In a kind of apprenticeship, five FCTrelief students can learn basic skills for a job. Chris Merk reports.

This year we are testing the option of skills training for some of our older pupils, who did not or could not complete their schooling and it appears to be working well for them!
During our trip to FCtrelief in Zambia in October 2019, I spoke with one of our older pupils Kelvin, aged 18, who had been with us for over 5 years now. He did not pass his grade 9 exams in every subject but did well enough to be able to stay on another year at school to take his GSE exams in those subjects he failed. However, he only passed one of the 3 subjects, which meant his schooling now came to an end and he did not have a school leaving certificate (grade 12) and therefore his prospects of work and a future did not look good.

In 2018, only 30% of young Zambians passed their grade 9 exam, which they must pass to be able to continue to grade 12. This is also partly due to lack of senior school infrastructure for the last 3 years and means that 70% leave school without a proper education and can only do menial, low-paid jobs and will always struggle financially. This is a major factor keeping much of the country in poverty, and the educated workforce needed for the economy and development is missing, left to a third of the school leavers, many of whom have to borrow loans to have the chance of further studies and qualifications. We support some of these young people.

When I asked Kelvin what he planned to do when he had to leave school and FCTrelief at the end of the year, he looked at me in despair and had no idea what came next. This gave me the idea of him learning a trade of some sort – but what and where? There is no apprenticeship system like in Switzerland and most learn “on the job” if they are bright enough and try to find “piece work” each day somewhere and when possible.

Kevin becomes a metal worker

I remembered visiting a Foundation started by Italians some years ago. Chikupi is about an hour’s drive from Linda and they mainly teach vulnerable young people a practical trade like farming, metal work, or bricklaying for a year to give them some training to enable them to find a job afterwards. At the time it gave us some ideas of how we could set up our own foundation and was run by an older Swiss couple who were doing an excellent job. We contacted them and were told there were still some places open for 2020. The students could live in the local village and would have to provide for themselves, except for lunches which are offered. When Eugene took Kelvin to see the options at Chikupi, Kelvin decided he would like to learn metal work, as this would give him the chance to be self-employed in time. We were able to find a sponsor for him to cover his course and living expenses.


Two dilligent tailors

They also found that there was a tailoring course for young girls – to learn dressmaking and there were still 2 places free with a bursary! The girls stay on the property for their own safety, sharing rooms. We immediately applied for these places for 2 of our older girls, Joyce and Bertha, who had missed several years of schooling before being chosen on our tuition programme and going back to school where they were in classes with younger children. These 2 girls had problems at home but were practical and deserved a chance like this. They were delighted at this opportunity and we helped set them up with the basics they needed and an older suitcase that had been donated to share for their few clothes, soap, toothpaste etc and a towel and blanket each, plus some underwear – they had hardly anything from home. They got a small amount of pocket money for daily needs too. They share a room and are happy and doing well, as the photos show.



Richard joins them

Just after these 3 had started their courses in mid-January, Richard, another very vulnerable boy from George compound, who had been doing whatever piece work he could find at weekends and in the holidays to help feed his mother and sisters realised that having failed his grade 9 exam, he would now have to continue working like this to support the family. Eugene asked him about doing a skills training to learn a trade and he realised this was a great opportunity, especially when he was told that just one place to learn bricklaying was still free and it was on a bursary, too! He knew God was making this possible for him and is a fine young man who deserves this chance. By the end of that week, he, too was set up with all he needed for the course and can share a room with Kelvin, who he knows from the youth work at FCTrelief.


When Eugene brought Richard to Chikupi, he saw Kelvin and the girls, who all recognised Richard and welcomed him. It is a challenge for our pupils who grow up in a compound to go out into the world outside and make their way so we were all delighted to hear from their new teachers that they are doing well, are polite, punctual and reliable and a credit to FCTrelief – which is encouraging for our team who are building into the lives of these young people, to enable them to do well when given such opportunities in life. They will all have an exam at the end of their course which qualifies them to work on their own, start their own business, which is one of the best options in Zambia. They are also learning to live independently and manage their lives, ready for the future.

Exildah laughs again

Another success story is Exildah, who is doing a 9-month Food Production course at Lusaka Youth Resource centre in Lusaka, followed by practical placements in various hotels and restaurants which hopefully lead to her being offered a permanent job. She has been with us for many years and we have helped her through various difficulties at home. After her mother died, she went to live with a neighbour while her sister was sent somewhere else. This proved to be a challenging situation for Exildah, rather like a Cinderella story, and she was often unhappy and hungry, her clothes were torn or taken and she was not treated well.
She, like Kelvin, was struggling at school and didn’t pass her GSE exams, hardly surprising with the home situation, but she was determined to get on in life, so we had the idea of this food production course in town. We had sponsored another young woman for the same course, and it would also mean she could leave home, where she was not wanted. We found a nice stable home environment for her, albeit at the last minute, as the first family could not take her – and she is very happy in her new home, safe, well-fed and supported in her course work. We found a sponsor for her, too, so again we thank God for all his provision and opening of doors for these 5 young people. The latest photo of Exildah with Tabea and her new “mother” Caroline is proof of how much happier and self-confident she has become which is a joy to see. We are certain they will all make their way in life and it has opened training opportunities for more of our pupils in the future.

They are all very grateful to FCTrelief for your support and the difference in the 5 of them is so encouraging to see. Thank you very much.