Mother of four, Grace is among 100 students who recently graduated from the Kapeota Vocational Training Institute in South Sudan. The institute provides training in electrical engineering, tailoring, welding, entrepreneurship, literacy, and numeracy.
For Grace, 27, who dropped out when she was in year six of primary school, achieving a graduation certificate once seemed a far-fetched dream. But after being accepted in the four-month course in tailoring and garment design, the possibility of accomplishing this academic dream became a reality! The course is part of our vocational training program for young people in Central and Eastern Equatoria States.
Grace grew up in an environment with little regard for girls’ education and spent much of her childhood moving from one internally displaced people’s camp to another due to perpetual conflict in her country.
“In addition to the armed conflict that made it difficult for us to settle in one place, I had financial challenges,” she said. “There was nobody to support my tuition fees or pay for the school supplies. I had to give up and join my mother in earning money to help my two brothers continue their education.”
> The program, funded by the European Commission, made it possible for Grace and other young women from similar situations living in Kapoeta to take part in courses for free.
“This was an unbelievable opportunity that I could not let go of,” Grace said. “My family is very proud.”
After learning a wide variety of sewing techniques, Grace joined a community tailoring group and started practicing her new skills. She now mends and designs clothes at the local market and uses her profits to buy food and pay her children’s medical bills.
“My husband, who is a primary teacher, no longer has to struggle to provide for us as we both put our earnings together to make ends meet,” she said. “Before, I depended on him for everything. It was becoming increasingly difficult for us to cope with the ever-increasing food prices. Sometimes we went without meals for days as his salary was not always paid on time.”
Her main worries now are the fragile economic situation, political instability, and armed conflict in South Sudan, all of which make her uncertain about the future.
“People are always on the move and things are too expensive in the market,” she said. “People just don’t have the money to pay for things anymore.”
Launched in July 2015, with the main objective of equipping young people with livelihood skills enabling them to become productive members of their communities and reduce conflict-related vulnerabilities, the project has so far graduated 870 youth in different vocational careers, most of whom have gone on to find employment. Some have teamed up to open joint businesses and are now earning enough to support their families.