home and settle in Palorinya Refugee settlement, located in Obongi district in the West Nile sub-region of Uganda. He is one of the 512 youth that enrolled for the GIZ-ENABEL funded project implemented by Finn Church Aid (FCA) in the Palorinya refugee settlement.

“My father died during the war and as the eldest child in the family, I had to take on the mantle of providing for the family. These were the hardest moments of my life, fending for a family in a foreign land,” Alex says.

Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement
Alex Lojuan attending to a customer at his Retail shop located in Odraji Village, Zone 1 – Palorinya settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Alex started laying bricks for income and later got the opportunity to work with Lutheran World Federation (LWF) as a casual worker, distributing soap to refugees during the monthly distribution of food rations and household items in settlements. While at LWF, he received information about the FCA Business and Technical Vocational Education Trainings (BTVET).

“As luck would have it, I was enrolled as one of the FCA business skills trainees. Although, I am yet to finish the business training course, what I have learned so far in the first two modules has instilled in me a positive mindset for success,” Alex says.

Enhanced youth employability

The project ‘Promoting Youth Employability through Enterprise and Skills Development’ (PROYES) began in October 2019 and ended in May 2021. It sought to enhance profitable employment opportunities for refugee and host community youths through skills training and business development support, by equipping the youth with demand-driven vocational and business skills for fluent transition into working life in employment or self-employment.

During the project, FCA trained and mentored young people in Business Start-up and Management and in vocational skills like hairdressing, sandal making, carpentry, tailoring and building construction.

Backed by the training and skills received from the FCA business class training, in March 2020 Alex started up a retail business with the money saved from bricklaying and casual work.

“I used my 300,000 Ugandan Shillings savings to start a retail shop in Odraji Village, Zone 1 in Palorinya settlement. Within seven months, my business capital had doubled. This is in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic situation that has affected most businesses,” Alex says.

“I run my shop with proper business principles learned during the FCA training. I have a business plan, I negotiate with suppliers to get the best deals, practice marketing of my goods, and deliver great customer service in my business,” he adds.

Alex earns a weekly profit of over 30,000 Ugandan Shillings (UGX) and with this money, he is able to take care of his extended family.  He also bought bicycle for himself and put up a temporary structure that houses his retail shop.

Linking learning to earning

In a bid to increase employability chances of the youth trained, FCA provided start-up kits to the trainees who completed the course. The organisation also linked the trainees to available employment opportunities.

By end of the project period, 153 trainees, including 86 males and 67 females, were employed either by the private sector entities where they had attended industrial training or became self-employed.

Gordon Chiria, a 26-year-old Ugandan living in Obongi town managed to set up his dream business after the training.

“I used to grow and sell maize and other crops to support my family.  This business wasn’t successful because I failed to maintain it. After FCA’s training, I started a retail business with a capital of UGX 300,000. Currently I make sales worth UGX 80,000 per day and much more on market days,” Gordon says.

Using his business profits, Gordon managed to buy two goats and support his family. He plans to expand his business to both retail and wholesale. “I appreciate Enabel and FCA’s efforts towards making the livelihood of Obongi community youths better,” he adds.

Focus also on young women’s skills

The project also supported female youths. More than half, 53 % of all beneficiaries were females that benefited from the six skills trades under the project.

FCA supported female participation by establishing four child daycare centres and also facilitated customised career guidance, counselling and life skills training to enable female trainees appreciate the trainings and build their resilience to complete the course.

Esther Kuyang, 25-year-old South Sudanese refugee came to Palorinya refugee settlement with her family in January 2017. “My family and I were depending on the limited resources provided by World Food Programme. The food rations provided were not always enough, yet it was quite hard to get supplementary food due to lack of a source of income,” she recounts.

“While I was still pondering about what to do to take care of my family, FCA came to my aid. With their support, I enrolled for a business entrepreneurship course at Belameling Vocational Training Centre,” Esther tells.

“I had previously been trained by FCA in sandal making. Due to the lack of start-up capital, I was yet to put that skill into practice. During the business training under the FCA-Enabel project, I learned that my real capital was my brain. I immediately started to think of ways to get capital to rejuvenate my previously acquired skills of sandal making.”

Esther Kuyang making sandals in her workshop.
Esther Kuyang a south Sudanese refugee making sandals in her workshop in Chinyi village, Zone 1, Palorinya refugee settlement. Photo: Linda Kabuzire.

“In mid-July 2020, I got a loan of UGX 170,000 from my friend and bought some basic materials such as rubber, thread, beads, for starting a sandal making business. With the business skills acquired in the training like record keeping, marketing and proper accounting, my business started growing. Within two months, I grew my business capital to UGX 200,000. On average, I earn a profit of UGX 28,000 weekly. I am still paying off my loan and I will keep reinvesting the profits in the business. I am also saving with Vision Savings Group, our FCA–Enabel Internal lending group,” she adds.

Esther is the chairperson of the savings group that was formed in January 2020 under the support of FCA-Enabel project. So far she has saved 75,000 shillings with this group. She also bought a bicycle, which facilitates her movements. Esther plans to buy more tools and equipment’s for sandal making, especially those that she currently lacks. She also plans on expanding the business and opening more branches in other trading centres to generate more income.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Crises may pave the way to a brighter future

Crises may pave the way to a brighter future

As I am writing this, the Covid-19 pandemic is dominating the news and daily politics for the second year running. In fact, this topic has overshadowed other news to such an extent that it is hard to remember what went on in the world before Covid-19 testing, vaccines and coronavirus variants. Climate change, protracted conflicts, swarms of locusts destroying crops – does any of that ring a bell?

The work carried out by Finn Church Aid focuses on providing education, securing livelihoods and building peace. The objective of long-term development cooperation is to help entire communities become stable and self-sufficient.  

We also respond to more urgent needs. After a massive explosion in the port of Lebanon’s capital Beirut in August 2020, we delivered emergency assistance to those affected. When Covid-19 stopped trade and food deliveries at state borders in several parts of the world, we continued to provide emergency food assistance.  

Some of the areas where we promote development cooperation, humanitarian assistance and peace do naturally overlap, just as global crises are inextricably intertwined. Many of our programme countries faced profound challenges even before the Covid-19 pandemic. Changes in climate and protracted conflicts have caused food crises, health crises and displacement of millions of people. 

In South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, devastating floods have left two thirds of the country’s 11 million inhabitants in need of some form of humanitarian assistance as they are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition. 

Syria also has a disastrous decade of suffering behind it. This conflict-ridden country has spiralled into an economic crisis that, for Syrian people, translates into a shortage of food and lost income opportunities. An entire generation of children has gone to school in emergency conditions. 

Poika kirjoittaa vihkoon luokassa.
Muhammad Abdo Hijzai from East Ghouta is a 13-year-old boy who participated in remedial education in, for example, mathematics, supported by Finn Church Aid. Photo: Abu Talib Al-Buhaya.

The global pandemic has ruthlessly exposed the weaknesses of many countries. In Nepal, more than 25 per cent of the country’s GDP has in recent years consisted of remittances by Nepalese working abroad. With the pandemic forcing migrant workers to return home, families have struggled for more than a year, trying to cope without an adequate income to guarantee a decent living. 

But the pandemic has not brought all progress to a halt, even if we sometimes feel like it. In a number of projects, the situation has forced us to take a big leap forward in technology. For instance, in Kenya we distributed radios to enable women to participate in peace dialogues. Our objective in such projects was to make communities better equipped to resolve conflicts involving natural resources. 

Without a doubt, we will face more challenges in the future. Our climate is becoming increasingly harsh, and in these changing conditions, it is likely that more epidemics will circulate in the population. Natural disasters will force people to leave their homes in growing numbers. According to forecasts, a high population growth rate in Africa will result in massive migration within the continent.  

But the good news is that resilient societies are able to take better precautions and prepare for disasters. In time, the Covid-19 crisis will pass, and this is when Finn Church Aid’s efforts to improve education, support livelihoods and forge peace will bear fruit and produce even more tangible results. Those who have participated in our projects have been building a stronger foundation for their lives, enabling them to pursue a brighter future. 

Ulriikka Myöhänen, Communications Specialist.

This text twas originally published in our Annual Report 2020 that came out recently. Would you like to know more about what was done?

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Emerging stronger after Covid-19

South Sudan faces multiple shocks, but optimism remains

South Sudan faces multiple shocks but optimism remains

South Sudan reaches its tenth Independence Day on 9th July in a situation in which the Covid-19 pandemic is hampering the country’s gradual recovery from conflict. An economic crisis and exceptional floods add to the challenges, but there is also significant optimism among youth, writes Finn Church Aid’s Humanitarian Coordinator Moses Habib.

WHEN WILL THE PANDEMIC END? Who brought Covid-19 to South Sudan? These are questions we encountered from beneficiaries while rolling out community awareness campaigns about the pandemic. As a layperson with limited knowledge about Covid-19, it was intriguing to explain to people the myths about a virus we all did not understand, and that left me with memories I will have forever.

The general situation in South Sudan is dire. What worries me most is that before the pandemic struck, more than two-thirds of the country’s population – about 8.3 million people – were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance in order to survive. In 2020, the multiple shocks caused by intensified conflict and sub-national violence, a second consecutive year of major flooding, and the impacts of Covid-19 hit communities severely.

The challenges increased the vulnerability of populations that were already at risk. It worries me even more to hear some say that there is not enough political will to end their suffering.

We believe that advancing inclusion over exclusion paves the way for addressing the root causes of conflicts and ending the cycles of violence. In practice, we equip youth, women, traditional and religious actors with skills in conflict resolution, mediation and peacebuilding. Our efforts have materialized at local and community levels but have not yet translated to adequate representation in the national peace process.

What gives me hope is that there is optimism among young people, despite the country’s protracted challenges. South Sudan has abundant natural resources, which keeps many South Sudanese optimistic about the future. People believe that with a conducive environment free of conflict, this country has the potential to take off and become a breadbasket of the East African region and beyond.


Text: Moses Habib, Humanitarian Coordinator
Main photo: Sumy Sadurni

Photo story Peace Work for over 10 years

Finn Church Aid has worked in South Sudan throughout the country’s independence. FCA builds peace in local communities, empowers youth and women in peacebuilding and through access to vocational education, and supports children’s access to school. Have a look at photos of our work throughout the years!

Joukko ihmisiä on kokoontunut istumaan ulos.
Joukko nuoria poseeraa ulkona.

Members of a youth peace committee in Pibor in 2019. Pibor has a reputation for cattle rustling and fighting between youth groups, but peace committees have reduced conflict and supported reconciliation.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Joukko naisia istuu ringissä.

A gathering of the women’s peace committee in Pibor in 2019. Women are an integral part of peace building efforts but often not represented in peace processes. Before this group was founded, villagers reported incidents of violence five times a week. Thanks to peace committees like this one, incidents in 2019 occurred at an average of once a week.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Opettaja liitutaululla ja oppilaat kuuntelevat.

One of Finn Church Aid’s key objectives is to maximise the opportunities of children and young people to attend school and receive a quality education. This project, funded by the EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), supported 7,000 pupils’ access to school in Fangak County.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Lapset hyppivät iloisesti narua.

Girls playing after class in New Fangak. Schools offer a safe place for girls amidst disasters, societal pressures and harsh economic realities that lie at the bottom of issues like child marriage and child labour.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Joukko ihmisiä on kokoontunut istumaan ulos.

Teacher training funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) in New Fangak. The training of teachers builds the foundation for quality education.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Joukko nuoria taiteilee jalkapallolla.

Youth at the local youth centre in Pibor. Football is one of the most popular pastimes across the country.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Henkilö seisoo kuivalla maalla ja katsoo kauas.

Floods and drought create challenges for food production in South Sudan’s northern parts. Nyaluak Kong Kuon lost her harvest to the floods and faces difficulties in planting during the heat of the dry season.
Photo: Maria de la Guardia

Nainen kuokkii maata.

Nyakuola Pale Thieng grows onions on her lands in Old Fangak. In 2020, a total of 6,347 beneficiaries benefitted from Finn Church Aid’s distribution of agricultural inputs and fishing gear.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

Mies kalastaa kaislikon edessä.

Luor Luny Thoar with his catch near Toch village in South Sudan’s Sudd swamp. Besides receiving gear, fishermen are also trained in fish preservation methods, which ultimately increase the profit of their livelihood when they sell their catch to the market.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

Lapset riemuitsevat koulun edessä.

Youth at the Juba Technical School. Finn Church Aid supports Technical Vocational Education Training (TVET) for youth in for instance construction, catering, mechanics, hairdressing and tailoring.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Nainen hymyilee vatupassi kädessään.

23-year old Abir Mustafa trains in construction. More than half of the 414 youths that benefited from TVET training in 2020 were women.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

Kokin asuun pukeutunut henkilö laittaa ruokaa.

21-year-old Reida trained in catering in Juba and managed to secure an internship at a hotel. In 2020, 414 young people completed a post-vocational internship in the private sector, and 298 of them continued at work after their internship.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt

Vilkas markkinakatu.

The market in Yei town in South Sudan’s southern parts. Yei County is traditionally considered South Sudan’s breadbasket region due to its fertile soil and agricultural traditions. The conflict that erupted in 2016 forced many to flee across the border to neighbouring Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Mies korjaa peltikattoa.

The peace agreement in September 2018 has encouraged some people to return home from the refugee settlements. Finn Church Aid supports returnees and the host community in Yei with for instance cash transfers that help people feed their families and rebuild their houses and livelihoods.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

Sisarukset Stella ja Pascal hymyilevät rinnakkain ulkona.

Siblings Stella, 28, and Pascal, 25, returned to Yei from Uganda’s refugee settlements in 2019 and have worked hard to cultivate their plot of land. Pascal managed to finalise his agricultural studies thanks to the cash transfers.
Photo: Sumy Sadurni

FCA takes a step towards localisation by forming a Global Leadership Team

FCA takes a step towards localisation by forming a Global Leadership Team

Mies puhuu mikrofoniin ruohokentällä, yleisöä ja valkoisia telttakatoksia taustalla.
Country Director for Uganda Wycliffe Nsheka addresses the graduates at Finn Church Aid’s graduation ceremony for from the Business and Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET) at Rwamwanja refugee settlement. Photo: Michele Sibiloni.

FCA’s Board of Directors has appointed three representatives of FCA’s programme countries to its newly formed Global Leadership Team (GLT) in June. The GLT is part of FCA’s new organisational structure that came into force on April 1, 2021, and the term of the representatives is 2+1 years.

Country Director of South Sudan Mr Berhanu Haile, Country Director of Nepal Ms Sofia Olsson, and Country Director of Uganda, Mr Wycliffe Nsheka will be starting in their new roles in August. Permanent member of the Global Leadership team are Executive Director Jouni Hemberg and Deputy Executive Director Tomi Järvinen.

The GLT will have a significant role in strategic decision-making in FCA’s new organisational structure that aims to serve better the people FCA works with and emphasise accountability. Having a multi-skilled Global Leadership Team with diverse field experiences will improve FCA’s work, says Wycliffe Nsheka.

“Development cooperation has taken a major shift whereby the focus now is to promote mutual learning. I have been in the sector for 20 years, and there has been talk of localisation for a long time, but there is still work to be done in bringing it to practise”, Nsheka continues.

The new GLT will be committed to making localisation a reality and supporting the Global South to strengthen ownership and sustainability. Berhanu Haile says that the new management model is a significant step towards heeding local knowledge and experience to inform strategic decision-making.

“This is a significant step towards localisation while at the same time transforming FCA to be a global organisation that embraces views from North and South,” says Haile.

“The approach will ensure that we strategically respond to the rights and needs of the marginalised people with whom we work,” says Sofia Olsson.

Women are at the front line of peace work – but why are all peace negotiators men?

You cannot build lasting peace without women. Many have probably heard this claim before, but why does gender matter?

Conflicts and crises affect entire societies, and we also know that women and men are affected differently. Even so, we rarely see women at the tables where decisions regarding our shared future are made. The Syrian peace talks started in 2012 without a single female participant, and on average, only 13 per cent of the world’s peace negotiators were women between 1992 and 2019.

A high-level peace negotiation around a luxurious mahogany table is perhaps the best-known setting associated with peace work, but it is not the only one. Less attention is paid to women’s grassroots-level accomplishments to prevent and solve conflicts in their communities.

In South Sudan, the world’s youngest country, millions of people have been displaced by conflict, food crises and a collapsed economy. In addition to political disputes, conflicts are sparked on the community level by violent cattle raids, committed not only in hopes of livelihood but also as part of a coming-of-age rite for boys. The raids lead to violent cycles of revenge between and within communities.

Finn Church Aid has supported setting up peace committees for women and youth in the states of Boma and Jonglei, and the persistent effort of the women’s committees has led to a clear decrease in violence. It has also changed views on community leadership. The leaders have traditionally been men, but now, women are the first to be called to negotiate peace and prevent the escalation of conflicts.

The persistent effort of the women’s committees has led to a clear decrease in violence.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought changes to peacebuilding. Discussions at high-end conference rooms or in a tree’s shade are on hold as face-to-face meetings are no longer an option. The pandemic is also feared to make the root causes of conflicts worse and deepen the inequity faced by women.

In Kenya, cases of female genital mutilation have increased. Covid-19 has weakened the financial situation of families and forced schools to close, and as a result, parents are anxious to marry their daughters off earlier than usual. But the women in Kenya have not been idle. The women’s peace committees FCA supports have mobilised influencers and decision-makers to join the fight against genital mutilation and continue their work of settling conflicts between and within communities via radio. At the same time, the women provide support and information regarding Covid-19.

Imagine again the luxurious conference hall where a peace treaty is being signed. That treaty is bound to be built on a shaky foundation if those around the mahogany table are just representatives of armed actors and the political elite (out of whom, of course, a good number ought to be women as well).

The Covid-19 crisis is a reminder of the role and influence of female actors: these women’s peace movements in the midst of and as parts of communities are on the front line responding to any type of crisis – whether an armed conflict or a global pandemic.
 

Paula Tarvainen
Senior Advisor, Right to Peace

Uganda hosts a new generation of high-aiming youth: “Education is crucial for girls”

Education Cannot Wait

  • In 2020, a total of 107,187 learners in 57 schools in Bidibidi, Kyaka II and Rwamwanja refugee settlements benefitted from Finn Church Aid’s education project funded by the Education Cannot Wait fund.

 

  • The project included, among other things, classroom renovation, construction of teacher housing, teacher training to improve the quality of education and distribution of scholastic materials and sanitary kits for girls.

 

  • During school closure due to Covid-19, FCA promoted child protection and continued learning at home through home learning packages, radio lectures and teacher support for small groups of learners.
When fighting resumed in South Sudan in 2016, millions of people sought refuge in neighbouring Uganda. Bidibidi quickly became the largest refugee settlement in the world.

One of Uganda’s 1,4 million refugees is Sylvia Poni, 17, who found her new home here with her 75-year-old grandmother Joanne Pilista. They stay with two small children that Joanne took under her wing during the flight.

Leaving their previous life behind has been tough, but grandma Joanne believes that the quality of education in Uganda has positively impacted Sylvia. The firm structures of Yoyo Primary School are visible through the thick bush by the family’s house.

“We are from Kajo Keji where schools were made of grass,” Joanne explains. “Parents had to take time off their work to fetch grass and mud to build the schools – or prevent them from falling apart.”

Sylvia also loves the fact that there are many classrooms. She feels safe and comfortable at school, and rain or shine, lessons go on throughout the day.

Grandma Joanne never went to school herself. She wishes she could go back in time and get an education. For Sylvia, it is still possible, and she is determined to take her chance.

“I want to become a teacher and go back to South Sudan,” she says. “I want to help those who have dropped out of school so that they can achieve their goals and find jobs.”

Quality education builds a better life after school closure – “I thought I would not return”

Old wooden school structures covered with the recognisable UNHCR white tarpaulin are a dead giveaway: refugees go to this school.

But behind the white canvases are four colourful, bright orange, concrete buildings with green windows and hallways. This is Ebenezer Secondary School, a school for both South Sudanese refugees and Ugandan youth in the Obongi District of Palorinya refugee settlement in northern Uganda.

“Teaching in the old structures was tough,” explains Winnie Akol, a teacher from Eastern Uganda currently residing at the school. She points at the old tent-like structures.

“The classrooms were congested, there was not enough air coming in. We teachers could not reach the back of the room to check on the other children because the rooms were so small. When it rained, we had to stop the lessons because we could not hear ourselves over the rain pounding on the iron sheets. No one could focus on the lecture and it was always so dusty inside.”

Winnie smiling on the school yard.

Winnie Akol, from eastern Uganda, teaches in Ebenezer Secondary School in Palorinya refugee settlement in northern Uganda. Finn Church Aid’s (FCA) work at the school is funded by The U.S. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Winnie believes that after the new structures were constructed, children’s learning has improved because they have no distractions. Two of the main classrooms are laboratories for science and have electricity, sinks and Bunsen burners with which the children can practice chemistry.

Inclusive education and a wheelchair gave Simon, 24, a second chance at school

South Sudanese Simon Peter was out of school for long because he could not reach the classroom. An inclusive education project in Kakuma refugee camp brought him a new chance while teaching teachers and parents how to support persons with disabilities.

Simon Peter is 24 years old but is only in primary class 3. He enrolled in school for the first time ten years earlier after growing up in a rural area of South Sudan. Before that, schools were located too far for him.

Simon was born with hemiplegia. Hemi means “half” and hemiplegia refers to the paralysis of half of the body. He had no wheelchair to help him reach a school. His chance to join school came only when his family moved to a city.

“I never got a chance to socialize and play with other children. I was indoors most of the time”, Simon describes his childhood.

Shortly after Simon started his education, South Sudan slid into a civil war that disrupted his learning. It took a long time before he could enrol again, this time in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Finn Church Aid’s project for supporting special needs education issued him with a wheelchair to help him reach the school.

Simon’s guardian Mark Loyiel is grateful for the opportunity for Simon to catch up with education.

“I used to carry him wherever he needed to go. It is a relief that I can wheel him to school, and he manages the school day by himself while I report to other duties. Then I pick him up after the classes”, he says.

Inclusive education and learning environment

Finn Church Aid’s special needs education project benefits 275 children and youth with disabilities that live in the refugee camp in Kenya. The project has also trained 69 teachers on inclusive education that bridges the language barriers of refugee learners and prepares teachers to meet the needs of learners with disabilities. The support to the learners also includes wheelchairs, stationaries, textbooks, school uniforms and food.

Ensuring an inclusive learning environment also requires construction work. The project has built disability-friendly classrooms and pit latrines in all the primary schools and Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) centres in Kalobeyei settlement, a part of Kakuma refugee camp.

When Kenya ordered schools to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic, FCA distributed solar-powered radios to enable Simon and other persons with disabilities to participate in radio lectures. Teachers have complemented broadcasts with home visits and by following up on the homework of learners.

Parents and guardians actively involved in their children’s education

The project has actively involved parents and guardians of children with disabilities in supporting the special needs education, says Simon’s guardian Mark Loyiel. Mark is also happy that the schools include those with disabilities in physical activities, such as ball games.  Before the pandemic, they were all cheering in inter-village competitions for learners – with or without disabilities, playing together as one family.

Mark is particularly grateful for the psychosocial support that goes with the project. The staff of FCA visit their home to engage with the family and build a stronger understanding of persons with disabilities.

“We have found new aspects of understanding and respect for Simon’s personality and dignity. Persons with disabilities are not a burden – they are unique human beings like anyone”, he says.

“The home visits of the staff make us feel like we are one family to them.”

Simon Peter has grown much and describes himself as very peaceful. He dreams of becoming a teacher for primary class 1 and wants to teach mathematics and science to children with disabilities.

“I want to give back for the support I have received, and I feel that I know from experience what children with disabilities need when they grow up.”

Text: Elizabeth Oriedi

Over 7,000 pupils accessed quality education with EU Humanitarian funding in South Sudan

In 2020, New Fangak saw its first primary school leaving exams since the war that started in 2013. A new project component strengthened the livelihoods of parents, enabling more girls from vulnerable families to join school.

Finn Church Aid (FCA) opened its office in New Fangak, Jonglei State in 2016 and began with an EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) funded project by constructing schools and attracting learners.

Currently, the support reaches 16 schools in Fangak County in four villages. Field Team Leader Dhuor Deng Kuony says that the idea of a child’s right to education has grown stronger during the past four years. New school structures, teacher training and involving the community have been vital.

“I’m personally proud when I see children coming to school and the support they get from their parents, the community and the government that runs the education affairs”, Deng says.

“The community has taken ownership of the schools. They have built the structures and parents are strongly involved in their children’s education through Parent-Teacher Associations.”

A total of 130 teachers has received training within the project, and more than 7,000 pupils can access learning spaces and materials. With awareness-campaigns included, the project has reached more than 20,000 direct beneficiaries and an estimated 60,000 indirect beneficiaries.

Supporting livelihoods of vulnerable families increase enrolment

When the initial project started in 2016, there were no schools. The education that took place was given under trees by teachers who barely had completed their primary education.

Teacher training has been an essential part of the project from the start. Qualified teachers equal quality education, and families become more motivated when they see their children not only attending school but actually learning.

Nyaluak Maker, 15, is in class 2 in William Chuol Primary School and says that teachers are now punctual, and listen and interact with learners. She describes them as friendly and motivating

“I now feel very comfortable with asking my teacher about things I did not understand during the lecture. They will come to me individually, and explain patiently until I understand”, she says.

Nyaluak Maker, 15, says that her mother encourages her to focus on her learning. Photo: Maria de la Guardia / FCA

One of the challenges in Fangak County is convincing parents to send both boys and girls to school. In pastoralist communities, parents do not traditionally send their children to school, and particularly girls are the last to access education. They are often forced to marry at an early age.

“Women role models are powerful in convincing parents. We want to show that their girls can earn a living in the future, and for instance, female teachers are good examples”, Deng says.

But even more important is responding to the immediate needs of vulnerable families. In an area prone to floods and drought, food shortages are common, and poverty widespread. Many need their children to support the daily survival of their families through cooking or working.

This is why cash transfers and livelihoods support were added to the project, with funding by EU Humanitarian Aid. Parents that farm received seeds and training and the cash transfers have enabled single-parent households particularly to establish businesses at the market.

Nyadeng Chan and Wal Diew are both widows, and they combined their cash transfers of 6,050 South Sudanese Pounds (35 euros) each to establish a shop for tea and the local bread kisra.

“We decided to use the cash for something that keeps us going in the future instead of spending all on food. That would have soon taken us back to square one”, Wal says.

Business women Diew Wal and Nyaldeng Chan in front of the restaurant they co-own and run in New Fangak, South Sudan on 8 March 2020. Parents of school-going children receive cash distributions that help them start businesses to generate an income for their families. Photo: Maria de la Guardia / FCA

First primary leaving exams since 2013

The project reached a crucial milestone in early 2020 when 43 pupils sat, and 28 passed the first primary school leaving exams in New Fangak since the war started. This makes the youth eligible to continue their education journey on a national level.

17-year-old George Juang was one of the first to complete the exams in February.

“My teachers helped me prepare well. When I passed, many people I know are more eager to join the school because they also want to pass like me”, George says.

George now dreams of an opportunity to enrol in secondary education, which is not currently available in the whole of Fangak County. Despite a physical disability as a result of polio, he is determined to become an accountant.

“School teaches you to take care of yourself, and it exposes you to different cultures. You know how to protect yourself and how to pursue your dreams.”

George Juang is one of the first in New Fangak to have sat and passed his Primary 8 exams. Photo: Maria de la Guardia / FCA

Read more about this project funded by EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) in our photo story.

Finland’s Africa strategy should harness Africa’s youth dividend for positive change

Finland's Africa strategy

FCA has published a document with recommendations for Finland’s Africa strategy. Download the document by clicking here.

Africa is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets, despite facing many challenges across the continent. Political ties of African countries, security issues and the effects of global phenomena, like climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic, have an increasing influence on the entire world.

This is why an increasing number of actors build partnerships with African countries. Last year, the US launched a new Africa strategy. Russia held its first Africa summit, and China has meticulously strengthened its ties with the continent. This year, the EU has worked on its own partnership strategy.

How should Finland position itself to play a part in Africa’s future?

FCA has released a document with recommendations for Finland’s Africa strategy. It emphasises that Africa is a continent of youth. They form the continent’s future and affect the entire world.

FCA argues that Finland can achieve its goal of having an impact beyond its size if its Africa strategy manages to harness the continent’s youth dividend for positive change and development.

While national populations in other parts of the world are ageing, most African countries have majority youth populations. Currently, 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. These young women and men bring great potential for the African future. By 2050, there will be 2 billion Africans, and one-third of the world’s youth will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

Some of the most pressing needs in African countries coincide with areas where Finland stands out as a global leader, such as quality education, linking learning to earning, sustainable livelihoods and promoting peace, security, gender equality and good governance.

A mutually beneficial partnership is an opportunity for both Africa and Finland.

Learn more about the path forward from FCA’s recommendations to Finland’s Africa strategy. Download the document by clicking here.