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African Mission Europe, Project in Egypt: Operation Help for Sudanese!!!
The states of Sudan has experienced two civil wars - 1955 - 1972 and 1983 - 2005 before the independence of South Sudan and several internal conflict till date. Most recently, the Heglig (Sudan - South Sudan) border crisis resulted in not less than 100,000 displaced persons. Worst hit in the crisis are woman and children (mainly widows and orphans) fleeing to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Chad and as far as Israel applying for asylum status.
Tens of thousands of Sudanese refugees live in Egypt seeking asylum status. Refugees in Egypt experience discrimination both from government and civilian services. The response of the international community has been limited. Thus, ability to exercise their right to education and other basic social amenities is often impossible. Early efforts by spirited individuals and faith-based organizations since 1990 has proved insufficient in the light of the enormous challenges this group faces.
Worse-off are the plight of Sudanese widows and orphans. Most widows adopted the orphans, however, finds it challenging to provide for their basic needs due to harsh economic climate. Most widows work as house helps and hardly get sufficient income for feeding their household. Often times, widows leave the children at home during long work hours without proper care. In most cases, these house helps are often required to stay in with their employers and being allowed to visit their families once or twice in a month.
As a result, the African Mission Europe is inspired to do something meaningful to ameliorate the challenges faced by the widows and orphaned children. Specifically, the African Mission embarked on two major comprehensive projects focusing on Sudanese children and women, viz; Sudanese Children Education Centre Project and a women's project which focused on vocational training of women.
1. The Sudanese Children Education Centre Project (SCECP):
In 2013, the SCEC project registered 200 students with an average of 180 pupils attending school on daily basis with teachers varying from 4 -18. The ideal situation is to have at least two teachers per class. The number of teachers are at the moment insufficient with high employment turn-over often resulting from unstable and inconsistent income. Those remaining are motivated by their love and passion for the children. Resulting from this situation, the nursery classes 1 and 2 are combined and cramped leaving no room for the teacher to maneuver between the children.
The social unrest recently experienced in Egypt left its toll on the school. Relatedly, the school had to relocate to a safer howbeit, more expensive rental accommodation.
Picture 1: A cross section of the primary school pupils during African Mission, Europe's visit
Impact of the Project:
More than 180 children's education at the elementary stage are being provided for. Thus, providing safer care environment for these children while their mothers or adopted mothers are away at work. The project has provided a basis for education for these children who are often denied access to education in public schools because they are obligated to provide evidence of previous education and requisite residence permit iqama before they can be admitted.
Several challenges ranging from internal to external factors faces the project. The recent social unrest in Egypt is a major underlining factor. In 2013, the school was forced to relocate to another safer location. In addition, socio-economic situation has forced parents and foster parents to give out their wards to others as household workers. As a result, 16 pupils dropped out of the school.
External factor include unstable, inconsistent and insufficient provision for the teachers' salaries. This is underlined by poor availability of funds for the project and the transfer times causing funds to arrive very late thus, occasioning high employment turn-over rate. The project, which largely depends on the collections made by spirited individuals in the parish are often low and insufficient.
The SCEC project, which started about four years ago has become a blessing not only to the pupils themselves but also to the parents and foster parents as well as the Sudanese community in Egypt at large. This has further entrenched the goal of our Mission in Egypt.
It has become apparent that finding a sustainable means of funding the school is necessary. Efforts are geared towards seeking help from other Christian organizations and members of RCCG in Cairo to volunteer for the project.
The need to arrange and encourage after classes activities for the children to occupy them while the guardians are at work is important in keeping them out of the street in order to learn skills that will benefit them in the nearest future.
2. Women Training Project (WTP):
The stringent requirements for employment of refugees in Egypt have sidelined Sudanese women from regular and formal employment. Faced with this challenge, there is a strong resort to informal, menial, low income, often time sapping jobs such as housekeeping or gardening.
During a needs assessment visit in 2011 attended by not less than sixty Sudanese women despite the very short notice, the economic situation of women who had to cater for more than five children, often orphan children was underlined. Hence, the need for better income inorder to provide for and better educate their wards becomes paramount.
Responding to this challenge, the Women Training Project (WTP) was developed. The initial phase of the project focuses on providing basic adult literacy for these women who could neither read nor write. The adult literacy is followed by vocational training, thus providing basic skills necessary to provide better income and to a large extent independence on the informal low income menial, often inconsistent menial jobs to provide for their families and better their economies.
In September 2012, the adult literacy course started while in 2013, the first vocational training course took off with graduates from the adult literacy course and other enrollees who would not require the basic literacy. The vocational training course provided training in sewing and embroidery, cooking and pastry making, and community health work. It was projected that an introduction to basic ICT to prepare enrollees for middle administrative jobs will be offered soon.
Currently, with over 40 women enrolled in the sewing and embroidery training programme alone and many more on the waiting list, the school has overshot its capacity. However, a recent move to a larger accommodation, no thanks to the current security situation in Egypt provided more room for the training programme.
Picture 2. Women with the instructor during a training session
Picture 3. Women displaying clothes made after training session
Picture 4. Women displaying clothes made after training session
Picture 5. Trained to become independent - a woman already trained in sewing
Impact of the Project:
More than 300 women are currently benefitting from the project being trained for different vocational jobs. In view of the improvement in security in Sudan and South Sudan, some of the women who will be moving back to their country will have a vocation to help provide for the immediate needs of their families. While the women who are not interested in returning back will find the means of sustenance for themselves and wards.
The project contributes immensely to a better life and upliftment of the Sudanese women from the dire socio-economic situation by acquiring skill necessary for self-sustenance. This will also help in fostering relationship between children and parents who spend long working times outside their home.
The women vocational training (WVT) project is presently being funded externally. In the face of challenging funding, the need for sustainable funding has become imperative. A future drive is to build the project along income generating lines.
There is also the need to expand the courses to include other courses such as textile making, ICT, Entrepreneurship development, plumbing, carpentry, cosmetics and coiffeur training. The plan to also provide courses for Business administration and human resources management is in pipeline.
The impact of the vocational training and the hope of a better future for themselves and their families have become a motivating factor. The acceptability of the project among the Sudanese women is overwhelming. Expansion and development of the project along sustainable lines is necessary. Thus, project evaluation and strategic plan development will help in achieving these goals.