On october 14, 2016, AVSI celebrated 30 years of activities in Kenya. Authorities, guests from Italy, Switzerland and Uganda, partners, teachers, parents and students of Little Prince primary school, AVSI staff and friends gathered to celebrate the important occasion. AVSI representative in the country Andrea Bianchessi opened the event with the following speech.
By Andrea Bianchessi, AVSI Country Representative in Kenya
I would like to briefly highlight how AVSI is planning to face some key challenges in Kenya in the next years.
First of all, our approach is based on the conviction that we are living an epochal change, as Pope Francis realistically recognized, based on the many challenges the world, but also Kenya, has to face. These challenges range from the movement of migrants and refugees, radicalization and terrorist attacks, political instability in East and Central Africa with new or protracted crisis like in Somalia, South Sudan and Burundi, youth unemployment and the rapid growth of cities to the lack of basic services in many areas of the country, either in the slums or rural areas, and including a lack of electricity that is so important for education and the development of business. To this list, I would like to add as Pope Francis had pointed out during his visit to Kenya last year: tribalism, corruption, destruction of the environment and radicalization.
Yet, although there are many challenges, Kenya has a lot of opportunities: economic development, construction of infrastructure including roads and railways, deep interconnection with the global economy, the wide-spread use of mobile phones, and social capital expressed in many SACCO (save and credit cooperative). Kenya is also demonstrating leadership in the East Africa region, as Nairobi is an international and regional hub of some important UN agencies.
In front of these challenges, we have defined the next steps for AVSI in Kenya in the coming years, in partnership with all of you:
• In the sector of Education, we will continue to support out-of-school children. There are still 2 million out-of-school children in Kenya and about half of these children are in refugee camps. We will improve the access to quality education through teacher training and reinforce the capacity of sustainability for partners, such as schools, CBOs and NGOs. We will continue to look for partnership with companies and foundations and areas of opportunity created by the decentralization process. I really believe that many companies should support schools like this, as some are already doing and have come to today to celebrate with us. We will also continue to explore different programs on promoting anti-radicalization for schools in partnership with the Ministry of Education.
• In terms of job opportunities, we will increase the partnership between Vocational Training Institute (VTIs) and companies in order to offer quality and market oriented professional training courses to the students. We will promote internships and dual trainings, combination of technical studies and on-the-job training. The big risk of vocational training is to have courses that are not connected to the market needs. In having dual trainings, this risk decreases and learning of practical skills increases. Furthermore, we will support economic family strengthening and the incubation of small business in the agri-business sector;
• Protection of Orphans and Vulnerable Children: We will remain committed to supporting vulnerable children both with direct AVSI implementation and implementation through partners. We will leverage AVSI's expertise on the graduation approach that is a modality to measure and monitor the level of vulnerability and propose a set of interventions, focused on building capacities and empowerment. This model comes from our experience in Uganda and is considered a best practice by USAID.
• Refugees and emergency: we will continue our support in Dadaab to improve quality education with teacher training and protection activities. Teacher training is very important in relation to the voluntary repatriation in Somalia. We want to increase the recognition of our training in Somalia with an agreement between the Kenyan and Somali Ministries of Education.
When it comes to our geographical presence, we want to deepen and increase our capacities where we are already present. Yet we want to explore new opportunities to bring our experience to other counties in Kenya. We are open to listen to propositions from our partners. Some of our ideas including making a contribution to education, vocational training and protection in Kakuma and new settlements in Kalobeyei in Turkana County, where we could bring our experience in development projects to find durable solutions.
We would also like to increase our operations in Dadaab's host community.
Finally, we would like to go abroad and in particular in order to operate in South-Central Somalia, which is the area where a good number of the Dadaab refugees come from. We would bring our expertise in education and vocational training.
The question remains: How are we going to reach this?
We need to reinforce the relationships we have with all our partners. This means all the people present here. We will continue to foster a multi-stakeholder approach where every subject contributes knowledge, competence, networks, and financial resources.
We would like to continue with our partners, like Joakim, Anthony, Cyprian, Patrick and others who didn't have the chance to share their experience with us today.
We would like to continue to explore new partnerships in the private sector. For example, in September, we started a project in rural electrification with the Italian company Absolute Energy in Meru County. Our role is to promote the relationship with the community and foster small businesses. Another example of our experience with the private sector is the dual training courses in VTI and companies that we started in August with St. Kizito and Simba Foundation.
Last mile. We want to be a “last mile” organization that is able to reach the most vulnerable people, both directly and with our partners (CBOs, NGOs, etc.). We want to be able to continue to give opportunities to people like Anthony, Patrick, Terry, that you have heard today.
Finally, we would like to be proud to be where we are, adults, but also stay forever young; able to recognize the epochal change of our time and not be worried. This change is not to be seen as an obstacle but a challenge to push us to reach better times.
Thanks, asantenisana, grazie!