Instead of joining militias or idling at street corners, the youth in Garowe, the regional capital of the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland, are learning skills to help them earn a living, officials said.
A local NGO, the Farsano Technical Institute, is implementing the project, which is funded by the Education Development Centre (EDC), an American NGO. Trainees learn skills such as welding, plumbing and electrical services; carpentry, auto mechanics, bookkeeping and IT.
“These are young people in their teens and 20s; most, if not all, were born during the civil war,” said Abdihakim Mohamed Jama, of the Farsano Technical Institute. “We have to find something for them to do or they may end up in criminal gangs, such as militia groups.”
Jama said the project, Shaqa Doon (“Looking for a job” in Somali] started early this year with 156 trainees.
“We have two types of trainees; those with no education and those with some education,” he said, adding that some had completed primary school while others had a secondary school education, “but most are illiterate”.
Jama told IRIN: “Bookkeeping and IT are taught to those with education, because the others cannot manage. We also teach reading, writing and basic mathematics to those who never had an education. So while they are learning the skills, we are also teaching them how to read and write.”
Of the total number of current trainees, Jama said, 38 are women.
One of the trainees, Amina Mohamed Nur, 20, said after completing primary school, she could not afford secondary school fees.
“I was basically sitting at home doing nothing; when I heard about the project I applied and was accepted.”
I want to be the best electrician I can be and then eventually start my own business
Nur chose to train as a mechanic, an unusual profession for a woman from a conservative community. “I am not the only one,” she told IRIN. “Four other girls are with me in this training. Since I was a child, I always wanted to work with cars. I don’t know why but that is what I wanted to do.”
She said she would eventually like to own a garage.
Nur Hassan Hussein, 25, from Garowe, was unemployed when he heard about Farsano. He had dropped out of school due to a lack of funds and is training to become an electrician. “I want to be the best electrician I can be and then eventually start my own business.”
Hussein said there were many young people like him “who would do anything to get this opportunity; I am very lucky”.
“All these trainees are at-risk young people; if we save them now, they, in turn, will save others and contribute to the well-being of the community instead of becoming a menace,” he said.
The Farsano Technical Institute project is the only one in Garowe targeting the youth.
“There are many young people out there who need help, but we cannot take them all,” Jama said, urging other agencies to help with the growing number of unemployed youth by “giving them the ability and capacity to be productive members of their community”.