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VOCATIONAL TRAINING AT FEBA

When a woman has the means to support herself and her family, she not only has the dignity of a secure place in her community, she also has the means to educate her children. When she can save for a rainy day, she is not at the mercy of disaster.   FEBA  currently has vocational training programs in the following areas:

  • Sewing

  • Cosmetology

  • Computer science

 

All enroll destitute young women from the local community.  The sewing and cosmetology schools target young women who do not have sufficient education or literacy skills to make a living for themselves and their family, and these programs include training in literacy.  The computer science school, on the other hand, targets young women who were able to complete some or all of their secondary eduction, but are unable to find skilled jobs due to the high unemployment that exists in Kinshasa.​

THE SEWING SCHOOL

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The sewing school is FEBA's longest-running vocational school, and has provided a successful model for the newer vocational training programs. Women in the community asked Maman Monique to start a sewing school – which was located in her home for seven years, until the new Women’s Center was built. There students learn a marketable trade and are able to pay their opportunity forward to their children. They learn the basics of sewing by hand, then master the use of a manual or treadle sewing machine and designing clothing. With the larger space at the Women’s Center, it has been possible to expand the number of students.

Tailoring is a good career in Congo, where there are virtually no factories to produce ready-made clothing. A person who is trained to be able to cut and sew garments, and who owns a hand-turned or treadle sewing machine, can earn a respectable living for herself and her family.

The students at the FEBA sewing school are young women from destitute families or no families at all, orphans and abandoned or abused girls. Some have been to school but most are illiterate; the length of the sewing program for each one depends on the level of education entering students have. Students pay very minimal fees, which are used to help feed them lunch. Most come on foot, walking miles each way; sometimes there is assistance with bus fare. 

Each sewing student progresses through various stages: hand-sewing, learning to use a machine, cutting and creating complete garments for babies, children, and then adults. An apprenticeship of two months is followed by a 4-day exam given annually by the government division of vocational education; success is crowned with the state certificate. FEBA’s students always do very well. Graduation is a great day! Each young woman receives a manual sewing machine from the American partners to enable her to use her new skills profitably and start a new life with dignity.

The school enrolls about 50 students at a time, although they must work in relays because there are not enough sewing machines for all to practice at once. Every year, about 12 new tailors complete the program; in the last ten years, 120 have graduated!

THE COSMETOLOGY SCHOOL

The cosmetology school is a new venture for FEBA.  Not all young women are suited to sewing and so this program offers another option for largely illiterate young women who have suffered tremendous challenges due to poverty and abuse.   Like FEBA’s sewing school, the cosmetology program will be housed in the Women’s Center.  The program has room for thirty students.  There is an initial 6-month instructional period, which includes training in literacy, life skills (e.g. reproduction, personal hygiene, etc), human rights and women's rights using the curriculum that has been so successful in the sewing school.  The 6-month instructional period is followed by three months of internship in well-established salons where the students will practice under the supervision of successful stylists. 

 

Cosmetology was selected becaus of the importance of beautiful self-presentation in Congolese culture.  Self-presentation includes adornment as well as dress, and thus the ability to enable others to look attractive and stylish can enable a young woman who has never had the advantages of completing her schooling to support herself and her family with dignity.  In Congo. cosmetology includes a rather wide range of beautification arts.  The main foci of concentration are hair, cosmetics, and nails, but training in aesthetics with regard to what might be called event planning also plays a part.  The graduates will be able to earn a living doing all kinds of hair care and treatments and face and nail care, but they will also have other marketable skills, such as knowing how to decorate a venue for special occasions, or how to make up women (or men) for special ceremonies, from weddings to public appearances.

For many years, FEBA dreamed of opening a cosmetology school alongside the sewing school. Through the donations of generous partners in the US, this dream has now become a reality. 

THE COMPUTER SCIENCE SCHOOL

The computer science school is designed for young women with competence in reading and writing French and in math, but no practical ways to earn a living. There are a significant number of young women in Kinshasa who have managed to complete primary and some or all of secondary school – many of them with the help of FEBA!7 – but who need skills for practical careers.

 

The program teaches computer science at various levels, from computer literacy and secretarial skills to more advanced computer mastery. The curriculum uses the Microsoft Office 365 basic program, and includes an introduction to keyboarding and basic computer skills, followed by specific training in Microsoft Word and Excel, Photoshop, and Internet navigation and use.  Education in entrepreneurship and business operations skills as well as FEBA’s signature qualities of personal integrity and confidence, social conscience, and sense of Christian values, are also embedded in the program.

 

The computer science program prepares graduates for work such as handling cashiers’ or billing tasks, secretarial or administrative work, web design, or other kinds of digital tasks for local businesses or for starting an informal business on their own providing typing and computer services to the general public, many of whom would have no access to computers or printers.

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