How a First Job Can Change a Life

BY RACHAEL MILLER, External Affairs Assistant, Educate! 

July 2013 23

Do you remember your first job? Do you remember the pride you felt in your new responsibilities and self-sufficiency? Perhaps you were saving up for a car, a college education, or a home to call your own. Perhaps you saw that hard work was the key to a better future. Whether it was waiting tables, delivering papers, scooping ice cream, or walking dogs, a first job is an invaluable experience.

Educate! Scholars share these goals. Many young Ugandans want nothing more than a first job that will allow them to spread their wings and grow personally and professionally while laying the foundation for a better life. However, for most of these young people, there are serious barriers preventing them from achieving this dream.

Globally, 311 million young people are unemployed, largely due to the mismatch between education and life after school. This problem is most acute in Africa, the world’s youngest continent. (The average age in Africa is 18; in several European countries, it’s 40 or more.) With a lack of formal jobs, 90% of African youth are going to work in the informal sector. Yet education systems across Africa are out-dated and cannot hope to deliver on their most vital promise—spending years in schools focused on rote-memorization and designed for a 1900’s economy does not lead to employment and the opportunity to make a living. For the families who have invested so much to put their children through school, this broken promise is tragic.

We know that the youth of Uganda are an untapped resource for change. Educate! transforms secondary education in Africa to teach young people to solve poverty for themselves and their communities. We aim to create the future of secondary education to develop youth to take leadership initiative, create small businesses, and improve their livelihoods. Educate! delivers a relevant model of education. Through advocacy, practical training for teachers, and direct service in schools, we are working to fully integrate our model into Uganda’s education system.

Our partnership with The School Fund is so exciting because it will fully fund four Educate! schools, allowing our innovative and proven model to reach 350 students per school for a total of 1,400 students! Funding Educate!’s programs in these schools is a sustainable way to ensure that students can stay in school and get an education that will allow them to build a better future. Students are able to use the money that they earn from their enterprises to pay their tuition fees and other school expenses. Together, we equip these young people with the tools they need to be leaders, entrepreneurs and changemakers in their communities. These students are solving the problem of poverty in their communities—starting with their very first job.

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