Becoming skilled workers
The Skills-project is all about developing vocational skills. The amount of ex-child soldiers desiring further education is relatively small. Most of them are used to taking care of themselves, and are therefore more inclined try their luck on the job-market after demobilization rather than pursuing theoretical education. Unfortunately countries in a post-conflict situation rarely provide a wealth of possible jobs, increasing the risk of ex-combatants choosing a criminal career. For most of them this is the only way to survive.
Given an opportuntity to specialise in a high-demand profession creates the opportunity to build a future, without the uncertainties of unemployment. We want to help them reach that goal. Apart from vocational skills we teach them to read and write and provide them with the basic knowledge they need to thrive in Sierra Leone society. We approach each person as an individual: assessing the person’s character, talents and geographic situation to decide which profession suits him or her best.
In the Skills-project we make use of existing educational facilities, as much as possible. Shortly after the war ended, a number of ex-combatants received basic training in vocational skills. Unfortunately these training proved to be not extensive enough to build a career on. Our project uses these trainings as a foundation for further development of skills so that the knowledge that’s already there doesn’t go to waste.
Boys can learn different skills like mechanics, carpentry, electrics, plumbing, welding and many others. However, the Skills-project also targets former girl-soldiers and so-called bush-wives (girls who were kept as sex-slaves for the combatants). The position of uneducated women in Sierra Leone society is appalling. They are largely dependent on men for survival. But many former girl-soldiers are very suspicious towards men, and prefer to take care of themselves. Sadly, many of them end up as prostitutes. Through the Skills-project girls and women can learn skills in hairdressing, agriculture, healthcare and many other trades.
How does it work?
The ‘skilled workers’ program aims to supply the participants with skills and vocational training to improve their positions in the labor market, through:
- Material funding for existing skills and vocational training facilities: fees, materials, pamphlets, exam fees.
- Development and implementation of non-existing but (considered) necessary (for society) skills training programs, with a special focus on illiterates.
- Material help, indirectly related to skills training to enable the individual to follow training (if proven necessary): Lunch money, maintenance money, housing, fund for maintenance of family members the individual is responsible for.
- Advice in their professional careers, based on; the individuals’ wishes, capacities, and talents, opportunities on the job market, the needs of society as a whole and moral support in personal or educational difficulties.
Individual approach: Applicants will be handpicked by advisors, who will also function as their mentors once they have been granted a scholarship. The participants will at all times stay individuals and will be guided through their education accordingly.
Community approach: To promote the responsibility of families towards their children, communities identify vulnerable families based on pre defined criteria, through child welfare committees, which will include families with former child combatants who have not reintegrated well into society. Support will be given to between two and four children in such families with scholarships covering direct school support for fees, books, uniforms, pamphlets and study fees. The families will be provided small grants to support other needs indirectly related to the children’s education. The community will be stimulated to take responsibility for providing moral support in personal and educational issues regarding our beneficiaries.
Participants will be assisted in every aspect of their professional development. The assistance they will receive is dependent on their personal circumstances, talents and capabilities. We expect the participant to take own responsibility and be motivated to follow training. If participants fail without ‘good’ reason, their rights to a fund will be revoked. Mind to Change will assist them to find other means or ways to (re)build their lives.
When applicants finish their training, Mind to Change will help them to find their way on the job market and apply for jobs.