Sudan's 'Future Generations'
A group of Blue Nile teenagers design for the future
Monzir, 17, had an idea, it was a brilliant plan and he had been thinking about it for some time. It was the zillionth time he and his friends were waiting to go to school and there was no transport. Even if there was a bus or car available, there wouldn’t be sufficient fuel to reach the school. Monzir felt it was high time to turn his idea into reality: a solar-powered car that could drive him and his peers to school.
He started to gather other children; schoolmates, friends, and friends of friends. While queueing for bread, Monzir met Aisha who shared the same passion for inventing things. She quickly took charge of constructing the car’s motor. With Aisha the team was complete. Monzir said, “I named the team ‘Future Generations’ because we are the future of our communities, the future of the country.”
One should know that Monzir and his team are from internally displaced communities in conflict-affected Blue Nile state in Sudan’s far, far south. These children, especially the boys, are at risk of recruitment by the armed forces and groups present in the area. This is one of the few areas in the country where by grade eight, more girls than boys attend school; with boys dropping out to become soldiers or to support their families.
In this context, UNICEF and partners provide adolescents like Monzir with skills training; not just technical skills, but also the so important soft skills: tolerance, teamwork, creativity and confidence thru UNICEF supported youth clubs for children 14 – 18 years of age. These clubs give children not only a platform to practice and develop their skills, but also a space to share ideas and discuss the challenges they face and possible solutions to these hurdles.
Back to the workshop...
The car is halfway finished, a bright blue frame supports the front chair and the steering wheel is already in place. Each child has a specialty and his or her own responsibilities. Some girls and boys work on the metal frame, others are busy with the mechanics or the design. It is supposed to be a car for the future, not just solar-powered, but also having cameras instead of mirrors.
Every day after school – and even during the weekends – the children meet in a small workshop in the school. The team starts each session with pitching innovative ideas. Collectively they agree on the most-promising project. The next step is to make a meticulous drawing of the invention; nothing is built until the drawing is finished, thought through and discussed. Finally, a work plan and division of labour is agreed upon by all members of the team.
One of the proposed ideas is an electric potato peeler; a team member saw his mother cut herself while preparing dinner. He decided to convert his father’s shaving machine in a potato peeler. Other ideas that became reality are a safety jacket for school children (complete with alarm and GPS, so that parents can find their children when lost), a solar-powered school toilet and air freshener.
The children’s imagination doesn’t stop here, no idea seems too big to the Blue Nile inventory club. Their next project is a remote-controlled plane: a scale-model is already finished.
Thanks to the generous contribution of the government and people of Norway, UNICEF Sudan is able to provide vocational training and life skills to the most vulnerable children and adolescents in Sudan and empower them to strive for a better future.