Salesians in Sudan Equipping Youth with Technical Skills “to face life with dignity”

Governor Khalid Mustaffa Adam addressing trainees at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Centre (DBTC) in the Diocese of El Obeid, South Sudan.
Credit: ACI Africa

Members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) ministering in Sudan are preparing young people with productive technical skills “to face life with dignity” as they grow up to serve their country, the Director of Don Bosco Vocational Training Centre (DBTC) in the Country’s Catholic Diocese of El Obeid has told ACI Africa.

In the interview Thursday, August 27 interview, Fr. Charles Taban said the Centre is offering Sudanese youth hands-on skills training at highly subsidized charges to equip young people in the North-East African country with skills to grow themselves and to help build their nation.

“We do not bother how much it will cost us but we do it because we need to help the young people,” Fr. Charles told ACI Africa, days after the Centre played host to the Northern Kordofan State Governor.

He added, “The school fees we ask from parents is very little compared to how much we spend on the training but we do it because our interest is to see that young people are prepared well to face life with dignity.”

Some of the courses offered at the Centre include general auto-mechanic training, computer science, welding, plumbing, carpentry, masonry as well as electrical classes.

According to the South Sudanese SDB Cleric, the Centre has been serving the young people not only in the Kordofan state but in the whole of Sudan for many years.

“People send their students all these years to come here from different states of the country because they are assured of the quality training that we offer,” he said, and added, “We offer technical education for the young people that is fundamental for the development of Sudan and Don Bosco has been very faithful in offering these trainings to the young people.”

The criteria of getting students for diploma at the Centre, according to the Director, is a basic primary education with a pass. This includes students with 172 marks and above in the Sudan Primary Examination. The age accepted for admission is from 14 to 19 years, Fr. Charles ACI Africa.

Selected students stay at the Centre for three years; two years intensive training within the institution and then for a period of seven months, they go out for the implant training, he said, adding, that the students later go back to the Centre where they spend a period of one month to prepare themselves for final exams and graduation.

“It is enough that the person who comes to us is a young person. We don’t care which religion, as long as they are young, we train them and allow them to proceed with their lives with dignity. That’s our culture,” the Salesian Cleric says, and adds, “There is only one religion practiced within our institution, that God is love.”

From the Centre’s inception in the year 2001 to present, SDB’s Vocational Training Centre has had 17 graduations apart from the upcoming batch before the end of year. For the past 19 years, the Mission trained “not less than 50,000” youths spread across the country.

During the turmoil in Sudan, the Salesians had a Darfur project where they used to bring young people from the camp who went through intensive training for one year and returned as qualified to begin a new life.

The then Darfur project, according to Fr. Charles, was a project to transform the lives of young people who were staying at the camps into productive members of the society.

At the moment, he said, there are about 377 students of whom 104 are sitting for their diploma exams this year.

Regrettably, Fr. Charles said, not all the students were present to sit for exams because of the COVID-19 lockdown and the conflict in the red sea state of Port Sudan.

On the visit of Governor Khalid Mustaffa Adam to the Centre, the Cleric expressed optimism in collaboration with the incumbent government saying the Centre “has never received any high-profile government official for a visit” in all the 19 years of its existence. 

“With this Governor I am very optimistic; I am seeing that he will be a great support to us,” Fr. Charles told ACI Africa.

He recalled interaction with the previous regime saying, “Walking to the government secretariat was very hard in the past but to the time of this new governor I have gone 10 times without any obstacles.”

Fr. Charles also recalled the obstacles that the Centre has faced in past political administrations, saying the Centre had, for a while, enjoyed tax exemptions but the benefits had been removed.

“Last year we were being asked to pay 124,000 Sudanese pounds (US$10,000) and they wanted us to pay that annually as tax,” the Cleric lamented.

He added, “We had the document for exemption but they insisted that we pay. We had a lot of negotiations. I even tried to close the Centre because of the financial frustrations.”

Putting emphasis on the importance of technical skills in developing nations, the Salesian Cleric called upon the leadership of the various institutions in both South Sudan and Sudan to invest in young people.

“If we want to transform our societies, our villages, our economic situation, we must help our young people to get trained technically,” he said.

The Cleric invited political leaders to scout for young people moving around in towns, idling and engaging in unproductive activities and to encourage them to enroll for the technical courses.

Others, bearing university qualifications but with no jobs are also welcome for the more rewarding technical courses, he said.

Drawing inspiration from the success story of Germany through technical skills, he said, “When German recovered after the war, it was because they engaged in technical fields. Germany is very developed today because the country invested heavily in the technical field.”

“Why not us in South Sudan and Sudan?” he posed, and added, “Why can’t our politicians invest in the technical training of our young people with the same dedication accorded to universities?”

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]