Empowering the unreached
How the NEET programme is changing young people's lives.
Phuentsholing, Chukha: Dorji Gyaltshen had returned home from India with a degree in computer applications. But it was not enough to find him work. A broken family and low self-esteem troubled the then 25-year-old. “I could not handle any situation,” recalls Dorji.
All that changed in 2018.
The youth centre in Phuentsholing was conducting a five day life skills training for youth and adolescents who were Not in Education, Employment and Training (NEET). A friend’s father recommended Dorji to attend the training.
“It is life skills training but for me it was lifesaving skills,” says Dorji. “It boosted my morale and changed me. What I am today is all because of the NEET programme.”
Dorji and young people like him learnt about communications, writing resumes, critical thinking and decision making skills among others. “These skills are so important, and I wish it was offered in schools during my time,” says Dorji.
Soon after the training, Dorji applied for a position at the Army Welfare Project. He got the job and is today the organization’s administration officer. “I am happy with my work and contributing to the security of the nation,” he says.
It is life skills training but for me it was lifesaving skills. It boosted my morale and changed me. What I am today is all because of the NEET programme.
Unlike Dorji, Sonam Pelden, 20, was involved in the NEET programme since it inception. She was 17 when she completed class X and not legally eligible to find employment.
Sonam took a yearlong course on commercial accounting and started volunteering at the youth centre after she learnt about it from the centre’s manager, who happened to be the former principal of her school, Phuentsholing HSS.
“That was how I learnt about the NEET programme and got involved in the mapping exercise of youth who were not in education, employment and training,” she says.
In 2018, youth centres across the country embarked on a youth mapping exercise in their communities to find the number of NEET adolescents and youth, to identify their needs and to reach out to the most vulnerable youth. Phuentsholing Youth Centre conducted their youth community mapping survey exercise with support from UNICEF and the Phuentsholing Thromde administration. Twelve youth volunteers and three youth centre officials covered five youth hotspots in core areas of Phuentsholing and around the Indian border town, Jaigaon, where many Bhutanese youth also live. They identified about 250 NEET youth.
The youth centre’s manager Karma Chogyel says that given the difference it makes to the lives of young people in the country, the NEET programme is one of the best that UNICEF is supporting. “More than 200 NEET youth are employed today because of this programme,” he says.
Sonam was among the first batch of 30 NEET to attend a five day training where they were informed filing in forms, accessing loans, entrepreneurship opportunities and writing resumes.
“I didn’t know that there were many youth like me,” says Sonam. “We secured employment for all 30 and continue to support those like us in getting employment.”
For the last 10 months, Sonam, has been working as a marketing and sales executive for SAT enterprise, a private firm in Phuentsholing. She shares a flat with her friend across the Indian border town in Jaigaon and supports her family with her earnings.
Both Sonam and Dorji are keen to continue their studies.
Dorji wants to do a masters in asset management. “We don’t have the expertise to evaluate assets in the country today and hire them from India, “ he says. “So, I see an opportunity here to grow and learn.”
Sonam plans to continue her studies after the brother she is helping graduates from college and takes over the family’s responsibility. “I will then complete my studies and take back the family’s responsibility from him.”
Given the difference it makes to the lives of young people in the country, the NEET programme is one of the best that UNICEF is supporting.