23 September 2008

Uganda: Soap-Maker Inspires Students to Create Jobs

Kampala — Mikidaadi Kiyimba's future seemed uncertain from the start.

A qualified urban planner, he had searched for a job for several years in vain. "Months passed by without any vacancies advertised for urban planners," he says. He ended up working as a sales assistant in a stationery shop on Nasser Road.

Kiyimba's financial struggles ended when he enrolled in Maliik Kayondo's micro-enterprise classes. "I had heard Kayondo on radio, saying he could make soap, candles and lotions at home. I picked interest because I knew there was ready market for such commodities," he says. So he paid sh50,000 and attended the one-day soap and shampoo-making workshop.

Although Kiyimba still hopes for a well-paying urban planner's job, he is making a modest living using the skills he learnt. The managing director of Amik Uganda, he supplies home-made soap, shampoo and detergent to several shops and cleaning companies.

There are almost 400 people in Kampala, Wakiso, Masaka, Mukono and Jinja who make their own soap, detergent, candles, shampoo and body lotion, thanks to Kayondo's micro-enterprise classes. Some, like Kiyimba, sell the products wholesale while others sell to retail shops and neighbours.

Spurred by his success, Kayondo has now taken his micro-enterprise education to secondary schools countrywide. "Formal education is a must for career success, but might not suffice to take someone through life. Universities pass out thousands of graduates every year but all these must scramble for a few hundred jobs."

"Many students will either stay jobless for several years or get jobs other than those they studied for. People who have learnt the know-how of micro-enterprise and self employment can sustain themselves as they look for jobs," says Kayondo.

So far, he has conducted micro-enterprise classes at Gombe SS, Mbogo High School, Kawempe Muslim High School and Katikamu Seventh Day Adventist SS. The A' level students in these schools now understand the techniques of making soap, shampoo, sugar, school chalk and candles. The great thing about micro-enterprise skills is that they can begin paying off right away. In some schools, the less-privileged students get subsidies on school fees by making soap and chalk.

"It is convenient to teach soap and candle-making in schools because the chemicals and equipment are available in the laboratories. About 20 students gather round a demonstrator, see what is being done, ask questions and then we give them an exercise to make a candle, soap or shampoo themselves," says Kayondo. He hopes to take the training to other schools in Fort Portal, Iganga, Mbale, Jinja and Tororo. "Students need a more practical and hands-on approach to life. But the curriculum does not allow for such lessons to be taught and examined. We are happy Kayondo is giving students these lessons which, in addition to their regular class work, will give them an edge over others in the job market," says Morgan Kawalya, the head of the entrepreneurship class at Gombe SS.

Born in Komamboga off Gayaza Road, Kayondo studied at Nakivubo Blue Primary School and Bombo Senior Secondary School before joining the National School of Media and Cinematography in London, UK. "I was inspired to study micro-enterprise skills when I saw that many people there preferred to make their own soap, candles and cosmetics at home. I thought if we could do the same, we could possibly eradicate unemployment and poverty," he says.

After his cinematography course, Kayondo studied small and medium scale industrial development in Chennai, India and has since been training others to make various products at home.

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