Digitalization for Development: Coding skills for refugees

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Africa Code Week
Christine Adania trains students of Lokopio Vocational Institute during the Africa Code Week.


The excitement on the faces of students at the animated motions and sound coming out of the computers is astounding. This happens to be a first-time experience for students of Lokopio Hills Vocational Training Institute (VTI) in Bidi-bidi refugee settlement in Uganda to learn coding using an easy to use software, thanks to the support from the European Union Trust Fund (EUTF).

“My first time to use computer was when I joined institute a few months ago, today am able to code using blocks and create motions of a cartoon with sound. It is this simple.” Says 20-year-old Apio Immaculate. Immaculate is one of the 90 refugee and host community youth that are undergoing the coding training at Lokopio VTI.

This year’s Africa Code Week focuses on how to use ‘scratch’, a visual programming language developed by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Media Lab to lower the technical threshold for coding. Coding is widely considered as the “blue collar” job of the 21st century and is introduced to trainees in order to equip them with skills that can support them in today’s world.

In Uganda, ACW 2017 partnered with a number of partner such as Makarere University as well as with Belgian Development Agency (BTC)’s Support to Skilling Uganda project with an aim to empower future generations with the coding tools and skills needed to thrive in the 21st-century workforce and become key actors in Africa’s economic development.

22-year-old Matovu Joseph who awaits his graduation in Electrical Engineering, a lead trainer at Lokopio shares his experience “this is my first coding class. It is an opportunity for me to transfer knowledge to such a vulnerable group of refugees. The students have appreciated the simplicity in using scratch for coding as a programming language; it is like computerized way of building blocks”.

Matovu Joseph during training refugee and host community youth in Bidi-Bidi settlement

While taking place in Lokopio VTI with support from the European Union Trust Fund, the ACW was concurrently hosted in Buhimba VTI in Hoima district, St Daniels Comboni and Nakapiripirit VTI in Karamoja region, St Joseph Virika in Kabarole district and Kasese Youth Polytechnic in Rwenzori region with 450 beneficiaries from the respective Business Technical Vocational Education Training (BTVET).

ACW in Uganda is part of 35 African countries that are hosting over 1,500 coding workshops involving 500,000 children and youth across the continent. The trainers of coding in Lokopio are part of the youth that were trained at Makerere University (MUK) in partnership with BTC, MUK College of Engineering, Design, Art & Technology (CEDAT), College of Computing and Information Sciences (CoCIS), Resilient Africa Network (RAN), Hive Colab and Women In Technology Uganda (WITU) to extend Africa Code Week (ACW) to BTC’s SSU project.

23-year-old Edith Ndagire, a third year Telecom Engineering student, who was trained as a trainer and was part of the instructor team at Lokopio says “the students here are enjoying the coding lessons and have grasped faster than I expected. They are disciplined”. “As a refugee student of Agriculture at Lokopio VTI, I plan to use coding knowledge in creating awareness cartoons focusing on stopping environmental degradation in agriculture for the community” says Immaculate who comes from a refugee family of 8.

The ACW initiative empowers refugee youth such as Immaculate with skills on how to use the computer software and this put them in a good position of not only passing the knowledge to their trainees but also to create income generation for themselves. BTC’s participation in ACW targets VTIs, refugees and host community populations that are often neglected when innovative interventions such as digitalization are rolled out.




Signs of hope: real smiles.

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Having spent days interacting with persons with one thing in common; refugees from South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo, I have come to realise how realistically beautiful they are. No make up, black flawless beauty.

Capturing images of this beauty through their excitement of being part of development interventions by the European Union Trust Fund-my day job. Interventions of Livelihood, Education, Skills development, WASH and Conflict management brings new hope having lost their all in the never-ending war that caused them to migrate.

These are genuine signs of hope, real smiles in acknowledgment of happiness.

The Holy Spirit is God

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The Holy Spirit is not an “it,” not a “force,” and not a “thing.” The Holy Spirit is deity. He is one of the three persons of the triune Godhead. He is God, having the very same essence, attributes, and characteristics of the other members of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit serves a varying role than that of the Father and the Son.

A fact worth pondering.

Because Jesus Lives 

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Abraham and Sarah had waited their entire married life for a child. Even after God promised them a son, they waited for many years. Then Isaac was born. Here was the promised one. Here was the one through whom God would bless the world.
Then God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. “What! I’m supposed to kill the child of promise?”

Hebrews tells us Abraham believed God could and would raise Isaac from the dead. In effect, Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead, because when God stopped him from killing Isaac, he stopped a man fully committed to follow through on his decision to kill his own son.

Abraham believed God, and so was credited righteousness. Why credited? Because righteousness is God’s to give, not ours to earn. The same righteousness credited to Abraham is credited to us, not because we deserve it, but because we accept it.

Do you see why righteousness is a by-grace-through-faith reality, rather than a behavioral exercise?

“[Jesus] was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25).

We receive both of these when we, like Abraham, “believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”(Romans 4:24).

Abraham could not earn God’s blessing by his own behavior. Look at his failures – Hagar, two different kings with Sarah – when he tried to “help” God’s plan. But he did receive God’s blessing when he took God at his word. Note those two words, “earn” and “receive.”

We simply cannot earn God’s blessing, but we can, by faith, receive the gift offered. Jesus’ resurrection guarantees it.

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1, 2).

Because Jesus lives, I live. I have no fear of what tomorrow brings. Because He lives; His Grace abounds. 

‘Refugees welcome’: Uganda’s example to the world. 

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Happy to live peacefully: Drua Christine,  17-year old mother. Village 13, zone 3 Bidi-Bidi refugee settlement. 

She left her village and travelled to Yei with her child. She then spent six days walking to the boarder, pushing on despite the hunger and hot weather. She brought nothing but a few clothes for her child and has started a new life in Africa’ largest refugee settlement camp. 

The Bidi-Bidi camp hosts over 270, 000 inhabitants, the settlement was forced to close to new arrivals in December 2016, due to overcrowding. 

Currently the most recently opened Imvepi camp is home to more than 55, 000 and is filling up fast with 2,000 average arrivals daily. 

As long as Uganda offers a hospitable environment, the South Sudanese such as Drua can live peacefuly and return home once the civil war ends. 

Winning Picture

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Congratulations! On Tuesday 9th of May a photo taken by Josephine Omunyidde Zhane  won in the Europe Day 2017 photo contest.

The winning picture shows a carpentry training in the Rhino Settlement at Arua district, which is part of the skills development project implemented by BTC under the European Union Emergency Trust Fund. Its aim is to sustainably improve labour market relevant skills to create jobs and enhance the standard of living among Northern Uganda’s refugee population and host communities.

First published on EUTF website:  https://eutf.akvoapp.org

Youth: bridge between the past and future

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Happy faces of youth – Symbol of partnership; European Union and Government of Uganda
The two young women featured in the picture below are refugees from South Sudan to Uganda. As they are branded apparel to symbolize European Union partnership with Government of Uganda; the also symbolise bridging the gap of the past and future. This picture  was taken in Mungula 1 settlement, Adjumani District during the official launch of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) Support Programme for Refugee Settlements and Host Communities in Northern Uganda(SPRS-NU).
Culture has the power to transform entire societies,strengthen local communities and forge a sense of identity and belonging for people of all ages. As vector for youth  development and civic engagement, culture plays an essential role inpromoting sustainable social and economic development for future generations. Youth can act
as a bridge between cultures and serve as key agents in promoting peace and intercultural understanding.
Current situation
Youth comprise 18% of the world’s population.Representing a significant segment of the
community, young people:
  • Can contribute to local development and prosperity.
  • Can be a bridge between cultures and between tradition and modernity.
  • Have the interest, energy and passion to address issues and concerns, such as heritage management, sustainable tourism, local development and community involvement.
  • Have affinity for information and communication technologies to network and transcend geographical boundaries.
  • Are in the position to act as potent agents of positive social change that will yield greater economic and social well-being in the perspective of sustainable development for generations to come.
Investing in local cultural resources including tangible and intangible heritage including traditional knowledge and skills, as well as music, dance, theatre and festivals, can develop sustainable creative economies, open up opportunities to youth, and help strengthen identity and social cohesion. Promoting creativity for and among youth and harnessing young people’s creative potential and energy therefore needs to be a priority in finding creative solutions to today’s challenges.
Whilst implementing its programmes, the European Union Emergency Trust Fund (EUTF) Support Programme for Refugee Settlements and Host Communities in Northern Uganda(SPRS-NU) targets youth, women and girls highly due to the fact that they bridge the gap between the past and the future.