Uganda has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world (83% according to presidential debates). In combination with one of the fastest growing populations, this is a ticking time bomb. Crime, drug abuse and social challenges are growing. Parents often invest all that they can into the education of their children so they can get a good paying job. Once they have obtained a good education, the children are supposed to look after the family financially. Unfortunately, the investment in education rarely pays off anymore. Tens of thousands of graduates are unable to find jobs. The situation is even more frustrating for the vast majority of youth, who have dropped out of school because of a lack of school fees.
Public education in Uganda often kills creativity and exclusively tests for memorization only. Students have to obey what the teachers demand and learn that there is only one right answer: the one the teacher dictates. Being told on a daily basis what to do, conditions the youth in Uganda to seek for jobs rather than to create them. Important skills and mindsets such as critical thinking, problem solving or the development of self-confidence and harnessing passion are not part of the Ugandan educational system, which perpetuates a colonial rigidity.
SINA’s self-organized, informal, and residential learning environment in Uganda puts marginalized youth in control of themselves. Scholars are between 17 and 27 years old and are refugees, orphans, street children, former child soldiers, former inmates, former prostitutes, or young people from other marginalized and poor backgrounds. They have dropped out of school and society has labeled them as useless. Many have started to believe this label. SINA has proven that they can flourish if given responsibilities and a space to unfold. Scholars transform their own personal tragedies into a social enterprise, disrupting root causes of social problems. The youth does not leave with a certificate, but instead with their own employment.