– 13 April 2018
A promising future for a young woman
Being able to access education and training has changed Juanita’s prospects in life. Living in a slum in Ondangwa, Namibia, she knows how difficult it can be to find decent employment. Training to become a professional electrical engineer gives her the opportunity to build a stable future.
Juanita*, 23, describes herself as bold, resilient and focused. She lives with her mother and four siblings in the sprawling Okangwena settlement in Ondangwa, northern Namibia. The shanty town is a characterized by closely built shacks made of corrugated iron sheets with small windows. Poverty, drugs, alcohol, prostitution and hopelessness surround Juanita and her family.
Juanita’s mother earns a small income as a health assistant at a local clinic. Juanita is grateful that her mother has struggled to keep all the children in school.
“Many times my mother has opted not to pay the utility bills so she could save money for our school needs,” says Juanita. “For a long time we have had to eat the same meal every day for we could not afford a variety. But despite these hardships, my mother continually encourages us to study hard and to choose the right friends. She has also taught us how to deal with difficulties and challenges.”
Lack of resources to get education and training
Despite the family’s sacrifices, Juanita bravely acknowledged that her mother could not raise her college fees. After grade 12, Juanita’s only option was to look for domestic work, and to give up her life dream of ever becoming a professional electrician.
This is common in Namibia, where due to the dire need of an income, and the inability to remain in school, many poor young people join the labour force unskilled. Yet many of them are resourceful and creative.
In February 2015, Juanita got her break. Two months after completing secondary school, a team from the SOS family strengthening programme provided the support she desperately needed.
“I joyfully received a half scholarship to join a local vocational training centre to pursue the career of my dreams – electrical and electronic engineering,” says Juanita. “I also received this tool set containing various gadgets for my work and these safety clothes,” Juanita says as she points to the blue overall she is wearing. “In addition, I got access to use computers in family strengthening social centre to do my school work.”
An agreement was made that Juanita’s mother would pay the other half of the tuition fee. “I have already completed a two-year certificate course and I recently embarked on a two-year diploma,” explains Juanita. “I expect to graduate early next year .”
Vocational skills to boost employability
And with her electrical engineering skill set, Juanita is confident that she is better equipped to join the job market.
“It will be easy to find a job after graduation because I will have a diploma in electrical engineering, and also my internship testimonial will show my advanced skills and experience,” says Juanita. “My course is also highly marketable because only a few people in Namibia have been properly trained.”
The family strengthening programme is investing in at-risk youth in Namibia by supporting them to raise their educational levels to improve their employability. With Juanita waiting to graduate, the risk of her facing unemployment or underemployment have been minimized. She has a real chance to escape the poverty trap.
*Name changed for privacy protection
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