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September 5, 2022

Burundi's interns gaining skills and full-time employment

With an internship, youth in Burundi can have real added value in the job market and a chance to hone thier skills, whilst being paid. CREOP, SPARK's local partner, provided interns with general professional skills. Vanessa Bwitonzi, a 26-year-old nurse who interned at the maternity ward of the St-Joseph's Clinic and was subsequently offered a permanent position there, found these skills highly useful.

Employers such as our clinic cannot find qualified staff

“The high rate of unemployment among young people in Burundi is not only a problem for the current generation but also for future generations,” said Brother Alexis Ihorihoze, the director of St-Joseph’s Clinic in Giheta, Burundi.

“Children are discouraged by the poor prospects of current job seekers and no longer see the benefit of getting an education. School drop-outs are on the rise and young people are not investing in their skills. As a result, employers such as our clinic cannot find qualified staff. This decline in education only accentuates the unemployment crisis.” 

In the face of these challenges, SPARK enables young people to acquire skills that have a real added value in the job market and a chance to hone these skills during a paid internship. Internships are excellent pathways to jobs, enabling young people to learn essential skills, gain real-life work experience and hopefully land their first jobs.

Internships lead to jobs
Partnering with CREOP, a young organisation committed to helping youth find and create professional opportunities, the team
selected 100 young people to participate in a week of training in professional skills. The best performers were then provided with paid internship opportunities in local companies. In total, 65 young Burundians completed an internship, of which 25 were offered a permanent job afterwards.

Importantly, the employers paid (in part) the remuneration of the interns. In Burundi, it has often been the case that internships were either unpaid, paid for by NGOs, or even that young people had to pay the employer to be allowed to intern. This meant that interns were perceived as a burden to the employer. Requiring employers to pay their interns encourages them to perceive interns as a source of work that can contribute value to the organisation.

Former intern, Vanessa Bwitonzi, with her employer, Brother Alexis Ihorihoze, the director of St-Joseph's Clinic in Giheta, Burundi © 2022, SPARK
26-year-old, Vanessa Bwitonzi, interned at St-Joseph's Clinic in Giheta, Burundi and was hired in a permanent position © 2022, SPARK

To strengthen this positive perception, CREOP provides interns with general professional skills. Vanessa Bwitonzi, a 26-year-old nurse who interned at the maternity ward of the St-Joseph’s Clinic and was subsequently offered a permanent position there, found these skills highly useful. “We have too many patients at the moment and the module on stress management has enabled me to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to remain focused on my work.” Vanessa further says that the module on professional deontology helped her to use her capacity for empathy to develop a better service. “I really put myself in the patient’s place.” 

Brother Alexis, who now employs Vanessa, agrees. “The behaviour from interns having followed the skills training is very different from those who haven’t. It is very clear from the way they welcome and handle patients. They understand that the patient is the person you need to satisfy in order to satisfy me.”

Chanel Irakoze and Audace Mtahomvukiye both interned at Gitega’s Tropitel hotel. Chanel works in the restaurant and said that the training in communication has given her the tools and confidence to handle difficult situations, such as dealing with unhappy clients. Audace started working at the hotel’s reception but now works in the accounting department, which was his ambition all along. The training in professional efficiency has helped him to organise his work well and to impress his superiors. 

Chanel Irakoze and Audace Mtahomvukiye both interned at Gitega’s Tropitel hotel © 2022, SPARK
Former interns supported by SPARK and CREOP as part of the Akazi Keza programme to boost employability skills among Burundian youth © 2022, SPARK

CREOP furthermore organised training sessions in computer basics. Marcel Bigirimana, a 35-year-old English graduate who interned with the Sainte-Bernadette School as an English teacher, found this training particularly useful as he is now able to prepare digital class material. 

In addition, CREOP coached the interns during this internship. As a part of the process, CREOP offered to train the interns in any skills that were particularly useful for the intern and the employer. For instance, Vanessa asked to receive training in emergency maternal and neonatal care. CREOP organised the training and a few weeks later Vanessa was confronted with a young woman haemorrhaging after having given birth. Thanks to her training, she knew exactly what to do and the new mother was saved. Similarly, Audace asked to be trained in data management. This has allowed him to bring added value to the accounting department and to be welcomed in their team.

Marcel Bigirimana interned with the Sainte-Bernadette School as an English teacher © 2022, SPARK
Marcel Bigirimana, former teaching intern, gained new digital skills during his internship at Sainte-Bernadette School, Burundi © 2022, SPARK

“I will be able to start my own business with the financial and accounting knowledge I am building up”

Vanessa advises her peers to get to work with courage, respect and empathy. “Do not look for a job, look for a career.” Chanel and Audace both said their internship opened doors for them, not only because it allowed them to acquire skills and experience, but also because it gave them more self-confidence. “I enjoy my current work in the accounting department, but if it ends up not working out, maybe I will be able to start my own business with the financial and accounting knowledge I am building up”.