Basic improvements in literacy and numeracy benefit vulnerable Afghan youth who need to work

IASF Strive Learning Series Photonformal education can greatly benefit both at-risk youth and their employers, a three-year project in Afghanistan has found. The Afghan Secure Futures (ASF) project, implemented by MEDA under the STRIVE program, facilitated access to supplementary literacy and numeracy training for out-of-school youth apprentices in Afghanistan. The literacy and numeracy classes were one of a range of interventions that ASF pursued with the goal of strengthening local businesses and improving working conditions and employment prospects for youth apprentices. ASF worked with Afghan education NGO Aschiana to design and deliver literacy and numeracy classes for out-of-school apprentices that would be immediately applicable to situations they would encounter in the workplace.

A newly published STRIVE Report discusses key findings, including:

· Non-formal literacy classes can attract vulnerable youth who are unable to attend school.

· Establishing trust with workshop owners through business-related interventions can build their acceptance of initiatives such as supplementary classes for apprentices, where benefits to the business may not be immediately apparent.

· There is greater receptivity to supplementary classes if their commercial benefits are made clear from the outset.

· Data collected over the course of the project suggest positive impacts for apprentices and workshop owners.

· Finally, independent of public funding, creating a sustainable system for supplementary classes that reaches working youth is a challenge.

MEDA implemented the ASF project with small workshops in the construction industry in Kabul. From 2008 to 2011, ASF reached 353 construction industry workshops and 1,080 youth apprentices. The ASF team provided business training for workshop owners, facilitated contacts between workshop owners and contractors, and connected workshop owners to each other, facilitating the process of subcontracting. ASF aimed to indirectly improve the lives of apprentices and their families by intervening primarily at the level of the workshop, where apprentices were employed, by facilitating the growth of conditions that would lead to improved apprentice wages and skills.

The Supporting Transformation by Reducing Insecurity and Vulnerability with Economic Strengthening (STRIVE ) program is managed by FHI 360 in partnership with Action for Enterprise (AFE), ACDI/VOCA, CARE, MEDA, Save the Children, and USAID. STRIVE has implemented four field projects in Africa and Asia between 2008 and 2013. Each project has pursued a unique economic strengthening approach, to identify and demonstrate interventions that can sustainably increase household incomes and/or assets and document how such increases improve (or fail to improve) the lives of children.