As a student of Moroto High School, Patrick Teko, had a dream of becoming a surgeon after his studies.
Unfortunately, his dream was cut short as his parents could not afford to continue paying his school fees. In 2015, Teko dropped out of school in Senior Three.
To survive, he would move from one construction site to another looking for work as a casual labourer. For these, he would be paid Shs5,000 on average per day.
But lady luck smiled on him last year when Dan Church Aid (DCA), a European Union funded non-governmental organisation, under their youth empowerment programme called for applications of school dropouts interested in being sponsored to study for vocational skills.
District education officials and village council chairpersons were asked to do background checks on applicants.
Out of the 1,200 who applied only 900 were selected. Luckily, Teko was among them.
The successful applicants were enrolled in Nakapiripirit Technical School, Koblin Polytechnic School and Kotido Polytechnic School all from the three districts of Nakapiripirit, Napak and Kotido the programme covers.
“I was very happy to be among the successful applicants. I now know I will be a motor mechanic,” Teko says.
Grace Nakut, 17, another beneficiary of the project training to be a tailor said she nearly got married as a teenager out of frustration of staying at home without a source of income.
“My parents could no longer provide for me all the personal needs. I am sure the skills I will get out of this training will help me earn some money from sowing clothes,” she said.
Joel Lote, father to Sarah Angolere, another tailoring student says the initiative should not only stop at giving skills but also provide startup aid for their children to start earning a living as soon as school ends.
Making lives better
Dominic Lokiru, the programme officer, Dan Church Aid Moroto, says the project is aimed at giving students who drop out of school a chance at better lives. “The organisation will provide students with some tools to enable them start practicing the skills they attain immediately and earn a living,” he says.
According to Raymond Korobe, the Nakapiripirit district education officer, the programme has rescued the lives of future leaders from getting wasted. “Most of these students had become redundant and could have easily become criminals.”
The Dan Church Aid country director, Karin Elisabeth Lind, while visiting the sponsored students on Wednesday said DCA’s support to skills development for the youth in Karamoja has just begun.
“We want you the youth to take this project seriously knowing that it will help transform your lives,” she said. And with such a promise, it is just dawn for school droupouts in Karamoja.
More effort needed
John Nangiro, the Nakapiripirit District chairperson, says Karamoja needs serious development partners to deal with practical. He says the sub-region has about 380 different non-governmental organisations but still suffers with service delivery. “If all the NGOs in Karamoja were focusing on skills empowerment, I can assure you most Karimojong would not be on the streets begging,” he argues.