In Kenya public school is free up to primary standard 8, that is 8th grade. Post-primary education, however, can be prohibitively expensive for many poor families for whom annual tuition fees of Ksh 12,000 (£90)
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of reach. With limited education, job opportunities for young men and women are few and competition fierce. Many young people, boys in particular, leave the rural areas for the bright lights of the big cities, but although slightly better, the chances of landing a job there are still slim.
Isaiah Omomsi Oiiemd, 47 years old and himself a standard 8-leaver, is improving the chances for such young people within their communities. A trained carpenter, he started Lamisa Furniture and Fittings in a small town in Western Kenya in 2006, and assisted by a loan from TradeRelief in 2011, he has been able to employ three young men with no post-primary education, train them as carpenters and give them a decent salary. When time allows, he also trains two other youngsters free of charge. In the long run he hopes to start a workshop-cum-training centre for school dropouts: “[when I] finish this loan, I’m thinking to apply for 500,000 shillings [£3800], have a good, very big workshop, a complete workshop with the machines and whatever… Then I can try to train some of the school drop-outs, because there are some drop-outs who are not able to go to secondary [school], they can’t go to high technical schools, but you can train them locally then they get a future. That’s my vision.”
Three jobs might not seem to make much of a difference, when thousands are needed in that district alone. Three jobs, however, touches the lives of many more people indirectly. Take Joseph, 17 years old and the youngest of Lamisa’s employees. He lives at home with his parents and two older and three younger siblings. His father is a boda-boda-driver (a sort of bicycle taxi, where the passenger sits on the rack), his mother is a subsistence farmer and his two older brothers work as brick-makers. Joseph left school after standard 8 because his parents could not afford the tuition fees for secondary school. He now earns 3500 shillings a month, sometimes more when business is good. The rest of his family brings home less than 7000 shillings a month, so through employing Joseph, Lamisa has increased the whole family’s income by more than 50% and Joseph’s 16-year-old brother now attends secondary school. The impact is also not just financially. Equally as important is the sense of pride and self-worth Joseph gets to take home every day. With a huge smile on his face, he explained how he had been able to buy two chickens for the family; “I am the one that bought them.”
Isaiah (right) with two of his three employees in front of his workshop in Sikri in Western Kenya. Joseph on the left.