Vocational training unlocks the potential of refugees

Vocational training unlocks the potential of refugees

In Uganda’s Rwamwanja refugee settlement, thousands of refugees, including a significant number of youth, face immense challenges. Locked out of many employment opportunities, they struggle to find ways to generate income.

FINN CHURCH AID launched their Business Vocational Education and Training (BTVET) programme in response to the need for change.  It’s had a profound impact on the lives of the young people living in the settlement.

Two individuals living in Rwamwanja, located in Kamwenge district, Western Uganda, shared with us how their lives have been positively impacted by the programme. The UN Refugee Agency and the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs jointly support the initiative.

From shattered dreams to creative success

Gaston Chirimwami, a Congolese refugee living in Rwamwanja, had long harbored aspirations to become a musician. His goal was dashed, however, when he was forced to flee his country and seek safety in Uganda. His luck changed when he enrolled in FCA’s Creative Industries programme at their training centre.

There, he discovered his passion for video production and learned skills such as camera operating and photo and video editing. Gaston’s newfound abilities not only boosted his confidence but also provided him with a source of income through photography.

“I believe I can pursue both music and video editing like successful musicians like Tekno,” he told us.

A man in a red t shirt and wearing headphones holds a camera and looks into the viewfinder from above. Another man stands behind him and looks over his shoulder.
Gaston Chirimwami shooting a video in Rwamwanja refugee settlement. Gaston completed FCA training in camera operation and video and photo editing.

Hairdressing helps support an entire family

Majengo Sadick, a resilient young adult who has the responsibility of caring for his six siblings, stumbled upon FCA’s vocational training program, and found it lifechanging. After completing a hair dressing course at the centre, Sadick started a mobile salon in Rwamwanja refugee settlement (see main picture).

Sadick’s newfound abilities in hairdressing opened doors to lucrative job opportunities while also igniting a passion he never knew he had.

Today, as a professional cosmetician, he owns a salon and supports his siblings’ education. “I’m glad that FCA provided me with skills and a professional certificate without any cost as compared to the expense I would spend in my home country, Congo,’’he says.

A man stands in front of a straw fence and braids a long pony tail. He is wearing an apron and has a look of concentration
Majengo Sadick braiding a client’s hair at her house. Majengo completed an FCA vocational training course in hairdressing and now runs his own salon in Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Uganda.

Vocational training brings transformative change

Beyond these individual success stories, FCA’s vocational training program has made a tangible impact on the Rwamwanja community. The programme’s focus on trades such as tailoring, cosmetics, and agriculture has resulted in the establishment of numerous salons and tailoring firms owned by FCA BTVET graduates.

Parents in the community have witnessed the transformative changes brought about by vocational education. Now youth, who were once passed over, play a crucial role in rebuilding their lives and addressing unemployment challenges. Many graduates have even ventured beyond Kamwenge district, competing for job opportunities in urban centres across the country.

The hope for a better future is being restored, one skill at a time, thanks to FCA’s vocational programme.

Text and Images by Shema Bienvenu: Communications Intern at FCA Uganda

Shema completed secondary school with assistance from FCA and is now studying Journalism and Communication at university. We are honoured that he chose FCA for his internship!

World Refugee Day 2023 – hope away from home in Nakivale

World Refugee Day 2023 – hope away from home in Nakivale, Uganda

Finn Church Aid (FCA) is dedicated to making a profound difference in the lives of refugees residing in Uganda’s refugee settlements. Through the Disaster Relief Funds project, FCA has been able to provide crucial support and educational opportunities to new refugee arrivals in Nakivale Refugee settlement.

Empowering Dreams and Impacting Lives

Ishimwe Emmanuel, an ambitious 18-year-old, had to flee his home in the Democratic Republic of Congo due to escalating violence. His father was killed during the conflict and Ishimwe became the primary source of support for his mother and siblings. Despite adversities, Ishimwe never lost sight of his dream to become a prominent politician.

Taking on multiple responsibilities to generate income, he rented a bicycle to transport and sell water, all while striving to return to school. Ishimwe’s determination paid off when he received scholastic support from FCA, including essential supplies like school bags and books. The impact of this support was profound, reigniting Ishimwe’s motivation to pursue his aspirations and create a positive impact on society.

A teenaged boy in school uniform sits at a desk in a full classroom and holds up a text book to the camera. He is smiling.

Refugees like Ishimwe Emmanuel have experienced extraordinary transformations amidst the challenging circumstances they face.

Reflecting on his journey, Ishimwe shares, “the day I received the scholastic support from FCA, I felt a renewed sense of motivation to pursue my dreams and make a positive impact on society. Their support has been instrumental in helping me believe in myself and my abilities.”

Rediscovering passion for learning

Pauline Tumushime, a resilient thirteen-year-old, who is also from the Democratic Republic of Congo, fled her home country in search of safety and found refuge in Uganda with her family. With her father absent since her early childhood, Pauline’s mother, Nyiramugisha, took on the responsibility of providing for her children.

However, the transition to Uganda presented numerous challenges, making access to education seem like an unattainable dream. It was through FCA’s Youth Engagement Centre in Rubondo zone that Pauline found a renewed sense of hope. Engaging in career guidance and counseling sessions, Pauline rediscovered her passion for learning and the joy of forming connections with her peers.

Supported by her mother and the FCA programme, Pauline is determined to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor and making a difference in the lives of others.

A woman and three girls stand in front of a small hut smiling at the camera

Pauline Tumushiime (Centre) with her mother and two sisters, at their home in Nakivale refugee settlement.

“With the support from my mother and the FCA program, I am now filled with hope and determination. I am grateful for the opportunities that FCA has provided, and I am excited to pursue my dream of becoming a doctor.”

Far-reaching impact

The impact of FCA’s commitment to empowering refugee children and youth through education extends far beyond Ishimwe and Pauline.

The Disaster Funds Project has transformed the lives of 1,460 students within Nakivale Refugee settlement. FCA constructed 2 blocks of classrooms at Rubondo Community Secondary School. By providing essential school supplies, career guidance, and psychosocial support, FCA has significantly increased school enrollment and instilled hope in the hearts of young refugees.

 Their stories serve as a testament to the power of education in unlocking potential and fostering resilience in the face of adversity.

A teacher in a classroom bends over the desk of a pupil in a classroom to check some work
Pauline receives guidance from her class teacher in her classroom at Rubondo Primary School, Nakivale.

“At FCA we are proud to celebrate the indomitable spirit of young individuals like Ishimwe and Pauline, who have overcome tremendous challenges and are making remarkable strides towards achieving their dreams,” says Wycliffe Nsheka, FCA’s Uganda Country Director.

“Through our ongoing support, we continue to empower dreams and inspire hope among refugee children and youth, fostering a brighter future for themselves and their communities,” he adds.

“Education can have a transformative impact on the lives of refugees. Together, we can make dreams a reality and bring lasting change to the lives of those in need.”

Text: Kadla Nabakembo

Breaking barriers: FCA Uganda ensures access to education for children with disabilities

Breaking barriers: FCA Uganda ensures access to education for children with disabilities

Leticia Kanyere is a 14-year-old deaf student. She came to Sweswe Special Needs Education (SNE) Unit after her family heard about their inclusivity scheme. She now stays at the boarding school facilities with her friends, and loves it.

Children with disabilities in refugee settlements are especially vulnerable to stigmatisation, exclusion, isolation, and violence. These barriers limit their abilities to access education, essential services, form relationships with their peers, and foster psychosocial well-being.

“I like the school because it’s easy to make friends. We easily understand each other because we use the same language. In my village, only a few people understand sign language so it’s hard to communicate,” says Leticia, who is doing well in class and wants to become a hairdresser in the future.

A Ugandan girl sitting at a desk in a classroom.
Leticia Kanyere is loving her time at Sweswe SNE. Here people know sign language, and communicating is easier. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

In order to provide inclusive education, Finn Church Aid (FCA) constructed a fully-fledged Special Needs Education Unit at Sweswe Primary School in Kyaka II refugee settlement. The unit was a big undertaking and came together thanks to funding from several donors. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland paid for the unit itself. Then, the U.S department of State, Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) supported the construction of a fence around the SNE unit to enhance the safety of the learners. Finally, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) supports operations in the school.

The support provided to the SNE unit enhances closer supervision, opportunities for safeguarding, and the ability to identify and address children’s psychological, social, and medical needs. This fosters an inclusive environment where learners can stay in school and feel supported.

The facility launched in 2022 and supports learners from both Kyaka II and the neighbouring Rwamwanja refugee settlement. It opened its doors to children and adolescents with disabilities from host and refugee communities, bringing enormous relief to both the children and their families.

Alex Dusabe, 16, also enjoys coming to school. “I used to have many challenges back home but when I came to Sweswe SNE, I made friends with the teachers, and they support me,” he says.

A Ugandan boy in sitting at a desk in a classroom, with classmates behind him.
Many of the students at Sweswe feel the school has helped them make friends. Alex Dusabe is no exception, and has several friends among his classmates. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

Finn Church Aid trains teachers at the facility in special needs education and management so they can both engage with and take care of the learners.

The inclusive environment at the school makes it possible for learners with special needs to stay in school. The blocks at the facility have been constructed with ramps and rails and are accessible by wheelchair. The classrooms are brightly lit to help the visually impaired. Further improvements are planned to make students’ lives easier.

“The toilet facilities are near the dormitories and far from the dining hall. I would be grateful if we could get a boys’ toilet facility closer to the dining,” says Alex, who has a physical disability.

A picture of a Ugandan youth with crutches on the school yard
Alex Dusabe is actively involved in suggesting improvements to his school. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

Living Businge, a sign language teacher at the SNE Unit with 12 years’ experience, encourages adolescents and children with disabilities to go to school and access their right to quality education.

He’s had a long interest in the deaf community and decided to learn sign language so he could better support them as a teacher.

“Inclusive education provides learning opportunities to all individuals and caters to the diversity among learners. Among people with physical, sensory, mental, and intellectual disabilities, exclusion from education is most pronounced. The SNE unit at Sweswe presents a chance to eliminate the obstacles to participation and learning for students with severe disabilities that mainstream education cannot accommodate,” says Filbert Idha, the Education Technical Lead at Finn Church Aid.

A picture of bunkbeds in the girls' dormitory.
The boarding school creates a safe environment for the learners, who do not have to travel long distances to school everyday. Here, learners with a physically disability sleep in the lower bunks. PHOTO: BJÖRN UDD / FCA

According to Uganda’s national Education Response Plan (ERP) for refugees and host communities, only 2% of learners with disabilities are enrolled in school (global average: 10%). Nationally, only 172,864 children with special needs (approximately 2% of total primary level enrollment) were enrolled in primary schools in 2022.

Disabilities among children who are refugees are reported to be mobility, cognition and vision, but most commonly anxiety and trauma related disorders.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Contract farming project delivers life-changing benefits for women farmers in Uganda

Contract farming project delivers life-changing benefits for women farmers in Uganda

Traditionally, women have had a hard time making a living in Mityana, a rural town in central Uganda. Women are usually not allowed to own farming land, and the ones who have land at their disposal have had low and unpredictable crop yields. This is something the contract farming project, backed by Women’s Bank and Finn Church Aid, wanted to address.

CONTRACT FARMING is a system in which farmers enter into an agreement with a buyer under predetermined contractual obligations. The farmers produce for the market, as they are already assured that they will have a buyer, and what price they will get for their produce.

In some cases, the buyer might also support the farmers with agrotechnical knowledge, inputs and other production requirements to be assured of the best quality product.

“Before, I struggled to make ends meet. I would plant my crops and hope for the best. But now, I have a contract that guarantees to buy my maize at a fair price. I have also received training on how to improve my farming practices, and I have seen the results in my yields,” says one of the farmers, Celina Nelima, about her experience with contract farming.

A Ugandan woman standing in front of a brick house under construction, the walls are up, but the roof is missing.
With the money Celina Nelima has earned through contract farming and selling chips, she and her husband are building a new house. Picture: Björn Udd / FCA

“With the profits I make, I set up a fast foods business where I sell fried chips to the community in the evenings. I save enough money weekly, and now I am building my dream house. I am grateful to Finn Church Aid for their support,“ Nelima, 34, adds with a big smile.

Increased bargaining power

Finn Church Aid and Women’s Bank help build the linkages between the women farmers and buyers. One of those buyers is Egg Production Uganda Limited (EPL), which is set up by the Women’s Bank. Women are assisted in organising into groups, creating collective bargaining power, to negotiate fair trade deals with the buyers.

FCA and EPL provide women farmers with training and support in the community, such as business literacy, good agricultural practices, Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA) methodology, gender awareness, leadership and short-term specialized livelihood trainings. Training has improved the lives of the women and helped them access seeds, fertilizers, and other things they need to start their businesses.

A woman standing and showing two school uniforms in different colours.
Bitamisi Nakibirango was able to start a tailoring shop. Now she makes school uniforms for the nearby schools to earn some extra income. PHOTO: Björn Udd / FCA

The results have been remarkable. The farmers have been able to increase their yields and household income significantly, take their children back to school with ease, access finances for investment through VSLAs, access medical services, gain respect in their communities, and be elected to leadership positions.

Women in control

Through this, the lives of the women farmers have transformed. They are no longer at the mercy of middlemen who would buy their crops at a low price or not at all. They now have a steady income and can plan for the future.

Bitamisi Nakibirango, 52 years says, “I used to walk 7 kilometers to go to the market to sell my produce, now EPL collects the produce from the bulking center which is not far from my home. This has allowed me to save time and money.”

The success of the contract farming system in Mityana has also had a ripple effect in the community. Other farmers have seen the benefits and are now interested in joining the program. Finn Church Aid Uganda continues to work with the farmers to expand the program and ensure its sustainability.

In Mityana, over 700 women, from as many households, with an average of 6 household members each, were introduced to contract farming by Finn Church Aid Uganda (FCA). FCA is a non-profit organization that works to promote sustainable livelihoods in rural communities in a program that was initiated on January 3rd 2021.

Text: Kadlah Nabakembo

“Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way”

“Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way” – young refugees are getting access to university studies in Uganda

For many bright young refugees getting access to higher education can be next to impossible. Tuition fees are high and the distance to proper universities long. That is why Finn Church Aid, in partnership with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), supports young refugees with full scholarships to be able to go to university and obtain a degree.

“Studying at a university was a desire I always had, but I didn’t know how to get there”, says Anita Magret, a 24-year-old second-year student of Social Work and Social Administration at the Ugandan Christian University, one of the top universities in Uganda.

She is sitting at a fireplace outside a few small huts in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement, where she lives with her aunt while away from university for her internship. Many of the students return home for internships or when they are on leave.

Anita Margret sitting outside her hut
Anita Magret always wanted to study at a university, but never knew how to achieve her dream.

Another Bidi Bidi resident and university student is Luate Richard, 22. He studies Microfinance at Kyambogo University in Kampala.

“Being able to study at a university means a lot. Nobody in my family had studied at a higher level before, so this opportunity means a lot for my family”, he tells us.

Both Luate Richard and Anita Magret escaped South Sudan with their families during clashes in 2016, and have been living in Bidi Bidi refugee settlement since then.

From refugee camp to university

The refugee settlement is one of the largest in the world, home to an estimated 270,000 refugees, over half of them children. Still, the number of learners advancing all the way to university is miniscule due to manifold challenges.

That is why Finn Church Aid, together with UNHCR, are supporting 53 learners with full scholarships. The scholarship makes it possible for students to attend their university of choice.d

“My hostel, my tuition and my upkeep are all covered. My family wouldn’t have any possibility to cover these kinds of expenses, so this is an answer to my prayers”, says Luate Richard.

Luate Richard stands in front of his hut in Bidi Bidi refugee camp. He studies Microfinance at Kyambogo University in Kampala .

“When it was confirmed that I got the scholarship my whole family was so full of joy, everyone was in tears. It was not easy to reach this point, but when I made it, everybody was very happy and excited”, says Anita Magret.

In addition, the scholarship also covered the unexpected expenses that came with COVID-19. The pandemic forced students into remote studies. Since access to the internet can be quite expensive in Uganda, that was covered too.

Bringing their talents back to their communities

Both Luate Richard and Anita Magret chose to do their mandatory internships in the refugee camp. In the future, they hope to be able to work in their communities.

“In microfinancing we try to find active poor, the ones who are willing to start businesses, finance their ventures and give them financial knowledge so that their business will be successful. I would like to do this in my own community”, says Luate Richard.

Anita Magret also intends to use her education to better people’s lives.

Anita wants to use her education to help people back in her community.

“I feel like I needed to go far to be able to come back and help people with what I learned in school. I want to improve the social well-being of my community and others in need.”

She already feels the opportunity of getting out of the refugee camp, going to university and meeting people with diverse backgrounds, has expanded her thinking.

“The change has been huge.  I can really notice it now that I am back for my internship. I notice how I can bring everything that I learned into my work”, says Anita Magret, who is interning with the organization Hope Health Action, giving counseling and guidance to people in vulnerable states.

“It really moves me, when I am able to help. It feels like I chose the right field of work.”

Education opens up horizons

Luate Richard also sees education as a tool that opens up new horizons.

“Education is so important. Life is hard in the refugee camp, and it is easy to fall into a mindset where hardship and poverty is normal.  Getting an education means I learn to think in a different way. Through that I have the opportunity to change things for myself and for my community”, says Luate Richard.

The young university students also see their studies as a possibility to be role models for their younger peers. Anita Magret thinks it is important that young people in the refugee camp are able to see that it is possible to achieve your dreams.

“I have been giving career talks for girls who are in secondary school. It is great to be able to show that you can access better things if you put your heart and efforts into it. I want to give the younger girls courage and hope, and make them believe in themselves.”

Text: Linda Kabuzire
Photos: Björn Udd

Uganda’s Minister of Education welcomes FCA support for education policy review 

Uganda’s Minister of Education welcomes Finn Church Aid support for education policy review 

First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Mrs. Janet K. Museveni hosted Finn Church Aid Uganda Country Director and the Finn Church Aid Global Advocacy team from Helsinki, who were in Uganda in mid-February. Photo: Finn Church Aid Uganda

Uganda’s First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports, Mrs. Janet K. Museveni, has welcomed an offer made by Finn Church Aid (FCA) to have Finnish Education Technical Experts support the on-going work of the Education Policy Review Commission in Uganda.  

FINN CHURCH AID will second two Finnish education experts; an Education Management Consultant recruited by FinCEED, who will work with the Commission from March up to the end of May 2023 and another Specialist recruited by the Teachers without Borders Network in Finland, who will work from June up to the end of the year. 

The First Lady, Mrs. Janet K. Museveni on Thursday (February 23rd, 2023), hosted Finn Church Aid Uganda Country Director and the Finn Church Aid Global Advocacy team from Helsinki, who were in Uganda, to among others, follow up on the proposed actions from the benchmarking visit made by some members of the Education Policy Review Commission to Finland in September last year.  

The meeting was at State House Nakasero and it was also attended by representatives from the Education Policy Review Commission led by the Chairperson Hon. Amanya Mushega, and technical officers from the Education and Sports Ministry.  

Mrs. Museveni acknowledged that Finland’s education system and success is recognized globally and so, there is much that Uganda can learn from them.  

“We are very grateful for your selfless support and your willingness to hold hands with us on this journey to improve our education system”, she said. 

She added that learning from Finland’s experience will possibly help the Education Policy Review Commission to be deliberate in its investigations of the several issues in the education and sports sector and enable it generate the best recommendations that will reposition Uganda’s education and sports system to meet the needs and challenges of the 21st century. 

Mrs. Museveni thanked Finn Church Aid Uganda for organizing the benchmarking visit for the Education Policy Review Commission and for its continued partnership with the Education Sector in the implementation of various sector programmes, especially the Education Response Plan for Refugees and Host Communities. 

In a brief on the benchmarking visit to Finland, the Education Policy Review Commission Chairperson; Hon. Amanya Mushega, described the trip to have been extremely educative.  

He pointed out that the teaching profession is highly revered and that the minimum standard for a basic (primary school) teacher in Finland is a Degree, a Master Degree. In addition, one must have a pedagogical subject.  

Among the things they noted in Finland, is the central role of a teacher in the education system and the importance of early childhood care and education, which is compulsory for all children in Finland at the age of 6 years so that by the age they join basic education they are all balanced. They also observed that basic education is very important and is accompanied by learning and lifelong education and that a child can continue with basic education until the age of 14, 16 or even 18 years before breaking off for his specialization.  

Finn Church Aid Global Director for Stakeholder Relations, Katri Suomi said Finland became what it is now today because it invested in education. Photo: Finn Church Aid Uganda

In the Finnish Education system there are no inspectors of schools, no sudden examinations to determine the children’s future, and instead continuous assessment of students’ performance is what is done. Another thing is that children with special needs do not have separate schools but are assisted to study together with other children. 

Finn Church Aid Global Director for Stakeholder Relations, Katri Suomi, said education is at the heart of Finn Church Aid, which currently works in 12 countries around the world. She explained that Finland became what it is now today because it invested in education.  

While in Uganda, the members of the Global Advocacy team also visited Nakivale Refugee Settlement in Isingiro District and Kyaka II Refugee Settlement in Kyegegwa District. The team also paid courtesy calls to the UN Refugee Agency and European Union Uganda office. 

In Uganda, Finn Church Aid is UNHCR’s implementing partner for Education and co-lead for the Education Sector Working group together with the Ministry of Education and Sports and UNHCR coordinating the countrywide Education Response for refugees and host populations.

Text: Linda Kabuzire

Excitement and enthusiasm in Uganda as children go back to school

Back to school in Uganda: excitement and enthusiasm at start of new school year

On Monday, February 6th 2023, hundreds of students walked through the doors of FCA schools in Uganda’s refugee settlements as the first day of classes began for schools across the country. Even more are expected to report to class in the next two weeks.

OUR STUDENTS are from diverse backgrounds and FCA runs several programmes for them to make sure that every child can blossom in an environment catered for their needs.

I am excited to be back to school to play with my friends, start learning and have fun while I am learning,” says Poni Alice, a schoolchild who is flourishing under the Play to Learn programme. FCA runs the LEGO foundation-funded programme in Bidibidi refugee settlement. It provides quality teaching and learning through functional and play-based pedagogy in child-friendly environments.

David missed many years of school. Now, he’s catching up with our Accelerated Education Programme.

Meanwhile, David Mugasa, 17, a level three learner at Nteziryayo Primary School in Rwamwanja refugee settlement is excited about the year’s possibilities.
“I’m so ready to attend classes,” he enthuses. “This school term, I will study very hard and be the brightest student in my class. I am looking forward to learning and to receiving scholastic materials from FCA and UNHCR.”

David enrolled on our Accelerated Education Programme (AEP) supported by European Union Humanitarian Aid (ECHO). He had dropped out of school before he joined the program in 2022, but with the help of our condensed curriculum, he has caught up with several grades of study in only one year.

Secondary education isn’t neglected

We are one of the few development organisations to offer secondary education as well. While many NGOs focus on early years, we believe access to quality education should extend from pre-school all the way through to youth and young adult.

Standing in the school compound, Bernette Niwagaba, the headteacher at Ntenungi Secondary School is excited to start a new school term and has enjoyed watching his students arrive with excitement.

Bernette Niwagaba is the headteacher at Ntenugi Secondary School

“I just have this feeling that it’s going to be such a great term. There have been so many positive changes and the students just seem so enthusiastic and ready to learn,” he says.

Ntenungi Secondary School was constructed with funding from the United States Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Quality education is inclusive and accessible

Alex Dusabe, a special needs learner at Sweswe Primary School is ready to excel this year. “I’m so happy to see my friends and enjoy staying at the school. I am going to work hard this term and perform well in class and I also want to take part in improving the school sanitation,” he says.

Alex attends school as a boarder, as his disability prevents him from walking long distances.

Alex, who is physically impaired, is glad that he doesn’t have to walk a long distance to school. “I had thought about leaving school because I couldn’t manage walking to and from school daily. I am so happy that I can stay at the school’s boarding section and do not need to travel the long distance.”

In 2021, FCA, with funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Finland, constructed a special needs education unit for learners at Sweswe Primary School in Kyaka II refugee settlement. The unit provides a safe and protected environment for students and has a boarding section where they can live, not only from Kyaka II but also from Rwamwanja refugee settlement, 70 kilometres away.

Sweswe primary school was constructed with a special needs unit, thanks to funding from Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

FCA works with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Ministry of Education and Sports to promote access to quality education right from early childhood education, primary and secondary education.

Text: Linda Kabuzire
Images: FCA

Education is an assurance of future for refugee girls

Girls walking to school in Uganda.
Particularly for girls and young women in Uganda’s refugee settlements, education is one of the key elements to secure better future. Photo: FCA

Education is an assurance of future for refugee girls

Finn Church Aid (FCA) promotes access to quality education, particularly for girls and young women in Uganda’s refugee settlements.

EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT. It is essential to the acquisition of knowledge. More than that, education makes us more resilient and independent individuals. Finn Church Aid (FCA) promotes access to quality education, particularly for girls and young women in Uganda’s refugee settlements.

Education can have a life-changing consequences for girls especially. Girls like Anthias Poni Oliver. When violence broke out in her homeland, Anthias and her family were among thousands of South Sudanese who escaped to Uganda in search of safety and peace. Anthias lives in Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo District, Uganda.

However, like so many girls with refugee background, it has been a struggle for Anthias to stay in school. While still in secondary school, she got pregnant and had to drop out of school for a while.

“Anthias’ father refused to take her back to school after finding out she got pregnant and had terminated the pregnancy. He told her to stay home and forget about school,” says Juru Cicilia, Anthias’ mother.

“I was sad because I loved school and knew I would not be able to complete my studies,” says Anthias herself.

South Sudanese Anthias Poni Oliver dreams of becoming a doctor one day to be able to help her community. Photo: Linda Kabuzire

Helping refugee girls stay in school

Education equips girls like Anthias with the skills they need to unlock their potential. Finn Church Aid ensures safe, inclusive schools with quality teaching for everyone with support from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (PRM). FCA creates safe, environmentally friendly learning environments and school structures.

“With the support of Finn Church Aid, I was enrolled in Idiwa secondary school to complete my studies. My favourite subjects are Christian religious education and mathematics,” Anthias adds.

Making a study plan and managing her schedules, a skill she learned during a career guidance session, made her improve on her studies and catch up on lost time.

FCA creates safe, environmentally friendly learning environments and school structures such as Idiwa secondary school in Palorinya refugee settlement in Moyo District, Uganda. Project was supported by Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (PRM). Photo: Linda Kabuzire

“Before I used to only read my books at school, but now I revise at home especially on weekends. This has really improved my learning.”

“They also give me school materials, soap and menstrual hygiene kits, and during the reproductive health lessons they teach us how to use the menstrual kits.”

Dreaming of future

Education is important to Anthias because it will create employment opportunities for her in the future. She hopes to be a doctor when she finishes school.

“I have seen many people in my area self-medicating and some have ended up dying. I want to become a doctor so I can be able to give them proper treatment,” she says.

Anthias’s inspiration is Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s wife.

“She was very hard working and never lost hope even when the husband was in prison. I hope to be like her.”

Text: Linda Kabuzire

FCA hands over newly constructed school facilities in Ugandan refugee settlement

FCA hands over newly constructed school facilities in Ugandan refugee settlement

Finn Church Aid’s staff tour the newly constructed Yangani Secondary School with members of the local community.

Finn Church Aid built the infrastructure in Bidibidi refugee settlement under the Lasting Education Achievements Responding to Needs (LEARN) project with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (BPRM).

FINN CHURCH AID (FCA) has handed over newly constructed secondary school infrastructure and facilities to the local government and beneficiaries in Bidibidi refugee settlement, a move that will improve education prospects for both local and refugee youths in the West Nile Region of Uganda.

The school structures were handed over by the FCA Yumbe Area Manager, Mr Michael Tayebwa, to Ms Jesca Ongiertho, the Deputy Chief Administration Officer, Yumbe district.

Among the facilities handed over was a completely new school called Yangani Secondary school. FCA also supported four existing secondary schools with new structures. FCA constructed three classroom blocks, two staff accommodation blocks, one administration block, a library block, and sanitation facilities for Yangani Secondary school.

Yangani Secondary school was built in response to the lack of secondary education opportunities in refugee settlements.

The project also included two classroom blocks, two staff accommodation blocks, one administration block, one library block and sanitation facilities for Kado Secondary school; two staff accommodation blocks and sanitation facilities for Yoyo Secondary school; and one block of sanitation facilities for Highland and Nipata Secondary schools.

The new library at Yangani Secondary school.

“Bidibidi has few schools that provide secondary education, and the distances between them are significant. By strengthening secondary education, we enable refugees and youths from the host community to attain higher education”, Tayebwa says.

Finn Church Aid built the infrastructure under the Lasting Education Achievements Responding to Needs (LEARN) project with funding from the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migrations (BPRM). These, according to FCA will increase access to safe and inclusive secondary learning environments for refugee and host population learners in Bidibidi refugee settlement and surrounding areas.

The LEARN project, now reaching the end of its second phase, aims to increase and improve equitable and inclusive quality education for refugee and host community children and adolescents in Bidibidi, Palorinya, Kyaka II and Rwamwanja refugee settlements.

Finn Church Aid promotes access to and delivery of quality education and systems-strengthening, closely linked with Uganda’s National Education Response Plan and Education Sector Strategic Plan. Access to education is promoted by supplying scholastic materials and teaching instructional materials and improving learning environments through the construction of school infrastructures, such as teacher accommodation units, classrooms, latrines, and teacher remuneration.

Learners will use single-seater desks at Yangani Secondary school.

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