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Providing resources from within ; providing the youth with IT job training under the COVID-19 pandemic

user image 2021-06-17
By: charles esibikhwa edward
Posted in: Stories

Michiko Fukuda a Japanese writer who is also my friend and she decide to write an article about what i have been doing in Kenya to help young people create an income channel for themselves after massive layoffs due to Covid 19. Here is the simple story capture by Michiko, it explains just how we can leverage on available resources to turn a dire situation into a most amazing one.

Here is the story.

An NGO’s challenge in Kenya: providing the youth with IT job training under the COVID-19 pandemic

Michiko Fukuda (Japanese writer based in the Philippines)

 As in other continents, the covid-19 pandemic and severe measures devastate the economy in African countries. It affects people’s lives significantly in Kenya, which used to enjoy steady economic growth. This article features a Nairobi-based NGO providing job training under the pandemic.


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A street corner in Nairobi where people wearing face masks come and go=March 2021, [photo by Progressive Communities] [JIJI PRESS LTD.]


Supporting job seekers utilizing a U.S. online job platform  

These days, a group of young people comes to “Kangemi Social Hall,” a public facility located in the Kangemi district, one of the slums in Nairobi. Their aim is job training specializing in IT skills. The organizer is a Nairobi-based NGO, “the Progressive Communities.” It began this program in June 2020, targeting those who lost jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students who need to work due to the closure of colleges, and others.

The trainees learn the necessary practical knowledge and skills to get contracts of outsourced tasks through an online job platform operated by a U.S. company Remotasks. Many of them come to get some income just after the training. Currently, the Progressive Communities holds the training in Kangemi and Machakos county adjacent to Nairobi.

Mr. Chris Matheka (27 y/o) has received orders for five months through Remotasks after finishing his training. “I am earning around 22000KSh (appx 200USD) per month, which is the highest amount in my working experience. I can feed my family and did not expect that I would get that amount while staying in Kenya.”

Jeniffer Mutisya (36 y/o) is a computer science expert. She lost her job in May 2000 due to the pandemic. Now she earns at least 250USD through Remotasks’ work. It is enough to sustain herself; however, she says that she would get contracts with higher prices if she owned a high spec computer. She, a mother of a three-year-old daughter, recognizes this way of working as compatible with parenting saying, “working from home is the new normal.”


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“Kabaa Digital Resource Center” in Mbiuni district, Machakos County, located in the southeast of Nairobi. It is provided by an individual who is supportive of the project=March 2021, [photo by Progressive Communities] [JIJI PRESS LTD.]


Securing higher income by IT remote work

The situation of employment in Kenya dramatically deteriorated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenya had the first case of coronavirus infection in March 2020. According to the quarter two Labor Force Report by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), the rate of joblessness doubled two months after March, rising to 10.4 % from 5.2 % first quarter. It was also much higher than the 4.7 % registered in the same quarter of 2019. Significantly, the unemployment rate of young people aged 20 to 29 and its increase are highly acute. The unemployment rate of the age group from 20 to 24 rose from 10.1 % in the first quarter to 22.8%. Those aged 25 to 29 went up from 14.3 % in the first quarter to 21.7%. 


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Mr. Charles Esibikhwa Edward, the founder and a project coordinator of the Progressive Communities=October 2019, [photo by Mr. Charles Esibikhwa Edward] [JIJI PRESS LTD.]


Mr. Charles Esibikhwa Edward (36y/o) shared the stories of this project and the implementing organization “the Progressive Communities” online. He founded the Progressive Communities in 2018, aiming to harness and amplify the voices of the poor who tend to be unheard and left behind in society. Its vision is to build a society where those people become changemakers and agents for better lives and community development. He started this job training project immediately after he saw the increase of the unemployed in 2020. 

“216 people have attended our training from June 2020 to mid-January 2021. 146 among them are already getting income. Some of them earn as much as 460 to 600USD per month, which is quite high considering the minimum monthly wage in Kenya (2020) is 13572KSh (appx 125USD),” he emphasizes the achievement.

The Progressive Communities provides two-week training for several to twenty-plus attendees. The cases that Remotasks introduces cover data collection and classification, audio data transcription, 3D annotation, and more. The trainees learn the necessary skills for those tasks and procedures to get contracts. The trainers are the ones who finished this training and are working using Remotasks, and moreover, completed the official training for instructors by Remotasks. Most attendees are in their 20’s or 30’s.

One of the official languages in Kenya is English. People’s proficiency in English seems to make the use of the platform of Remotasks smooth. Also, Mr. Esibikhwa was aware that the jobs with good conditions are abundant in information technology because he is an expert who studied IT back in college and has been engaged in IT work for his livelihood and fundraising for his NGO activities.


Challenges and the possibility of collaboration with public sectors

 There is a material problem. Many of the trainees do not have high spec personal computers that can deal with Remotasks’ work, nor simply own computers. Therefore, the Progressive Communities established the “Digital Resource Center” in Machakos County, located in the southeast of Nairobi, and installed several high spec computers. The trainees can use these computers for both training and actual work. He is planning to do policy advocacy towards municipal administration for collaboration to increase centers and computers.

Another idea is to propose partnerships with major computer manufacturers so that workers purchase products by installments. While making such efforts, he is ambitious to improve the employment situation in Kenya.


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Training at the Kabaa Digital Resource Center=September 2020, [photo by Progressive Communities] [JIJI PRESS LTD.]


Not external aid but self-made solutions

Aside from Mr. Esibikhwa, there is three core staff in the Progressive Communities. All of them are passionate Kenyans. Each has expertise and skills in plural fields such as media, design, community governance, NGO management, etc.   

“We believe that sustainable development cannot be achieved without improving the lives of poor and vulnerable people. And it must not be a charity from outside but must be ‘the development from within’ that those people are involved in the process,” Esibikhwa says.

In this faith, they adopt a methodology called “asset-based community development” (ABCD). It focused on rediscovering what a community and its members have rather than bringing what they do not have into the community. Asset, in this context, means community members’ strengths such as experiences, knowledge, motivation, bond, and others. “Highlighting the ability, wisdom, and

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People gathering at the Kabaa Digital Resource Center=September 2020, Machakos County, Kenya [photo by Progressive Communities] [JIJI PRESS LTD.]


What does ABCD look like in reality? A professor in a Kenyan university summarizes Esibikhwa’s work as follows.

 “The young people were continually asking for handouts. Then he asked the group of five or six young people if they knew how to make something people would buy. One said, ‘I know how to make chapatis.’ So he suggested, ‘Why don’t you form a business to make and sell chapattis?’ Next week the group all had new shoes…

Similarly, one gaggle of young people formed an acting and singing group. One group of teen-aged mothers is supporting themselves and their families with their pastry cakes business. Charles has now helped many groups form businesses, but it has not been easy. You have to teach them how to form an organization, elect officers, conduct meetings, get a minimum start-up fund. Charles is helping other community organizers to get more support from the county government.” (Prof. Robert White, Tangaza University)

We see this kind of approach in the IT job training mentioned above. Former trainees support the project by serving as instructors or recruiting new trainees.


“There are stories of hope and dignity even in the worst of the slums”

Esibikhwa’s passion for the poor and “development from within” arose from his experiences. “I was brought up in a low-income family. Our family migrated to Nairobi for my education in 2001. Our option was to live in a slum where we could afford cheap housing and the basics. I questioned about my situation, but all I could do was to keep hopeful and work hard,” he recalled.

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A volunteer worker of the Progressive Communities talking about reproductive health with girls=October 2018, Kangemi district, Nairobi [photo by Progressive Communities] [JIJI PRESS LTD.]

The turning point came in 2010 when he attended a half-year training for community organizing recommended by the church that he belongs. “I fell in love with community organizing work. I could understand people who are poor in a certain depth. I also saw a reflection of me in them. We are all yearning for the same things, good life, happiness, success, family, even pleasure and entertainment. But then why are we not able to get this thing just like the others are, or if we can get them, why are there limitations? The more I continued organizing the communities in the slums, the more I perceived my answers while working in slums.”

Since then, he has been involved in many community work in slums in Nairobi. He led establishing resident organizations, constructing toilets, water points, and drainage canals, providing facilities for clean-ups, discovering youth’s capacities through art events.


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Young people showing songs and dance at the talent show=October 2018, Kangemi district, Nairobi [photo by Progressive Communities] [JIJI PRESS LTD.]


He says that there are stories of hope and dignity even in slums where the situation seems to be the worst. “The case of the young teenage mothers in Kasabunyu slum (the biggest slum in Nairobi) is a great example. They got pregnant and gave birth at an early age before having anything established in their lives, without opportunity for education. Even though they were struggling for survival and parenting, they made a group hoping to help each other and give both material and moral support to those in the same difficulty. They came to consult with me to start an income-generating project. They finally opened a small cake shop using their baking skill.”

“A man who had suffered from poverty and unjust arrest finally rebuilt his life through traditional soda ash making taught by his grandparents. We have more stories like this. As an activist, I am aimed at helping the poor raise their voice to the society and take agency over social change, rather than being a spokesperson for them.”


Kenyan democracy model starting from slums

Esibikhwa shared his vision in a larger scope.

“I want to contribute to establishing genuine democracy in this region. In 2010, the new constitution was enacted in Kenya. Before that, our society was in the aftereffect of colonialism. Human rights violations such as arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings were rampant. We have piles of problems to solve; separation of legislative, administrative, and judicial powers, enacting human rights laws, land reform, environmental conservation, achieving gender equality, and more. The key is how citizens, especially the poor, who are unheard of, can be involved in problem-solving. We would like to construct a practical model that citizens discuss and address problems of their communities and become the power for development so that we can spread it in the whole country.”

He advocates that sustainable development comes from within and must be inclusive and democratic. He will never stop working with people, believing even a tiny initiative will breathe new life into the democracy and development in Kenya.

Here is the link for the original article written in  Japanese on media.


Michiko Fukuda is a member of the Overseas Writers Club. She lives in Metro Manila, Philippines, and is engaged in writing, NGO activities, coordination for Japanese media, etc. Mr. Esibikhwa has been her friend since they met at a workshop on “living with difference” in Uganda and Kenya in 2019.

(Posted on June 2, 2021)