Skills for Jobs

Students arrive at the Bududa Learning Center

The slogan of the Bududa Vocational Academy (BVA) is a simple, clear statement of its Mission – Skills for Jobs.  

Each facet of the program is focused on equipping students to participate in the job market or start their own business. Insuring that young men and women have a sustainable income is the surest way to lift families and the community out of poverty.

The Academy is led by a dynamic duo of true Super Heroes. Barbara Wybar created BVA 15 years-ago and continues to supply the energy and vision that has molded and funded this sterling treasure. A self-professed second grade school teacher, as Executive Director, Barbara is the ultimate juggler of needs and solutions all the while maintaining a radiant smile.

Robert Kotaki is the Chief Operating Officer and a low-key man behind the scene until a tough negotiator is needed to calm the waters. He has been at BVA since its inception so he knows it inside out. As a long-term resident of the area he also knows how to work with neighbors, power brokers, and the idiosyncratic traditions of Africa. If Doing Good is the ideal role of a Super Hero, you couldn’t draw a better team.

BVA is a full-time, secondary education academy offering programs in seven, highly desirable technical skills and trades:

  • Tailoring and Sewing
  • Carpentry and Joinery
  • Brick Laying/Concrete Practice
  • Nursery Education/Early Childhood Development
  • Hair Dressing
  • Computer Science
  • Motor Mechanics

George Kutosi, Librarian, has been with the BVA since 2008, the longest of any faculty member.

The faculty reports to Principal Steven Ojilong, shown on the right, and Assistant Principal Samali Nakhayenze. Each program combines practical exercises with theory and student’s education is further supplemented with courses in English, math, and entrepreneurship.

Brick laying/concrete practice is taught by devoted Head Teacher Moses Maseleje and Teacher Joseph Kinosi. Students build a series of increasingly difficult brick or block structures in a large, open-air facility. They use mud rather than mortar for the exercises to enable them to deconstruct and reuse expensive materials.

The department has a hand-powered machine that makes superb sustainable soil blocks. Two major classroom buildings were dedicated in 2015, both constructed of SS blocks (covered with stucco) and laid by brick laying/concrete practice students. The roofs are high-quality metal generously provided by Uganda Baati, a unit of the largest steel roofing conglomerate in Africa.

Students in the Tailoring and Sewing classroom study under the gentle hand of Teacher Steven Wanzama.

Students use foot-powered treadle sewing machines because electricity is scarce, expensive, and often unreliable in Bududa. This doesnt seem to hold the students back as they learn to layout patterns, cut fabric, and sew a wide range of projects from simple placemats to complex clothing.

Teacher James Wesonga Demonstrate the use of a Circular Saw

Carpentry and Joinery students are fortunate to learn under guidance of Head Teacher Godfrey Sakwa, shown to the left, and Teacher James Wesonga. The program has an extensive combination of hand tools and electrical power equipment that is rare in Uganda.

Students of Nursery Education/Early Childhood Development are prepared for this important work by one of the hardest working members of the school, Samali Nakhayenze, shown on the left, and Teacher Dauphine Watsemba. In addition to teaching as Head of this department, Somali is Assistant Principal for Academics and prepares students to sit for exams from Ndeje University. Coursework combines early childhood education and care with design and creation of educational materials.

In the Hair Dressing program techniques are well taught and frequently demonstrated by Head Teacher Oliver Kayendeki. Students practice their skills using manikins, each other, and ultimately on members of the community who are happy to have a refreshing shampoo and styling.

Isaac Namisi demonstrating computer navigation

Computer Science is the domain of digital wizard Isaac Peace Namisi. He teaches eager students how to repair and configure computer hardware and how to navigate and utilize major software packages. By the time students graduate from his course they will be familiar with Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint and have been exposed to the wonders of CAD programs.

Motor Mechanics is the newest vocational program. Robert Mwale, an experienced teacher and mechanic with a background in machinery from small motorcycles to large farm machinery has recently joined the faculty. The growing fleet of PiciPicis makes it clear that the demand for skilled mechanics will grow rapidly in the future.

The Bududa Vocational Academy has a modern, well maintained campus that can comfortably accommodate up to 250 students. The facilities include residential dormitories for boys and girls who live too far away to go home at night. Reducing travel time for students is one of the many ways BVA prioritizes educational pursuits.

All of the facilities have been constructed with funds generously donated by individuals and foundations in the US, the UK, and Canada. Our masonry and carpentry students provided much of the labor for construction of our campus buildings including the masonry foundations and walls and the furniture.

BVA is the only vocational school in the Bududa District of Uganda. It is licensed as an educational institution in Uganda and has full academic accreditation.

Each subject is a two-to-three-year accreditation program. Instruction is presented in English, but the teachers are all also native speakers. There are also full-time teachers for English, Math, and Entrepreneurship. Merit scholarships are offered for students who show particular promise. Bududa Learning Center also supports young girls with scholarships for traditionally male-only disciplines such as carpentry.

I have recorded mini-docs with two BVA graduates who are successfully working in the Community.

Nicholas is went on to Sunrise School after attending BVA. As a child, he dreamed of having chalk in his hand and teaching young children.

Fatuma has her own treadle sewing machine and a tailoring shop located in a nearby marketplace. She makes standard school uniforms, special dresses for customers, and has recently sold a set of tote bags to a craft distributor from the United States.

The videos will be posted on Bududa.Org when I get back to my editing setup in Philadelphia.

More information on the Bududa Vocational Academy and all the Bududa Learning Center activities is available at Bududa.Org

Published by Ron Kanter

Professional documentary filmmaker Amateur woodworker Avid motorcycle rider

2 thoughts on “Skills for Jobs

  1. As has been the case all along, I continue to marvel at the work you and your colleagues are doing for this community, Ron. Thank you for the photos & descriptions. It seems to continue to be a rich experience!


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