Canadian program funds training for Somalis

A small aid programme funded by the Canadian government is having a big impact in northern Somalia. A school in Puntland province is teaching young people skilled trades so they can land paying jobs.

Welding a bond between Canada and Somalia

40 young Somali men have a diploma and a new trade thanks to a Canadian-funded training program in Galkayo, Somalia. The program, taught at Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development, trained the men in welding or carpentry during a six month vocational course.

It is a huge opportunity for 18-year old classmates Abdi Abdullahi and Abdullkadir Yakub. They have the potential to become breadwinners for their entire families.

"Before I got this chance, I was jobless, I didn't have the skills to work," Abdi Abdullahi said. "Now I hope to be able to support my family."

One of 40 young men receives his diploma at the graduation ceremony at the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland province. Canada helps fund the centre's program to teach welding and carpentry. Carolyn Dunn/CBC

The graduates are among Puntland province's more than 142,000 internally displaced people (IDP's). They fled more perilous, unstable parts of Somalia, where hunger and violence are prevalent. Much of the East African country is considered a failed state, without a functioning government for two decades.

Puntland has been an autonomous state within Somalia. It is located between the breakaway state of Somaliland to the north and the rest of Somalia to the south. This arid region is also a hub for piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, to the north.

Galkayo lies on Puntland's southern border.

Displaced Somalis seek education, training

Many IDP's  in Puntland have little or no education and, therefore, few skills to earn a living.

The UNHCR's Bruno Geddo told CBC News the training program that Canada funds helps prevent the young men from joining the pirate ranks or extremist militias. Carolyn Dunn/CBC News

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees' Somalia representative, Bruno Geddo, says having a legitimate trade provides more than just a living. "The same training that they have received will keep them out of mischief. And by mischief, I mean they will not be tempted to join the ranks of the pirates or to join Islamist extremists' militias."

This is the second class of welders and carpenters to be funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives.

Canada's High Commission in Kenya selects local programs to fund that have the potential for high impact. The vocational program in Galkayo costs Canada just $117,000, according to the UNHCR.

The CFLI for East Africa supports programs in Somalia, Kenya, Rwanda and Burundi. Geddo says Canada needed some convincing to put its money into this program because of fears the money could be diverted to corrupt officials or extremists such as Al-Shabaab. "I told Canada, look, there is a place in Puntland where the risk of diversion is non-existent and will make a big difference and this is how this came about," he said.

Mohamed Amburi expects that after graduating from the carpentry program, he will be able to look after his family. Carolyn Dunn/CBC

Young men like Mohamed Amburi are certainly glad it did. The 23 year old graduated six months ago and is already earning the equivalent of about $8 a day as a carpenter. It is enough, he says, to provide well for his wife and 2 small children.

"If I didn't have these skills I would be like the street children with no life at all," he told CBC News. "I'm an independent person now, who can do whatever I need and, God-willing, be able to look after my family." 

The Canadian High Commission in Kenya says it has not yet received its projected funding for the 2012-2013 local initiatives. But, all applicants are being considered. There's already a lineup of prospective carpentry and welding students in Galkayo, Somalia waiting anxiously for the decision.