Computer applications designed to help learners to fast track their typing mastery. Photo: Melchizedek Malile/NRC

Escaping a life in poverty

Olivia Akumu|Published 12. Jul 2018
In Eritrea, 35-year-old Adunai is learning how to use a weaving machine. “The knowledge I have gained from the training will allow me to live my life to the fullest. It has given me skills and hope for the future.”

She sits in a large room that houses rows of metal frames and threads of different shapes and sizes which are tied to some of them. Her hands meticulously work as she builds something beautiful out of loose threads: she is weaving her own graduation gown.

Adunai is one of many young Eritreans living in and with uncertainty. Decades of conflict and severe drought have adversely affected Eritrea's economy, and Eritrean youth face a life of unemployment and poverty.  Many young people who never attended school or are drop-outs opt to try their luck in other countries. They often end up, however, in areas where they are susceptible to exploitation.

Our Eritrea country team is providing vocational training to youth who often lack access to education and employment opportunities. The young men and women can choose to learn a marketable skill, like weaving, house construction, pottery or basic computer skills.

Adunai is using her weaving skills to make a traditional Eritrean dress for her graduation ceremony. Photo: Olivia Akumu/NRC
I enjoy working with all the other trainees. We are like a family.
Adunai (35)

In partnership with Eritrea’s Ministry of Education, we are providing vocational skills training to over 400 youth in three of Eritrea’s regions, or zobas: Anseba, Northern Red Sea and Gash Barka. Here we provide special support to young mothers, youth living with disabilities and girls. The training offers a variety of hands-on courses, and focuses on building employable skills for self-reliance. “We provide monthly cash support which helps the students buy food for their families. Even after graduation, we support all programme alumnae to either seek employment or start their own businesses with start-up kits and capital,” says Melchizedek Malile, who leads our education programme in Eritrea.  

The best students in each field are also selected for apprenticeships with reputable companies and institutions in Eritrea. This helps create linkages between the job market and the skills training, and boosts motivation among the students. They are also encouraged to start their own businesses, with start-up grants provided by our country team.

With just one month left until she graduates from her weaving course, Adunai is excited. “It is not an easy skill to learn. If you miss one thread, you have to start all over again. I enjoy working with all the other trainees. We are like a family,” Adunai says.

Working with clay

Besides the training in weaving and dress-making, pottery is a big favourite among young women at the vocational centre. They spend hours putting their creative minds to use in modelling intricate shapes out of mounds of clay. “When I see my parents struggling to make a living I tell myself that without skills to make a reliable living for myself, I am no different from them. I want to be different,” one of the girls says.

Making fruit bowls with heart-shaped decorations and flower-shaped toppings. With such skills the young women can find work in art galleries and ceramics industries. Photo: Melchizedek Malile/NRC

The vocational training package offers a six-month post-monitoring programme and coaching for all graduates, including short workshops on business management and cashbook skills.

 “Unfortunately, very few vocational skills training opportunities exist for young Eritreans who have not completed primary and secondary education. Providing opportunities to more young people to gain marketable skills helps create a skillful youth population that is not driven by hand-outs, but can contribute to society,” says Malile.

Our Eritrea education programme is funded by the German Society for International Cooperation, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) and the UK Foreign Commonwealth Office.

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