Siriba Vocational Training Centre is now at a crucial crossroads in its development, with a number of key areas to be addressed fully in the coming months.
After 2 years in post, Mike Williams our project co-ordinator has decided to retire from the role – his personality, energy and enthusiasm will be missed. He has tirelessly sought to bring the project on, encouraging the strengthening of the local management, to provide a more secure and sustainable financial future.
One of the effects of this has been to introduce non-formal training of a section of students, leading to an increase in numbers (up to 50) and cost savings. Another effect has been to propose the establishment of a commercial workshop to act as an income-generator for the centre.
A management training programme has now been agreed (principally for the Board of Governors) which will start in the new year and aim to establish a strategic plan for 2014 onwards; a much-respected local secondary head teacher has offered experienced advice and encouragement in a couple of assessment visits.
This week the closing ceremony for the academic year takes place, with students recognised for their attendance record and achievements.
One of our volunteers will be revisiting for the month of February, to help clarify priorities and help with sorting out the ongoing water supply issues, as well as assessing building maintenance needs.
We were delighted recently to receive an award of funds from a Foundation in California to enable the installation of a rain water harvesting system – having almost 1500 people on site each day attending school and VTC, with a minimal water provision due to inadequate boreholes, has been a major problem and a restriction to development. This system has to be carefully planned and built, and we are very concerned to ensure that the funds available are wisely used.
Hopefully there will be lots of positive outcomes to report next time! There are many needy children and huge potential benefit if the progress can be maintained and the work developed. Your support is much needed and appreciated! Thank you.
The work at Siriba has had its highs and lows this academic year. The principal reports that a good number of students were enrolled at the beginning of the year, some 80 in number, but that this has halved during the course of the year primarily because students could not afford the fees. The fees are really very small but those who are orphans continue to find raising even very small sums difficult. There are also difficulties concerning buildings because some students travel from some distance and there is no accommodation at the centre.
The principal reports that a kitchen is in the process of being built so that during the day at least the staff and students can be given something to eat. Water supply is still difficult but we have plans to help install a rain water catchment system shortly, with a grant promised through friends of Global Giving.
The major issue facing the VTC is how and when the VTC can become more self-sufficient. The Board of Governors has met to work on this and has agreed that training for staff (so that courses can be of the quality required by the local government Dept. of Education) and training for the Board Members needs to be undertaken so that they can work more efficiently together especially in finding new sources of funding. The hope is that by the end of this December they will have a strategic plan in place for 2014 onwards. We have promised to provide some money by way of grants towards this training because, until this is addressed, the Board cannot effectively manage the project.
The other problem that the principal has had to face is his own ill health both with eye problems and intestinal problems. He does report that he is now improving but health care in Uganda is not free and can indeed be quite expensive.
Sadly, poverty means that many people continue to live precariously on the edge. Please help us support them if you can! Thank you.
One piece of very good news is that, through GlobalGiving, we have been promised a donation that will enable us to complete a rain water harvesting scheme. At present all water has to be carried from a well about a quarter of a mile away. For some uses this may continue necessary but a water harvesting scheme will mean that there will be a plentiful supply of water on site. Two members of our team are making plans to go out to Uganda in January to work with local people to get this scheme up and running.
Our latest report from Siriba VTC came in early June. It is clear that there remains a problem in collecting the small student fees. Of the 82 students who began the academic year only 24 have been able to continue paying. The Principal of the VTC says that there are various reasons why the others have not been able to raise the funds chief among them being that most of them are orphans. This has been a problem that the VTC has faced since the beginning and a solution will need to be found if the VTC is going to become self-sustaining.
Another concern is that one of the original departments, Carpentry, is not attracting many students. The Principal tells us that he is in the process of doing some research in the local community to discover why this is as well as trying to discover what the priorities of the community are.
Earlier in the year Hands Around The World wrote to their Board of Governors to ask them to make plans to be more self-sufficient after the end of this academic year which ends in December. We realised that this would be quite a challenge for them but we felt that it was inappropriate for them to rely completely on external grants for all day to day expenditure. As yet we have not received any proposals from the Board of Governors indicating how they intend to work towards this but we have been informed that a meeting is soon to take place.
Reports from Siriba indicate that the new academic year which started in January has begun well. An encouraging number of students have been enrolled in four practical disciplines: Carpentry, Tailoring, Building and Bricklaying, and Motor vehicle repair and driving. The latter two courses seem to be the most popular with the more traditional carpentry course being undersubscribed.
During 2012 we encouraged the project’s Board of Governors to have a proper financial audit done. This has now been completed by a firm from Kampala. It is encouraging to see in their report that the overall financial management of the project is sound and that progress has been made in getting the courses properly registered with the Ugandan authorities.
The audit also refers to some points for improvement. The first is that there is a problem with student retention. It seems that a number of young people begin courses but fail to complete them. The other main problem is financial.
Although some progress has been made in collecting student fees the project is almost entirely dependent on grants from Hands Around The World. We have written to the Board of Governors to say that a substantial effort now needs to be made towards self-funding. If the project is to have a long term future this will be essential. We are hoping that with the project being registered with the Ugandan authorities some government money for tutors’ pay will be forthcoming which, in addition to student fees, would meet running expenses.
For the rest of this year we will still give grants to the project in order that they will have time to move towards this more sustainable future. The project will always need financial help with capital expenditure in the form of grants for such things as new buildings and equipment, but running costs need to be raised locally.
Your help and support is, as ever, much appreciated. Thank you!
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