Sri Lanka: helping disadvantaged young people into the world of work through information technology

With poverty on the rise in the north-east of Sri Lanka, young girls and boys are finding themselves marginalised, unemployed and facing violence. In five towns in the north, Action Education has set up vocational training centres as part of the iLEAD projectto help young people find employment.

The unemployment rate of young people is very high in Sri Lanka (23.8% at 3ème quarter of 2022, compared with 5% for the overall population). Moreover, the majority of jobs held by young people are in the informal sector, particularly for those who have received little education during their lives. The regions of the country most affected by the fighting during the civil war (1983-2009) are still feeling the social and economic effects.

Even today, the northern and eastern provinces suffer from high levels of poverty and difficulties in accessing government services. Young people in these regions are particularly vulnerable to unemployment. Vocational training provision in the country is very limited, with no guarantee of quality due to a lack of supervision and accreditation.

Action Education has developed its iLEAD (Initiative for Livelihood Education Development) in Sri Lanka in 2006 and trained more than 12,000 disadvantaged young people thanks to 10 centres across the country. The target for 2023 is to train 1,200 others.

These young people have dropped out of school, others are suffering from particularly difficult socio-economic conditions, and still others have been affected by the conflict or are suffering from the consequences of the pandemic. Action Education provides them with vocational training and supports them in their professional integration. In its 10 centres, Action Education offers free certification courses 4-month courses, particularly in IT, sales & marketing and English. The courses enable students to obtain a nationally and internationally recognised qualification.

In addition to technical training, the personal skills are also an important aspect of iLEAD training. The project aims to boost young people's self-confidence so that they can become socially and economically integrated and more resilient in the face of crises. To ensure a high placement rate for students, the programmes are designed in consultation with the local authorities. local economic players.

"This course has helped me transform my life".

Rekha25, lives in Palinagar, in the north of Sri Lanka. Her mother died and her father left the family after remarrying.

Rekha was very interested in computers and thought about taking a course in this field. She found public schools, but neither she nor her grandmother who brought her up could afford to pay for this type of training. Rekha heard about iLEAD's free vocational training courses and was able to take an IT course. She got an internship and then her first job at the Bank of Ceylonone of the country's leading banks. She continued her studies part-time with a view to obtaining the HNDE (Higher National Diploma in English).

Rekha now says: "I would like to thank the iLEAD project teams for the quality of this training, which has helped me gain self-confidence and transformed my life.

Young girl wearing the uniform of the Bank of Ceylon, standing and smiling at the camera.

Rekha, 25, now an employee of the Bank of Ceylon - Photo credit: Action Education Sri Lanka


"I'm an independent, fulfilled woman!"

Sinthuya is 26 years old and also lives in the north of the country, in Nedunkery. Sinthuya married very young and had a child, now aged four. Deceived and then abandoned by her husband, Sinthuya was deeply affected and did not leave her home for almost two years.

A community worker in her village was able to contact her and introduce her to the iLEAD programme. Sinthuya chose to train as a computer applications assistant and successfully completed the course. She was taken on by the LOLC insurance company, which enabled her to buy a plot of land on which to build her house. She can now look after her child and helps her half-sisters to study well. Once ignored by the community, she is now a respected woman.

"I'm much more than a divorced woman. I'm an independent, fulfilled woman! I was very unhappy after my separation and experienced the terrible pain of isolation. It was a long and painful road. But later on, I started to concentrate on my life. iLEAD was a strength for me and a preparation for the outside world. The wonderful teachers I met accepted me as I was. My old life allowed me to tailor-make the life I wanted for the future. Remember, it's never too late to reinvent yourself, to change and to do things you think will bring you happiness.

Young girl working on her computer in an insurance company office

Sinthuya, 26, currently works for an insurance company - Photo credit: Action Education Sri Lanka





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