Why Our Work is Needed
Case for Support
We have developed a clear rationale for our work that underpins our Case for Support. This starts from our basic intentions to inspire creativity and give young people something to do, right the way through to tackling the challenges of youth unemployment in Uganda and the skill shortage.
Creativity lies at the centre of efforts to solve many of the challenges facing the world, from poverty to environmental degradation to disease prevention (International Youth Federation, 2009). The benefits of creative self-expression are many - from increasing young people’s self-confidence to increasing their sense of belonging to their community.
Programs that develop young people’s creativity and self-expression are effective in strengthening key life skills, such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication and teamwork.
Much research has been published on the subject of Creative Youth Development, defined as the ongoing process through which young people acquire social, emotional, academic, and vocational skills (Quinn, 1999). It has been found that young people active in creative programs exhibit high levels of personal accomplishment that improve self-esteem and sense of belonging (Heath and Roach, 1999). As young people experience creative tasks over an extended period, they learn they can use their skills to express their own identities, as well as understand and change the world around them (Hughes and Wilson, 2004).
Creating safe spaces where young people can pursue their creativity without feeling judged or criticised, fosters an environment where they feel comfortable taking risks and thinking outside the box, which only serves to benefit themselves (through job creation entrepreneurship); and their communities (by fostering new approaches to solving old problems).
Creativity Leading to Community Development
By identifying young people and their development as the key driver for change, it is possible develop opportunities to improve the livelihoods and economic viability of their communities (International Youth Federation, 2009). Creative youth development programs that sit alongside local community development initiatives serve to improve community outcomes, as well as strengthening the role of young people as key decision makers in their communities.
Effective creative youth development views young people as resources in the community rather than problems to be solved. They provide physically and emotionally safe spaces for young people and foster the development of positive relationships with their peers; while addressing the broader community and the challenges that are faced (International Youth Federation, 2009).
Sustained participation in recreational activities also serves to increase a sense of belonging in the community itself. While recreational activities are often considered to be at the periphery of the community development process, communities are beginning to recognize their own identity, through creative activities and are increasingly benefiting from working together at a local level. Studies have demonstrate the subsequent important role recreational and creative programmes can have in regeneration of a community at a local level (Kay, 2000).
Non-Formal Education into Employment
Like many sub-Saharan African countries, Uganda faces major challenges to build up its education system. At the most fundamental level it has to provide enough places for one of the world’s fastest growing populations. There are more Ugandans under the age of 18 than there are adults. Many of the challenges facing schools are really about wider, non-educational questions of infrastructure – access to mains electricity, reliable payment system for teachers and basic school equipment such as textbooks. However, the result is that the strain on the formal education system to deliver quality formal teaching is growing.
There is a growing understanding of the need to widen the recognition of the value of non-formal learning, in acknowledgment that it has an important role to play, particularly in responding to youth unemployment by helping to transform young people’s potential and initiative into the acquisition of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.
The purpose of youth work however, is not to provide jobs but engagement in the wide variety of personal and social development activities that correspond to those most frequently demanded by employers. It helps young people gain skills such as team-work, adaptability and self-confidence that are developed to a greater extent in informal education compared to formal education systems (Souto-Otero et al, 2013).
As non-formal learning is often community based and therefore occurs outside of formal institutional contexts, it has a key role to play in reaching out to all young people, not just those engaged in education. For those with fewer opportunities, youth programmes support re-engagement and reintegration into the community, and has a unique ability to rebuild trust in all young people (European Youth Forum, 2012). Non-formal youth programmes are also able to deliver tailored support to the particular challenges of young people that is not possible through formal teaching.
Addressing the Challenges of Youth Unemployment in Uganda
In 2012, Uganda had the world’s largest percentage of young people under 30, standing at 78% (UN Population Fund, 2012). By 2015 they may have lost the top spot, but Uganda still had one of the youngest and most rapidly growing populations in the world. About 53% of Uganda’s population is younger than 15, well above Sub-Saharan Africa’s average of 43.2%.
Preparing these young people for productive jobs is a social and political priority for the government. The ‘youth bulge' in Uganda’s population has been recognised by the UN, with skills training and job creation among the targets suggested in drafts for the post-2015 development goals. About 500,000 people are expected to enter the labour market every year, hence the number of new entrants into the labour force will be growing and will be younger in the next few decades.
Youth unemployment in Uganda is the highest in Africa. A study, ‘Lost opportunity? Gaps in youth policy and programming in Uganda’, published by ActionAid, put youth unemployment at 62%, although the African Development Bank says it could be as high as 83%.
While the population of young people between the ages of 15-24 is rapidly growing, it has not been growing in tandem with the job market (Gemma Ahaibwe and Swaibu Mbowa, 2014). Limited opportunities for gaining formal wage employment have resulted in entrepreneurship being promoted as a means of generating youth employment, along with more reliance on vocational training. This discourse is being widely promoted within sub-Saharan Africa despite little being known about how best to support youth employment and entrepreneurship (Langevang and Gough, 2012). Since 1997, the government has focused on a phased curriculum review at all levels of education with a focus on business, technical, vocational education and training (BTVET). Entrepreneurship was further introduced as a subject in both lower levels of education and university levels with a view of imparting practical knowledge and skills to enable youth to become job creators. Since 2011/12, three venture capital funds—the Youth Venture Capital Fund, the Graduate Venture Fund, and the Youth Livelihood Programme—have been introduced to target young people who wish to venture into business. However, these venture capital funds have been often been based in large in urban settings, with stringent criteria attached to them and are less likely to be accessed by the majority.
The consequences of the high unemployment sees a significant proportion of young people, especially young men, migrate to urban areas. This is not a universal trend - comparative, studies in Zambia for example, have shown that almost all the young people choose to remain in rural areas, where they consider their prospects of success to be greater than if they were to migrate elsewhere (Gough, et al). More needs to be done therefore to upskill local young people with the skills required to gain employment in their local area and have a positive impact on their local community.
And this is where we come in...
Gemma, Ahaibwe and Swaibu, Mbowa., (2014). Youth Unemployment Challenge in Uganda and the role of Employment Policies in Job Creation. Africa in Focus. (https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2014/08/26/youth-unemployment-challenge-in-uganda-and-the-role-of-employment-policies-in-jobs-creation/).
Bamber, J., (2014). Developing the Creative and Innovative Potential of Young People Through Non-formal Learning in ways that are Relevant to Employability. European Commission.
Dickson, K, Vigurs, C.A. and Newman, M., (2012). Youth Work: A Systematic ‘Map’ of the Research Literature, EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute Education, University of London.
European Youth Forum., (2012). Reaction to the European Commission Communication ‘Moving Youth into Employment’.
Field Notes., (2009). Nurturing Young People’s Creativity. Vol 3 (15). International Youth Foundation, Baltimore, USA.
Gough, K., Langevang, T and Owusu, G., (2012). Youth Employment in a Globalising World. International Development Planning Review. Volume 35 (2).
Heath, S and Roach, A., (1999). “Imaginative Actuality: Learning in the Arts in Non-school Hours,” Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning. Edited by Edward B. Fiske. Arts Education Partnership and President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, 19-34.
Hughes, J and Wilson, K., (2004). Playing a Part: The Impact of Youth Theatre on Young People’s Personal and Social Development. Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance, Vol. 9 (1): 57-72.
International Youth Federation (2014). An Agenda for Progress Through Creative Youth Development. Adopted at the National Summit on Creative Youth Development, 2014.
Kay, A., (2000). Art and Community Development: The role the arts have in regenerating communities. Community Dev Journal. Vol. 35 (4): 414-424.
Kristensen, S and Birch-Thomsen, T., (2013). Should I stay or should I go? Rural youth employment in Uganda and Zambia. International Development Planning Review. Vol 35 (2).
Langevang, T and Gough, K., (2012). Diverging Pathways: young female employment and entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan Africa. The Geographical Journal. Vol 178 (3): 242–252.
Montgomery, D., (2014). Creative Youth Development Movement Takes Hold. Guild Notes: National Guild for Community Arts Education, No. 2.
Quinn, J., (1999). Where Need Meets Opportunity: Youth Development Programs for Early Teens. The Future of Children, Vol. 9 (2): 96-116.
Souto-Otero, M., et al. (2013). The Impact of Non-formal Education in Youth Organizations on Young People's Employability. European Youth Forum.
World Bank., (2015). Empowering Uganda’s Youth to Be Job Creators. (http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2015/08/04/empowering-ugandas-youth-to-be-job-creators)