SENEGAL: New Don Bosco Center Offers Vocational and Literacy Programs for Poor Youth and Women
(MissionNewswire) Center Kër Don Bosco officially opened at the end of January in Dakar, the capital and largest city in Senegal. The new center will provide education, vocational training and apprenticeship opportunities to disadvantaged youth and women living in the Yoff district on the outskirts of the city.
The center is part of an ongoing Salesian educational building project facilitated by Solidaridad Don Bosco, a non-governmental organization that is part of the broader Don Bosco Network in Spain. Salesian missionaries opened the new center in Senegal to address the high rate of unemployment and limited skilled labor among poor youth in the Yoff district. In addition to serving local youth, the center will focus on training women who are often underrepresented in the workforce and lack educational and advancement opportunities.
Prior to the opening of Center Kër Don Bosco, there were few places for disadvantaged youth to access the skills and qualifications necessary to develop a trade and gain stable employment. To address this need, Salesian missionaries at the center plan to offer vocational training in food production, construction and yarn dying. In addition to classroom training in these subjects, students will have the opportunity to apprentice in local businesses where they will have access to hands-on training by professionals in their fields. In this way, students will be able to apply the lessons and skills learned in the classroom in a real working environment while also accessing social skills training to prepare for stable long-term employment.
Focused specifically on helping women gain opportunities in the workforce, the center is offering two literacy classes as well as a safe space for studying. Women in Senegal are often heads of households but lack the training and confidence to try to enter the workforce or advance into higher paying jobs. The center’s goal is to help women connect with their peers and provide access to employment training to boost confidence and improve employment prospects.
“Access to education provides opportunities many have never imagined possible,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian programs are able to meet the diverse needs of students, allowing them to focus on their studies while gaining life skills that help them make better decisions and find future employment.”
Located on the west coast of Africa, Senegal has close to half its population living in poverty. Crop failures due to extreme weather have impacted the economy and, combined with a recent ban on street beggars, has taken away the only source of income from many families. A recent report by the Chronic Poverty Research Center found that not only are 60 percent of households labeled “poor or vulnerable” but there is a possibility that the poverty will be passed on to the next generation. A sign of hope in the country is the steadily increasing percentage of children enrolled in primary school. According to the World Bank, that number has reached 86 percent.
“Salesians in Senegal have been providing vocational and technical training programs to local youth and women for many years,” adds Fr. Hyde. “The constant expansion of our programs is important to us and provides access to education to all youth who want to improve their quality of life.”
Chronic Poverty Research Center – Chronic Poverty in Senegal
World Bank- Senegal