When Kenya introduced free and compulsory education for children under 14 in 2003, many drop-in centers for street children closed, leaving no place for children over 14 to eat lunch and spend their days. Many of these older children, too old for primary school, were forced back into the streets to face a bleak future.
Recognizing these vulnerable children were falling through the cracks, Jitegemee dramatically expanded our vocational program to support more teenage street children in becoming self-sufficient. Our vocational training program, comprised of three phases, has achieved impressive results:
- Some 80 percent of our vocational graduates earn money from their trades.
- About two-thirds of our graduates are now the primary breadwinners in their homes.
Jitegemee’s vocational students start with a five-month pre-vocational rehabilitation program. The curriculum covers basic math and literacy, business education, communication skills self-esteem and “living values” education and emphasizes punctuality, honesty, cleanliness and the importance of giving back to the community. This first phase ends with a week-long workshop for the vocational students and their guardians introducing them to various trades. The workshops are conducted by qualified tradespeople with the assistance of the Undugu Society of Kenya, a well-respected organization with a successful vocational program in Nairobi.
During the next phase, our vocational students are placed in a one- to two-year apprenticeship program where they learn a life-changing trade of their choosing, such as carpentry, welding, electronics, hair-dressing and tailoring. As apprentices to local tradespeople, they learn their trade and the folkways that govern professional behavior. Many also earn a commission. During this phase, the vocational students continue to meet every day for a hearty lunch as well as once a week with Jitegemee staff for continued business skills training, “living values” education and mutual support.
Once the apprenticeship is completed, Jitegemee provides vocational graduates with the help they need to go into business for themselves. Each graduate receives a set of start-up tools, and as they begin to earn money from their trades, Jitegemee staff members assist them with saving money to purchase their own tools. When they are established in their trades, they teach the skills they have mastered to the next generation of Jitegemee vocational students.