U-LEARN: Training continues despite COVID-19 pandemic

Labour market insertion, Initial vocational education and training
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way we go about our daily activities. The past few weeks have seen people stay home, practice social distancing, wear protective gear and maintain good handwashing practices in an attempt to flatten the infection curve and stop the spread of the highly infectious virus. Many governments around the world have also enforced cessation in movements among their citizens through different restrictions like lockdowns, curfews and travel bans.

In Tanzania, U-LEARN, the Mastercard Foundation-funded project figured out how to proceed with their capacity building sessions at the community level in the wake of the pandemic. The project which facilitates skills development training sessions with the intent of raising young people out of poverty by increasing their competitiveness in the job market and improving their self-employment opportunities has forged ahead with its plans under what would be termed as a ‘new normal.’

The project has put in place measures to ensure that there is a reduced chance of the spread of the virus among the trainees.

“We have set aside some funds to go towards protective gear in the form of masks, hand washing points, soaps, gloves and alcohol-based sanitizers at our training centres to ensure both the training consultants and the trainees are comfortable and safe during the sessions. We have also split each learning group member size to reduce the number of people gathered at a central place at any given time,” commented Celestine Bukango, the Project Manager. 

Before the official announcement of the first COVID-19 infection in Tanzania on 16th March 2020, the U-LEARN project had trained 22 learning groups comprising of 494 beneficiaries (since January). The project planned to capacitate another 30 learning groups comprising 900 beneficiaries between April and June 2020. These training sessions are not only limited to the project’s skills development focus on agri-business, construction and hospitality but also encompass soft skills training which includes life skills, health and safety, marketing and access to information, leadership and financial management.

“The project has always had ‘Health and Safety at the Workplace’ as a topic of discussion during previous training sessions. However, once the pandemic broke within our borders, we saw it fit to revamp the curricula to meet the present situation. We partnered with Red Cross Tanzania to facilitate the sessions and provide professional information surrounding the coronavirus disease. The youth were equipped with information ranging from the virus’ history transmission, symptoms and preventive measures. The information on how to reduce youth exposure to the disease was not all. Our training partner went ahead to provide content on preventing respiratory infections at work, infection risks and gave guidance on what to do in case one felt unwell,” narrated Celestine.

The U-LEARN Tanzania project aims to improve the livelihoods of 7,500 youth in Tanzania. It is implemented in 15 districts along the Lake Zone regions of Geita, Mara, Mwanza and Simiyu. The project is currently in its second phase of implementation and is expected to run till June 2021.