On the Cutting Edge

On the Cutting Edge

Barber Shop Training Takes No Shortcuts

By: Kebebew Daka, Compassion Ethiopia Communications Specialist   |   Posted: February 21, 2005

Barbering is one of three life-skills training classes offered at the Menagesha Guenet Student Center (ET-211). Students at the center can also take music training. Embroidery classes are offered to girls.

One of the few uncolonized African nations, Ethiopia is currently engaged in one of the toughest battles of its culturally rich and storied history  preserving a hopeful future for its youth.

More than 48 percent of Ethiopia's nearly 68 million people are under age 15. With soaring unemployment, a land wracked by famine, disease, war and political oppression, most of the country's youth stand to inherit a bleak future. Consequently, life-skills training classes are a Compassion Ethiopia curriculum priority.

One Project's Training: A Cut Above

Once Compassion-assisted youth reach adolescence, project workers begin identifying students' abilities; they also begin teaching life-skills courses rooted in the socio-economic realities of the projects' communities. The goal is to equip every Compassion-assisted young person with an income-generating skill by the time he or she completes Compassion's program.

One example of project workers' innovation is at the Menagesha Guenet Student Center (ET-211) in Menagesha Kolobo Kebele. Some 18 miles west of Addis Ababa, the town's 4,500 inhabitants are largely subsistence farmers who can barely produce enough crops to feed their own families. Menagesha is typical of Ethiopia's destitute rural areas.

Keeping in mind their community's harsh economic realities, local project workers at the center decided to start a life-skills training course to teach boys, 13 and older, to become barbers. A local barber was hired to provide training twice a week during the six-month course.

Learning the Trade

"One of the most important benefits of the training is that impoverished children who cannot even afford to pay for a hair cut can make use of this service," says Center Director Sisay Gebre.

"With some of my 2003 sponsorship gift money," says course graduate Eyob Tadess, "I bought a pair of clippers to cut the hair of boys in my neighborhood. My plan is to start my own small barber shop."

Additionally, the course helps trainees to maintain personal hygiene. "It also helps to form discipline, have a good work ethic and learn an alternative trade," says Sisay.

To date, 30 students have received barber training at the Menagesha Guenet Student Center since the courses began four years ago.

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