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Improving the quality of vocational education in Kenya through modernization and equipment of library and workshops in Boys Town technical school in Nairobi

Don Bosco Boys Town gathers young men and women, aged 18 to 22 years, usually from Kibera – the largest slum in East Africa with about a million inhabitants, according to UN data. Only 20% of the population has access to electricity and there is no running water. The families living in the slum are affected by poverty and pathologies. Poverty and unemployment are known to breed crime and addiction whilst contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS. Growing up in such an unfavourable environment makes it difficult for young people, especially girls, to hope for a better future. The traumatic experiences result in low self-esteem, diminishing their chances in the very demanding Kenyan labour market where self-presentation skills are vital (unemployment is at 22.2%, of which more than half consists of young people).

For 30 years, the needs of poor young people have been addressed by the Don Bosco Boys Town Salesian school that includes dormitory, and is highly valued by the local authorities and entrepreneurs. The school not only offers high-quality education, but also contributes to the personal development of its pupils. For a minimal fee (and without charge in the case of the poorest students) the school prepares young people for work in technical fields, IT and office jobs. It also offers a range of extracurricular activities. Each year, about 80 young people are interested in applying to this school. In 2017 there were 37 girls and 133 boys attending.

The management board of Don Bosco Boys Town strives to limit dependence of the institution on funds from donations, offering instead services to external clients to help pay for maintenance of the school buildings and to meet current expenses. The school cooperates with public institutions as well as private enterprises. The German company GROHR supports the school’s plumbing division by supplying plumbing fixtures. The firm Schneider Electric supports modernisation of the photovoltaic energy division and organises training for the teachers. The carpentry division, in turn, is supported by Panesar Furniture.

However, the locksmith and welding divisions still require urgent modernisation, and the school so far has been unable to acquire external sponsors. The few and outdated machines have not been replaced for more than 20 years and do not meet today’s standards. Their replacement would make it possible to offer services to external entities, while helping to provide for the school’s maintenance and enabling the students to take up income-generating activities.

The state of the school library leaves much to be desired. The library is located in a single room, which makes it difficult to use the available reading items on the spot. The inadequate number of textbooks, often outdated, has a detrimental effect on the educational process. The students themselves cannot afford to buy costly books on technology.  

Improving the quality of vocational education in Kenya through modernization and equipment of library and workshops in Boys Town technical school in Nairobi

The general aim of the project is to improve the quality of vocational education in Nairobi and to create better opportunities in the labour market for students from poor families, by providing modern education tools for them.

The plans include renovation of the locksmith and welding workshops and the purchase of nine modern machines to help students master the practical aspects of a trade. The project also consists of renovation and retrofitting of the school library. The new reading room will accommodate 96 students at one time. Both the library and the workshops will be available free of charge in hours that are convenient for the students.

The project will also provide an 18-hour course in how to work with young people from poor environments, to be attended by 15 teachers from Don Bosco Boys Town. The students will also receive support in their independent start in the labour market thanks to the 18-hour training for all students, in skills that can be useful when looking for a job.

Improving the quality of vocational education in Kenya through modernization and equipment of library and workshops in Boys Town technical school in Nairobi

Unfortunately, because the local partner backed out, the project was not implemented. An understanding was signed by mutual consent to terminate the grant agreement.