Joseph Lupumba has an important life lesson: to never give up.
Joseph, originally from Congo, was forced to flee his home county in 1994 at the height of war and conflict. While in Congo, Joseph was a teacher but when he came to Zambia he was unable to continue with his passion due to lack of opportunity.
“I had nothing when I arrived in Lusaka, Zambia,” says Joseph. “I had to start from scratch. I could not fend for my family and had to depend on the support that I received from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through AAH Zambia,” says the father of 9.
It was challenging for Joseph and his family living in a big city with no chance of formal employment due to his refugee status. “I was determined to better the living conditions of my family and I didn’t care what jobs I ended up taking only to put food on the table,” states Joseph. I was painting, gardening, plumbing, doing electrical repairs and many other casual jobs,” he adds.
“In 1997, I began to focus more on doing electrical repairs as this seemed to bring in more money and I was good at it. I started repairing sockets, switches and other basic equipment,” Joseph recalls. This newly-found passion led him to enroll in a vocational training institute where he gained additional requisite skills that made him a much sought after electrician in Lusaka.
In 2011, AAH Zambia through The Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative Fund (DAFI) programme that is supported by UNHCR introduced a vocational training programme aimed at equipping refugees with livelihood skills. The Government of Zambia, through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training had made reforms to the programme that made it possible for those with refugee status like Joseph to gain entry.
Joseph successful made it into the 2013 intake for a 6 months course and has recently graduated with a Certificate in Power Electricals. “I now have a reason to smile again, this is a big achievement,” he bubbles. “I will be forever thankful to AAH-I Zambia giving me this opportunity and paying for my fees. I have now the qualifications to add onto my years of experience,” he adds.
Although the Programme is currently facing funding difficulties, AAH Zambia is hopeful that more funds will become available to allow Joseph and others to complete the remaining part of the course. There are still overwhelming needs to provide both basic education and vocational training among refugees in Zambia to set them on a path of self-sustenance.
About the DAFI programme
This project aims at enhancing self-reliance of refugees by providing them with an academic qualification geared towards employment including self-employment. Refugees have an opportunity to be trained in livelihood programmes such as catering, tailoring, carpentry, and plumbing through vocational training. The project has 55 undergraduates studying in Zambian institutions including the University of Zambia, the Copperbelt University, the National Institute of Public Administration, and Chainama Hills College. In 2012, 6 students successfully graduated and two have since been offered employment in government clinics.
By Geoffrey Mutumba, Education Assistant, AAH Zambia