Maureen Moraa, 26, and Brian Mwevi, 22, are the two young people at the centre of a community-based organisation, Tunapanda Institute, that is changing the lives of many young people through various skill development programmes in Kibera and Turkana County.
Tunapanda Institute is a non-profit social enterprise that runs intensive three-month technology, design, and business training courses in low-income environments in East Africa. These three-month programs are followed by eight-month apprenticeship programs for a small subset of the graduates. The apprenticeship program enables young people to become teachers and digital professionals.
“The last leg is the journeymanship, which takes about three years. During this time, apart from training the new entrants, you get fully immersed in the administrative work of the institute (if you are retained) or go on to set up your own business or become gainfully employed but remain under guidance by the institute,” explains Maureen, the lead trainer.
The institute uses peer mentoring to equip young people with skills in photography, design, life and business skills and videography. Maureen and Brian are two of the key trainers and mentors.
Maureen joined the institute in 2014 right after she graduated from Kenya Medical Training College.
“I studied medical records with IT and was jobless for some time. In between, I learnt about the organisation through some of my mum’s friends. I joined for a three months’ training and then followed by a six months’ apprenticeship. I then did my journeymanship for three years. I completed this phase last year and got absorbed as one of the lead trainers," she says. and adds,
"One of my first assignments was to replicate the programme in a facility that the institute was setting up in Turkana County - it was a success."
Her job as a lead trainer involves training newer cohorts, coordinating with other trainers who have also gone through the programme and taken part in peer mentoring at the institute. She also participates in content and curriculum development for the institute as well as recruitment of new cohorts.
A typical day for Maureen begins at 7.30am. Her duties range from coordinating the trainings—meeting the trainees to schedule classes according to their priority causes, writing grants, updating graduate metrics, writing proposals and also looking for jobs for some of the graduates.
A typical day for Brian starts at 8am.
“I prepare myself for the class by going through the content that I plan to teach and make sure I have all the learning resources and materials that are needed by the trainees. The class starts at 10am after the "warm-up” session (short games to prepare our minds for learning) which might take up three hours. In the afternoons, I usually work on the projects involving our partners (local and international) the aim to enable local communities to collaboratively create sustainable solutions for improved livelihoods through ICT. I end my day at 6pm but sometimes I extend it when work is fun,” Brian says.
The organisation’s founders are keen on having young people who have trained at the institute to take over its operations as the vision bearers. They, therefore, essentially own and steer the organisation towards the attainment of its objectives, which include helping young people develop skills that increase their chance of being gainfully employed.
“We usually have three cohorts every year, but this is subject to availability of resources. There are no specific pre-qualifications to qualify for the programme, although we target those unable to further their education past secondary level and who show interest and are able to commit time,” says Maureen.
Since the programme’s inception six years ago, Tunapanda Institute has trained at least 300 young people and equipped them with various skills.
Not having trained as a teacher meant that for Maureen, the whole training journey has been a process of personal and professional growth.
“I was extremely shy when I started out. I did not train to teach, so I had lots to learn, but once I started and realised how many other young people did not have opportunities to learn and the potential impact of my teaching, this encouraged me to keep learning and have the courage to teach. I remember during my apprenticeship, my classes had an average of 20 people.
This experience brought me closer to the challenges that people were facing in Kibera and Turkana County, such as lack of access to internet, computers and information, as well as lack of enough teachers.
I realised that, for example, if people in Kibera and Turkana have access to what we have in Nairobi, the differences between them and us will be very small. That planted in me the desire to want to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged young people,” Maureen says.
Brian grew up in Kibera, so he understands first-hand the challenges of growing up in the sprawling informal settlement.
“Peer pressure is one of the greatest challenges that young people here experience. Many also lack opportunities to further their education beyond secondary school, which leads to vices. I am an example.
Due to financial challenges, I was not able to go beyond secondary school. I enrolled to Daystar University for a business course but dropped out. Luckily, I had already discovered Tunapanda Institute. I did my journeymanship and here I am, happy to actively give back to my community,” says Brian, who, apart from helping to train the new cohorts, also organises digital boot camps in schools within Kibera to spark the interest of the children in technology and expose them to the changing landscape in the world.