School leavers graduate from Lyra entrepreneurship programme


School leavers graduate from Lyra entrepreneurship programme

There was great excitement for the 41 young people graduating from Lyra’s new school leavers programme in May. The leadership and enterprise programme enables young people to reflect on their talents and interests and identify promising business opportunities in their own communities. The three-month programme culminated in a week’s exposure visit to local businesses, including Mkwawa water factory, high-end basket makers Vikapu Bomba and a joint graduation party with young women from Empower 100. Exposure to different businesses is vital for young people who have seen only a limited range of income-generating options in their villages.

For a long time we’ve been concerned about how we can help young people finishing school, especially the girls supported through secondary school in Lyra hostels. We’re delighted that with the help of a private donor, we were able to launch a pilot with school leavers from Lundamatwe Secondary School in the second half of 2018, and have three new donors in the pipeline to support expansion of the programme in 2019. Longstanding and valued Lyra supporters, the Michael Matthews Foundation have funded school leavers training at Lulanzi and Nyan’goro, where MMF also funded the construction of girls’ hostels. We’re thrilled to be embarking on a new partnership with the Charles Hayward Foundation to take the programme to two more schools and hope to announce a further new grant in the autumn.

Our experience of working with young people has shown the great urgency for this work. We often hear young people say how discouraged they feel when they leave school and cannot find reliable sources of income. Having worked hard to finish school in the face of many challenges and having had such high hopes for their future, they cannot see a way forward.

40% of school leavers joining the programme were earning less than £2 per week.

“I felt very bad and I thought that was the end of my life” said one young woman joining the 2019 cohort. Young men were equally affected. “I totally gave up on my life” said one young man.

Most striking in the programme baseline survey was the fact that lack of community support was a greater challenge reported by young people than lack of capital. “Low support from family members believing that I will never succeed", said one young man. “Lack of support from society and discouragement for everything that I plan” said another young woman.

The 2019 cohort follow in the footsteps of the pioneering 2018 school leavers from Lundamatwe including Sayuni and Rebecca, who had faced similar despair before joining the programme.

“When I finished school, I was just at home. I saw myself as someone who doesn’t do anything, and wouldn’t do anything ever again. I was helping in the farm and also buying bread in town for 25 pence and selling for 40 pence. The profit was very very low and the bread was going off, so I decided to stop doing it.

“I didn’t know how I was going to live. I didn’t have any picture in my mind at all of my life ahead of me.

 “In 2018, I was at home when the geography teacher called me and said – ‘there’s some entrepreneurship training come and study’. I saw that it was a very big opportunity for me, so I wanted to join.” 

Restoring young people’s hope and confidence is a central tenet of our training partner RLabs’ approach. Once young people’s confidence and creativity is unlocked, then business innovation follows.

“At first we didn’t really understand the way they were teaching,” explained Rebecca. “But after a month I started to change. I started to think I can do something in this world. The trainers asked us what we want to do in future. I want to do fish farming, and also producing chicks and selling them in town. I joined a savings group, and at first I could only save £2 but now I save £3.50 each week. I feel so good, because I’m working towards my future plans. My goal is to open a sewing factory. I’m learning sewing and am borrowing a sewing machine. Now we are very different from other people in how we are working, and especially how we invest in our savings group.


 “One of the things that helped me most was realising that I myself am the asset. Using what you  have, you can do something. I really want to achieve more and more.

I am planting fruit trees and keeping chickens. I have a lot of plans. I really want the school leavers programme to grow, so it can help more young people. After 10 years, I think my life is going to be very good. I really want that sewing factory, and an embroidery machine and knitting machine. I see that as a an opportunity for something  I can do in the village. There aren’t other people doing that, and I want to teach others.”

We’re very proud of what the young people have achieved so far and will continue to share their news, including results from our follow on survey later in 2019 to see how young people’s incomes have increased as a result of the programme.