Jobs project offers hope to Kenyan youth

Lilian Kaivilu @liliankaivilu

Mary Wakarindi, 25, lost her mother in 2008 when she was in Form Three. This was a double tragedy because eight years earlier she had lost her father who was the family’s bread winner.

After her mother’s death, Wakarindi and her younger sister aged 22, were forced to stay with their relatives in Mathare North informal settlement in Nairobi.

She is now a Fourth Year student at Kenyatta University pursuing a Degree in Public Policy and Administration. Wakarindi was among students who graduated in August from the Digital Jobs Africa programme in Nairobi.

The programme, hosted at the Digital Divide Data (DDD)-Kenya, an organisation funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, seeks to offer pre-employment training to bright, but disadvantaged youth in Nairobi. The programme targets youth aged between 18 and 24.

The programmes’ first cohort graduated in December 2016. Wakarindi’s education is fully sponsored by the Digital Jobs Africa Project. Besides, she is employed at the Digital Divide Data for data entry and other related jobs. Wakarindi is lucky to have a job.

According to the World Bank, over 17 per cent of youth in Kenya are unemployed. And just like many Kenyan youth, Wakarindi struggled with joblessness before joining university. With one sibling and no parents, Wakarindi knew she had to work hard to find her way into university. “I heard about the Digital Jobs Africa during an event after High School.

Mary Wakarindi got a job courtesy of the Digital Jobs Africa project Photo/LILIAN KAIVILU

I applied in 2013 and was called into the programme about six months later. I came for an interview and succeeded. I joined the programme in 2013 in December,” she said. Today, Wakarindi is a salaried employee at the Digital Divide Data in Nairobi.

This is one of the companies that partnered with Rockefeller Foundation in 2011 to implement the Digital Jobs Africa initiative in Kenya. “My school fees at Kenyatta University is paid for and we are served lunch and tea here,” says Wakarindi.

The 25-year-old, among other 240 students currently under the programme at Digital Divide Data, reports to work every weekday at 7:40am and leaves at 3pm. In order to enable them work while they study, participants in this project are all on online-learning programmes in the various universities.

Currently, the students are placed in Zetech University, University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University. “I really wanted to go to the university but my extended family could not pay my school fees,” she says.

To her, the Digital Jobs Africa programme has changed her life for better. “When I came here, I had my plans straight. I wanted to support my sister and I. I knew I was the only hope that my sister had. So, I had to work hard in this programme. And today, I am fulfilling my plans; one by one,” she said.

Today, Wakarindi is able to pay rent and her sister’s fees for short courses. Besides giving the youth computer-related assignments such as data entry, DDD provides the learners with other skills such as budgeting, savings, investment options, beyond employment skills. These are the skills we focus on during the first three months of the training.

Mamadou Biteye, Managing Director, Africa, The Rockefeller Foundation, says that the Digital JobsAfrica project seeks to positively affect the lives of one million people by 2020 through putting youths in jobs.

“Since 2013, the students in the Digital Jobs Africa project have secured jobs for African youth and increased their employability. To date, 136 youth have been trained under this project in Africa. About 70,000 of these have been connected to jobs,” says Biteye.

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