Skilling of South Sudanese Refugees in Bidibidi Settlement Restores Lost Hope

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By Kisekka Umar

In Yoyo Youth Vocational Skills Center in Bidibidi refugee settlement are clustered teams of youths, busy learning in different vocational skills. A gaze of smiles filled with a message of hope strikes from the eyes of Lilian Adare, a refugee in Zone 3 who is in class learning hairdressing.

Adare and other students in the class

“I am happy because I am in class again learning, yet I thought I would never have an opportunity. I dropped out of school in 2016 after war broke out in South Sudan. At that time, I was in primary seven and barely had no skill,” Adare said.

Having lost hope in the course of conflict, accompanied by events full of horror such as spending sleepless nights in forests, living with no food, surviving on dirty water flowing in swamps and rivers for about 3 weeks while on the way to seek for refuge, Adare thought she would never be able to support her life again.

Adare is one of the 227,000 refugees from South Sudan who came to Uganda in 2016 when war broke out. She says her life has dramatically improved because of the skills she has received from the training.

Adare revealed that she is already earning from the skills she has acquired even before completing her course in hairdressing.

Yoyo Youth Vocational Training Institute, opened in 2018, is the only technical school funded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and implemented by the Norwegian Refugee Council in the settlement. The other two vocational schools located within the settlement include Lodonga Vocational Institute located in Lodonga sub county and Lokopio Vocational Institute located in zone 2.

A refugee being trained on how to make charcoal briquets.

The school supports both nationals and refugees who live around zone 3 in the settlement, which has a population of approximately 227,000 refugees, making it the largest settlement in the world.

Another beneficiary of the skilling program at Yoyo, Agustino Towongo, said his livelihood has improved after receiving tailoring skills.

“As we talk, people around here have booked orders for me to make their dresses. Now I can contribute to my family,” Towongo said.

Acidria Fred, the lead instructor of the skills centre, said the institute has offered skills knowledge to both youths in the host community and the refugees at no cost. The skills are in the fields of bricklaying and concrete practice, motor vehicle mechanics, plumbing, carpentry and joinery, tailoring and cutting garments, hairdressing and barbing, and environmental protection.

Acidria explained that at the end of the course, students are assessed by the Directorate of Industrial Training, and organized groups of students are given startup capital to start their own businesses so that they become self-reliant.

In 2018 when the school was opened it registered 400 students, where 391 managed to be assessed by the Directorate. While nine of them dropped out, most of them are now working, according to the staff at the skills centre.

In 2019, 339 students were admitted at the institute, including 252 refugees and 87 nationals from the host community.

Ochaya Richard, the Senior WASH Associate at UNHCR in Yumbe, said the coming of refugees in Bidibidi has amplified the structural set up in five different zones and helped the services get closer to people.

“More permanent infrastructures have been raised in terms of schools 

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