Construction of a vocational training centre in Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria
Construction of the Vocational Training Centre (VTC), which began in January 2005, has been completed successfully. It has been welcomed enthusiastically by parents and local residents, who had frequently helped obtain good-quality low-cost construction materials. And, wherever possible, they had also helped with the work. Despite all efforts to keep within budget, the construction work proved more expensive than originally calculated. This was due to constant price rises (caused in part by unrest in the Niger Delta region, home to the port and the majority of cement works), disruption to transport routes, hikes in fuel costs and, as a result, higher transportation costs. Nevertheless, the Essien Foundation, working together with the parents of the pupils, succeeded in securing financial support from the local area and some work was done on a voluntary basis. The curriculum development team worked hard to harmonise the content of the training courses and the needs and wishes of future trainees and their working environment. In addition to the desire to manufacture saleable products during the vocational training, great store was set on continuous and regular servicing and maintenance of the factory machinery to maintain their value in the long term.
The planning team interviewed and appointed teachers, introducing them to the centre’s aims and methods at an orientation seminar. Links to other educational institutions were established to exchange ideas and promote mutual cooperation. One unforeseen problem was the fact that this type of vocational college – a combination of schooling and vocational training – was the first of its kind in the area. For this reason, registering the students proved a laborious task at first, and the planning committee ran an advertising campaign to tell the public about the benefits of the system.
113 students are currently enrolled although 200 places had initially been planned. Nevertheless, senior management at the college are convinced that their target number of training positions will soon be reached thanks to the ongoing awareness work. Links with a vocational college in Bocholt have been established and maintained. This college provides the vocational centre with help in developing teaching materials and different teaching methods. Demeca, a Bocholt-based aid organisation, has donated 150 wheelchairs for disabled people living in the vicinity of the VTC and has committed to maintaining these wheelchairs free of charge. Through its training courses, the VTC manufactures various products that are sold at reasonable prices. Thanks to these sales and the college fees, it will be possible to maintain the college’s infrastructure and cover the centre’s ongoing costs. It is currently seeking out local businesses and workshops to take the students on after they complete their course. An eight-week placement in businesses like these forms part of the training course and allows the students to prove their abilities on-site. Links are also being established with the students’ home towns and villages in order to discover whether they would be able to start up their own handicraft business with a little support.
The VTC would like to thank the BMZ for giving many people a future that previously had none, and also action five e.V. for its support in submitting its application and completing the project. The school will send reports on how the project is developing. It is one of the best development projects in the region, combining practical training with the production of goods that will allow a few young people in the long term to earn their living independently and thus also be able to provide for their families and improve the standard of living for the area as a whole. Now, we are not only given a fish to eat but we are taught how to fish and how to pass on this knowledge to other people so as to help develop and improve our quality of life. You have our heartfelt and joyful thanks. May God help us all and watch over those who have helped us realise our dream.