A recent report from Siriba VTC tells us that young people are continuing in training on four programmes: Carpentry and Joinery, Brick Laying and Concrete Practice, Tailoring, and Motor Vehicle Mechanics and Driving. Altogether about 25 students are attending these courses and gaining significant skills which will enable them to find employment or to go on to more advanced courses in higher Technical Institutes. It is not proving easy to maintain these four courses because the hoped-for extra funds from student fees are proving hard to maintain. A number of the students are orphans with no one to pay their fees. However the income from fees is gradually rising and this is a hopeful sign for the longer term.
There are a number of challenges which face the work of the Centre which are proving difficult to overcome, the most important of which are management issues. Some time ago the local bishop constituted a new Board of Governors with a new Chair. The hope was that the new board would give the project a lift and set it on a longer term path. But this Board has not been able to hold regular meetings and, so far, too much responsibility for overall planning and monitoring has fallen on the shoulders of the Principal. The local bishop has now been elected as the new archbishop of Uganda and it is doubtful whether he will be available to sort out these issues. We are pursuing other avenues to get the Principal more support. Our overall feeling is that the vision that the project began with was too high and that a more realistic vision needs to be worked out.
A second borehole was sunk, the first one having failed, so that the Centre, as well as the Primary School which is on the same site, could have its own water supply. This second borehole has now failed and so we have had to commission another geological survey to see whether any further drilling is worthwhile. Unless the results are strong and positive we will have to try to raise money for a water harvesting system.
Another difficulty has also arisen in that the building which was provided for the Centre is now in need of repair and maintenance. In particular some of the roof trusses need strengthening. We are currently trying to get proper estimates for the work that needs doing so that it can be put in hand.
Our hope is that with a new management structure and with more modest aims the VTC will continue to serve the young people of Siriba and the surrounding area for years to come.
General conditions in Uganda are proving difficult. Instead of the very predictable rainy seasons the weather is now erratic. This affects the Siriba region in two ways. Firstly, most people in the area, including teachers at the school and tutors at the VTC, rely on growing a proportion of their own food. The changes in weather are making this very problematic. A knock on effect is that food prices in the local markets are rising and this, together with more general inflation, is making life difficult for the majority of people.
The work at the Siriba Vocational Training Centre (VTC) is progressing well. Currently there are 54 registered students with four courses running. There are courses in carpentry and tailoring which were the first two courses to be offered when the project started. There are now two new courses on motor vehicle maintenance and in building skills. There are nine tutors some of whom are paid and some offering their services in a voluntary capacity. It was agreed with the local managers of the project that apart from carpentry and tailoring all new courses should be fully self funding and this has seemed to work. The two original courses and the general running of the VTC continue to need grant aid in order to flourish.
Investigations are underway with the appropriate ministries with the Ugandan Government for proper recognition of the VTC and the qualifications that it awards. If full recognition is to be given then it is clear that the government will need high standards and it is also clear that demands will be made on the resources of the VTC. For example the government will require the proper provision of sufficient latrines. We have been able to send out some extra grants for latrines and also some money for electricity provision. This has only been possible because of the generosity of donors. Further grants will be required to bring the VTC up to government standards and hope that some funding may follow that will help the project towards self sustainability.
The Siriba VTC is in the grounds of a Church of Uganda Primary School. The Headteacher of the School and the two Deputy Heads were leading players in the founding of the VTC. One of the Deputy Heads moved a little while ago to be the Headteacher of a nearby school in a Refugee Camp. Earlier this year the Headteacher and the remaining Deputy Head were also moved to other schools. These moves made local governance of the project a bit shaky and the response has been to create a completely new Board of Governors. This has now met and the hope is that it will give the project a new impetus.
I visited the project on 2010 and in 2011. Another volunteer, who helped with the building of the VTC, is about to go out to visit the unit and to monitor progress. Over the last year we have been receiving better reports by Email, but there is nothing better than the personal touch. He is also going to see how the new Board of Governors is shaping up, as well as to encourage staff and students.
In my previous reports I have mentioned the situation concerning the borehole. There was no water on site and so it was agreed to make a donation to sink a borehole. This was done first in 2008 but the borehole turned out to be dry. In 2011 a new borehole was drilled (after two attempts) and initially worked well. However we have heard from the Busoga Trust who organised the installation that this new borehole is only supplying water for part of the day. The Trust has advised us to have a new geological survey done and then consider sinking yet another borehole.
Another problem is that the Ugandan Government has imposed heavy duties on imported items including tools which are being sent out from abroad. We had organised another substantial shipment of tools for carpentry and tailoring but the charity that organises this has had to delay the shipment until talks with the government can, hopefully, resolve the problem. If this cannot be done then it may be cheaper in the long run to send out cash grants rather than pay for expensive shipping and duty.
The news from Siriba is quite mixed.
The new Head of the Vocational Training Centre is making good progress in the day to day training in carpentry and tailoring training with young people. But the longer term sustainability of the project will only be secured if the support of the regional government in this province of Uganda can be obtained. Before this can be done government officials need to see that certain basic requirements can be met, for example adequate latrines for staff and students and adequate equipment.
We have managed to transfer a grant to Siriba to complete the work on the latrines and to begin the electrification of the centre including the installation of some solar panels but further conversations with government officials will be needed to see what their next requirements are. We have also managed to send out some extra sewing machines and a laptop computer which has now arrived there. However we have been advised that the government of Uganda has increased import duties which makes sending equipment much more expensive and charities are not exempt from these payments. Discussions with the government are continuing and another batch of carpentry tools is being assembled for transportation, this will include a small number of power tools.
Water supply continues to be a problem. A second borehole was drilled in 2011 but proved to be a failure. The drilling company has acknowledged mistakes and promised to drill another borehole free of charge. This borehole has now been completed but, as yet, no pump has been installed. We do hope that a water supply for the Vocational Training Centre and the Primary School will be available soon.
Althought there is high inflation in Uganda, it does not significantly affect the value of money that we can transfer in grants because inflation has been accompanied by an increase in the exchange rate. But local supplies are affected and it is difficult for the project to purchase materials such as wood or dressmaking fabrics and threads. Hopefully the government will be able to get a grip on this very basic economic problem soon.
The Vocational Training Centre at Siriba, Uganda, seems to be making steady progress.
Uganda itself is going through a difficult time with inflation running up to 20%. This is an overall figure and some basic prices, food for example, are seeing much bigger rises. This makes life in rural Uganda very difficult. However the good news is that money being sent to the project is not losing its value because the exchange rate is much better.
One big feature in life at Siriba is the lack of water. Water has to be fetched from the nearest borehole which means a round trip of half a mile. Through grants Hands Around The World has managed to get a new borehole drilled at Siriba. Unfortunately boring has taken much longer than estimated and we are still waiting to hear whether it has been successful so that a pump can be fitted. Once water is flowing it will be a great boost to the Siriba School and to the Vocational Training Centre. The next formal report from the project is not due until mid November. This report will include full detailed accounts. If these are satisfactory then another grant from HATW will go the project in December to cover costs until the end of March 2012.
The Vocational Training Centre at Siriba made a good start in 2009/10. There was a strong beginning with seven tutors and twenty five students each in carpentry and tailoring. However in late 2010 the unit ran into to difficulties over tutors pay and had to temporarily close.
The VTC has now restarted under the leadership of a new Director/Head Teacher.
One new tutor for carpentry and one for tailoring have now been appointed and students are now beginning to sign on again for courses. Hands Around The World has also been able to obtain some funds for 2011/12 to put the VTC on a sound financial footing This will help until the VTC itself can find effective ways of being self-funding. The new Director has been in touch with local officials of the Ugandan Government’s Department of Education and Sports to get the unit registered and approved. If and when this happens the VTC will, hopefully, be able to secure at least some funds from that source.
Fortunately HATW has also now been given funds to drill the much-needed borehole, for which we are most grateful.
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