For youth in America, the trajectory of life is simple: get an education, get a job. For youth in Uganda, the story goes a bit differently: get an education, hope that a job actually exists once finished.
Africa’s highest rate of youth unemployment is in Uganda, at around 66 percent. The African Development Bank believes it could be as high as 83 percent. This is also due to the fact that nearly 75 percent of Uganda’s population is under the age of 30, and about 53 percent of the population is younger than 15. While more than 40,000 young people graduate from Ugandan universities annually, fully educated for the workforce, the job market can only open up 8,000 positions each year.
If education can’t solve youth unemployment in Uganda, then what will? Educate! seeks to solve this riddle. Educate! is a Ugandan “experience-based education model” located in 350 secondary schools. In each school, a mentor teaches 40 students skills for entrepreneurship, leadership and critical thinking — in essence, skills for jobs.
Program coordinator Emmanuel Kalyebi remarks that Ugandan education offers “a lot of theoretical knowledge” without any practical skills that employers are requiring. Educate! facilitators seek to remedy this, and end youth unemployment in Uganda.
Each day, the mentors utilize hands-on activities, group projects and public speaking to equip these students to enter the job market. Educate! also encourages students to start their own businesses within their schools, where all students can participate in transactions and respond thoughtfully to any needs they see in their own school. At its heart, Educate! seeks to not only teach theory but the practical application of its lessons.
One of the previous students of Educate! blossomed as a result of the program. Lilian Aero Olok started her journey as a student in 2009 and began a project that offered counseling and support to more than 100 women suffering various effects of HIV/AIDS. Olok gained financial support by equipping these women to make recycled paper beads, products that she herself would want to buy. Now, after graduating from secondary school and Educate!, she works with more than 230 women and sells these beads all over the world.
As Educate! continues to train Uganda’s youth to not only enter the job market but to make their own opportunities, 100 other secondary schools have already lined up to start Educate! programs. By 2024, it is hoped that Educate! will reach one million students in Uganda, and then spread to four million students across various African countries.
– Brenna Yowell