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From Vocational Education to Entrepreneur

Updated: Mar 27, 2023

The educational year has just commenced in Uganda and Nurture Africa has enrolled 212 first year students for its hairdressing, tailoring, catering, carpentry and new bio-waste recycling vocational courses. The Youth Empowerment Programme targets “at risk” young people that have been forgotten by society. These include school dropouts, young mothers, those living in poverty and others with chronic illnesses. The programme provides holistic education enabling these young people to gain the skills and tools to enable them to become more self-reliant. Students gain practical skills alongside education in adult and financial literacy, entrepreneurship and IT. In order to enable them to gain more confidence and to address any past trauma life skills and counselling is provided. They also receive free primary health care and family planning (if appropriate). This is a two year programme with year two providing these young people the opportunity to work in a commercial setting. Here they gain income as well as gaining experience in the real world. The young people work in social enterprises run by Nurture Africa. Any profits get reinvested into the vocational centre training costs. It is a deep impact programme. In 2023 we will support 150 youths with the opening of our bio waste recycling project thanks to a grant from Crossing Borders.

COVID has caused disruption to the training with the vocational centre being closed for 2 years due to the mandatory lock down. We did however continue with informal classes during this time and students continued to work in the social enterprises. 98 out of 120 students have advanced to second year.

Mary graduated from the tailoring course at the vocational centre last September and passed her state exams.

"I completed studies at Nurture Africa Vocational School last year. During our final year, three of us catering students had a plan of starting a business together. We decided to each save 3,000 shillings (approx. 75c) each and every week during our second year of studies. We saved for a number of months but realised that our savings was not enough to start a business. We offered some fellow students the opportunity to join and two others decided that they would do so. We saved until we had reached a total of 700,000 shillings (approx. €175). We felt that we were ready to start our business as our studies had included training in business planning and financial management.

We found a place to rent for 250,000 (approx. €63) per month but the landlord wanted payment for three months. We negotiated the price down to 700,000 as were were fortunate enough to be able to borrow a sowing machine for a few months. This enabled us to start work immediately whilst we advertised our business locally and visited some local schools; offering competitive rates to make uniforms for the students. We were told during our studies that starting a business can be tough and we felt it, but we knew we must persevere.

Our business received the big boost it needed when we received further start up capital from Nurture Africa. It is an opportunity that is made available to all vocational students once we can present a realistic and sustainable business plan. It was the boost we needed! With the capital, we bought new machines which has allowed us to take on more work. Up to now, we have agreed contracts with three local schools to provide uniforms for the children. We are working on a large scale! We also make garments and do repairs for the wider community.

We are now comfortably paying rent, sustaining our business, earning and income and are adding to our savings on a weekly basis. Life has changed a lot for us in the past two years.

I wish to humbly thank Nurture Africa and all who have had a hand in taking us, as vulnerable youth, who now see a brighter future ahead."

March 2023

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