Improving Lives through Vocational Training in South Sudan

vocational training
Beda Saturtino working on the wall of a church with a
fellow trainee.

“Learning skills is good. I am happy. It will be good to develop my state and country by building towers, small houses and ministries.” says Beda Saturtino from Eastern Equatoria State (EES) of South Sudan. Saturtino is one of 25 trainees enrolled in the masonry vocational skills training provided by Global Communities. Saturtino is 27 and was born in Kiyala Boma in Eastern Equatoria State. He fled his village at the age of ten when conflict broke out. He remembers the rebels coming into his village and taking away all their livestock and his family fleeing into Torit Town looking for refuge with relatives. While fleeing, Saturtino lost his mother and older brother, a soldier for the Sudan Armed Force (SAF). With the death of his closest family members, Saturtino was forced to flee to Khartoum with the few remaining relatives he could find.

“I was only a boy in Khartoum and was depending on my relatives for everything.” Saturtino states as he looks down at his hands covered with dirt from erecting a church building as part of the practical session of the training. “I have only completed up to primary school” Saturtino comments.

Global Communities has been working in Eastern Equatoria State since 2008 implementing humanitarian assistance interventions to assist returnee households to reintegrate into both rural and urban areas despite the enormous economic and food security challenges. Vocational skills training is one of many interventions currently being implemented to provide opportunities for income generation and reintegration into the local labor market with new skill sets. Under the USAID/OFDA funded program, IMPROVE (Increasing Market Potential for Returnees through Opportunities for Viable Economic Development) conducted a market assessment identifying a high demand for technical skills such as electricians, masons, blacksmiths and plumbers. Despite the high demand for these skills, few South Sudanese work in these sectors where labor, like many commodities in South Sudan, is being imported from neighboring countries.

With this intervention Global Communities, in partnership with a local organization Yei Vocational Training College, aims to close the market gap by providing technical skills trainings for youths such as Saturtino. Saturtino moved back to Torit in 2009 where he got married and had one child, a boy. After two years of marriage Saturtino’s family was ripped apart when his in­‐laws took his wife and child away for not paying dowry. “They (in-­laws) took the child because of no paying. Now I stay with my brother. If I have the budget I can take my wife back.” Saturtino explains. To date, Saturtino has not been able to save enough to purchase the 20 cows needed to get his wife and son back. Dowry payment is a widely practiced custom in South Sudan. In most parts of South Sudan cattle is used as bride price and is highly valued. In Eastern Equatoria one cow would cost Saturtino 1,000 South Sudanese Pounds which is approximately $300. Saturtino hopes that once he finishes the skills training he will be able to earn enough income to bring back his family.

Madelina Imoya Frado
Madelina Imoya Frado
Madelina Imoya Frado a student in the blacksmith class tells a similar story to Saturtino. She was forced to leave her husband because he did not pay the bride price to her family. Frado is 30 and was born in Torit Town. As a child she was given away by her father to another family to work as a “babysitter”. When she was eleven war broke out . The head of the household joined the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the rest of the family and Frado had to flee to Khartoum. Unable to pay for school fees in Khartoum Frado brewed alcohol as a way of earning income. When she turned 13 she was married to a government soldier and had three children.

In 2008 Frado was forced to leave her husband and return to Torit with her three children when her father called for her to return to the South. Her husband did not join her on this journey as he lacked  the resources needed to pay the bride price to her family. Frado with her children took a barge provided by the UN to Torit. Once she landed she became the sole breadwinner for her family. She resorted to collecting firewood to earn an income. Frado believes that participating in this training will allow her to earn more income to support her family. Once she graduates, Frado plans to find a space in the market to continue making and selling household products.
As South Sudan turns from conflict and looks inward to developing its nation, trainees like Saturtino and Frado will play a tangible role in this development. Masonries are already erecting a church in Torit that will showcase their newly acquired skills. The blacksmith students proudly  display the products they have created from scrape metal ranging from charcoal stoves to a bedframe. Trainees have been showing enthusiasm as they have started to market and sell their goods giving them great hope for success. With this program, Global Communities aims to open up greater opportunities for these South Sudanese trainees allowing them to make sustainable changes in their lives and their country.