SENEGAL: Salesian missionaries provide vocational training so youth are able to find and retain stable employment
(MissionNewswire) In the industrial city of Thiès, Salesian missionaries operate the Don Bosco Center, a vocational training school that has been in operation for the last 30 years. Much of the population in the city works in the railway yards, manufacturing tapestries typical of the area or in the aluminum and phosphate mines. The Don Bosco Center is an important center of learning for the city’s poor youth in order to gain the skills needed for employment.
Education is particularly relevant in a country like Senegal. Salesian missionaries note that unemployment in the country is nearly 48 percent and many youth without skills are left out of the labor market. For those who attend the Don Bosco Center, 60 percent who graduate from the carpentry, mechanics or electro-technical courses manage to find work in the city.
Currently, the Don Bosco Center has 115 male students and 20 female students. Not only is the goal education, but it is also to create a skilled workforce so youth do not have to leave the country to find work. Many are forced to leave countries in West Africa in search of a better life only to become victims of exploitation and traffickers. Some reach their destination only to find they are no better off than they were in their home country. Salesian education programs encourage youth to stay and help them find employment and contribute positively to their communities.
“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.”
Prior to the opening of Don Bosco Center, there were few places for disadvantaged youth to access the skills and qualifications necessary to develop a trade and gain stable employment. In addition to classroom training, students have the opportunity to apprentice in local businesses where they have access to hands-on training by professionals in their fields. In this way, students are 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.
Currently, the machines and tools used for educational purposes at Don Bosco Center to educate future carpenters, mechanics and electricians are worn out due to their over-extended use, while others are technologically outdated. Salesian missionaries have continued their training and have developed a partnership with a technical school in Poitiers, France, that is willing to donate machinery, tools and utensils. Updated technology and equipment is always one of the challenges of educational institutions that operate on limited budgets, so Salesian missionaries must rely on donors and partnerships to fulfill this need.
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, have 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, which according to the World Bank has reached 86 percent.
Inequalities between men and women exist in the country with many women unable to access education or equal opportunities in the labor market. Women only represent 13 percent of all those employed. Contributing to the high rate of unemployment is a high rate of illiteracy among youth in rural areas, especially women and girls.
World Bank – Senegal