Uganda: Acquiring skills for life
27 November 2013

Students of the JRS Kampala hair dressing class during a practical session. The class started in March and the students are expected to graduate in December 2013. (Charles Njanga/JRS)
Winfred moves slowly with her refugee class, accompanies each as they struggle with various challenges. Some do not know well how to read and write; others struggle to get house rent and food for their families.
Kampala, 27 November 2013 - In March 2013 JRS Kampala started its first Hair dressing class to promote refugees sustain themselves in an urban setup. The Hair Dressing class is a pilot project, but already has been a great success. The 19 students are very excited to see how they make a profit out of their skills without even having finished the course! Some work in saloons over the weekend in Kampala, others even work from the JRS compound after class. Customers come to get their hair done and students show their newly acquired skills - and make money in the process.

“I love my students,” the hair dressing instructor Winfred Nyiranzirorera says, while her trainees are busy plaiting hair during their practical exams. The students prepare for internships in various saloons in Kampala as a final project to complete their eight month course before graduation on 18th December.

Accompanying students in their career path. Teacher Winfred has a broad smile on her face when she talks about her trainees. She is very proud of them. At the beginning she feared teaching students from different/various countries, saying that, she had only known Ugandan students. But now she is very confident and happy. Winfred moves slowly with her refugee class, accompanies each as they struggle with various challenges. Some do not know well how to read and write; others struggle to get house rent and food for their families. But as the relationship between teacher and students grows, adjustments are made and everyone feels comfortable and progress in the studies to succeed.

Some wanted to drop out of class, because difficulties in life and self-sustainability in Kampala are a problem to many. So it is not easy to come every day for classes if one at the same time has to look for what to eat. But Winfred counsels them and seeks a solution together with them as “dropping out is not a solution”, she says. And her students persevere until now - they are proud of themselves.

Neema* reports gladly from the saloon she works in, “They are appreciating my work!” Another student Zawadi* states that, “Tomorrow I am going to start”, after first being hesitant due to the little money she would get in the saloon. Winfred encouraged her to begin and with time and experience she would get more and more money.

“I am so happy”, laughs Winfred, “they are my friends and I am their friend. Now I know each one of them by their names, their problems and successes. It makes me feel so good to see them work in a saloon at the weekend. And not just in any saloon but a good saloon.”

The JRS Kampala Urban Project is indeed changing the lives of refugees and keeping their hope alive.

*Names have been changed to protect the identities

By Jana Benz, JRS Kampala Programme Assistant

JRS has been working in Kampala since 1998, responding to the urgent, unmet needs of newly arrived asylum seekers and refugees in vulnerable circumstances. For refugees fleeing conflict, civil unrest or oppressive political circumstances, the JRS Urban Emergency Programme provides information, food and non-food items, rent and medical assistance, transport and psychosocial support. JRS also offers English language lessons and vocational training courses to increase opportunities to earn a living and support themselves. In addition, JRS advocates for the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.