In West Africa, a vocational education can make dreams a reality.
As a little boy in Guinea-Bissau, Bruno would sit in class daydreaming of one day becoming a famous soccer player like the ones pictured on the front of a notebook he brought to school every day. But when he would get home, Bruno’s mom would push him out the door to go learn from the auto mechanics in the shop across the street while she struggled to support her family by raising pigs.
She wanted her youngest child to have the practical job skills she knew he would need in order to survive in Guinea-Bissau, one of the poorest countries in the world. Bruno, now 22, is thankful for his mother’s tough love.
“I’m really happy my Mom knew better and encouraged me to do this,” he said.
At the age of 12, Bruno’s mother passed away. His father had died a few years earlier. But both parents left a legacy that influenced him — his mother through her encouragement to learn job skills, and his father through the example he set by working as an engineer for the city’s power department
These days, such engineering jobs are hard to come by. Following the 11-year war for independence, the expulsion of colonial powers, a civil war, and ongoing governmental power struggles over the last 30 years, not much infrastructure is left in the country. Reliable electricity is virtually non-existent.
But Bruno has found a way to make the most of the life he has been given by getting a vocational education. Recently, he completed an auto mechanics course at the WAVS School and he now works for a friend in a small thatch-covered roadside shop not far from his childhood home.
When I visited him earlier this year, I found Bruno leaning over an engine he had opened up and was meticulously rebuilding for a client.
He proudly told me that “all the machines I have worked on now are still running, I am good at this work. My parents would be happy to see me working now”.
When he enrolled in the auto mechanics course, Bruno had never actually opened up an engine, despite his years as an informal apprentice at the shop outside of his childhood home. At the WAVS School, though, he gained the hands-on experience and training he needed to start working for clients.
“All the machines I have worked on now are still running, I am good at this work. My parents would be happy to see me working now”. — Bruno
I watched Bruno work away. Piece by piece, the engine came back together under the hands of one of the country’s newly trained mechanics. It seemed to be a metaphor for the larger work of rebuilding Guinea-Bissau that WAVS envisions for the country.
Today, Bruno has new dreams. He hopes to move to the capital, Bissau, and work in one of the larger mechanics shops that offer a good salary. With his new diploma in hand, this is now more possible than ever before.
This article was written by Holly Collins, WAVS Board Adviser.
Bruno can now dream of a future where he can use his skills to earn a good salary.
You can equip young people like Bruno with the skills they need to provide for themselves and their families — for a lifetime.
Each student pays tuition for the courses they take, but this only covers about 25% of the total cost. The remainder of the costs are covered by generous donors like you. Join the One Student community and make an impact in the lives of young people in Guinea-Bissau, One Student at a time.