|A Path to the Future: Professional Training for the Youth of Kibera Slum in Nairobi, Kenya|
May 6th, 2014
Kibera, Nairobi – Thanks to a generous grant from the W. O´Neil Foundation and the hard work of AVSI-USA’s partners on the ground, 90 youth from Africa’s largest urban slum successfully completed professional courses in tailoring, electrical installation, and cosmetology at the St. Kizito Vocational Training Institute (VTI) in Kibera, Nairobi.
The students now belong to an alumni base of over 1,481 students who have benefitted from training at St. Kizito VTI in Kibera. Students at St. Kizito VTI receive both the interpersonal and technical skill sets that they desperately need for becoming protagonists in their local community’s economy and to improve their families’ well-being.
The Kibera slum, home to some 800,000 people, is close to Nairobi’s industrial center where nearly 50% of the local population is unemployed. In the slum itself, 50% of the population is under the age of 15. Dealing with extreme poverty, malnutrition and limited access to education, the chance to attend a technical school and receive a skill set that can help them escape the throes of poverty is invaluable.
St. Kizito VTI has been responding to the needs of disadvantaged youth in Nairobi since the early 1990s when then Archbishop Cardinal Maurice Otunga requested that AVSI intervene with a concrete proposal for the city’s urban youth.
St. Kitzito VTI is unique. Drawing from the social teachings of the Catholic Church, the school staff educates their students to a greater awareness of the innate positivity of life and helps them return to life in Kibera with a new sense of dignity and inherent self worth, a valuable commodity in the slums.
In 2010, AVSI set out to build a new center for the residents of Kibera in the slum itself on land owned by the local non-profit Watoto Wa Lwanga (WWL). With funding from private and public donors both in Kenya and abroad, a new facility with 7 workshops was built and equipped. AVSI worked with partners at the original St. Kizito Institute and the Companionship of Works Associations (CoWA), which links together local businesses, to recruit and train 13 instructors. Since it is one of the only vocational training centers located in the slum, students are able to avoid the stigma attached to being from the slum the and easily attend classes.
During the grant period students were encouraged take responsibility for their own education and career paths. Each student met with staff members at the beginning of their coursework in August to discuss their interests and the skill sets in highest demand by the labor market in the Nairobi area. Throughout their course work students were offered additional career guidance and counselling. During those meetings, they gained a better understanding of the work environment in Nairobi. Proper work etiquette, like punctuality, was addressed and students were put in contact with local entrepreneurs in order to build their professional network.
Of the students that attended, 70% were female and 82% of the cohort successfully completed their course work. In the end, St. Kizito was close to reaching its target of 90 students attending the school and completing their course work, with a total of 84 total students finishing in December.
With the technical assistance provided by AVSI and the financial support of foundations and donor agencies such as the European Union, St. Kizito VTI has grown and professionalized over the past twenty years. Today, St. Kizito VTI is on the path towards greater sustainability as a local social enterprise, yet not without continued challenges.
The challenges facing the youth of Nairobi are likewise significant, but the youth themselves have boundless desire and resiliency. AVSI is certain that they can achieve great things when they have a place where they belong and are educated.