The London Riots: A Lone battle by the drop outs of the Education System: The Answer-Self Employment Guidance to the Unemployed.
Posted on September 16th, 2011

By Dr. Garvin Karunaratne Ph.D.(Michigan State University)

 London did burn in August and in the days that followed there were riots in Birmingham, Manchester and many other Cities. People plundered shops and walked away with whatever they could snatch and in many areas they looted under the watchful survelliance of the Police. It was easily the “Worst public disorder in a generation”.  The riots were far more serious than the Brixton Riots of April 1981 when over a hundred vehicles were torched.
The Metropolitan Police said that the 2011 Riots were a wake up call(Evening Standard: Sept6). The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson said that rioters must not be abandoned but given help to turn their lives around. However the Minister of Justice is amending the penal code to punish offenders.
Are the Riots really a wake up call, calling the Government to attention? Is it the poverty and deprivation of the youth that was the cause. It is a well known fact that while the UK has an unemployment rate of 7.9%,  in the case of the 16 “”…”25 year olds one in five are now unemployed(BBCBusinessNews:19/1/11)
The writer served as a Social Worker in the City of Manchester in 1973 to 1975 and was a Senior Community Education Worker in the City of Edinburgh in 1979 to 1981 and his work involved the unemployed people in both Manchester and Edinburgh. 
In Manchester I had a number of unemployed youths on my case load and I have had the occasion to advise them whenever they did transgress the law.   In Manchester, the blacks were entrenched in Mossside and the Government in the process of building new housing did try to move the blacks to outer areas in an attempt to avoid Moss side becoming an enclave of the blacks. However today Mossside is a No-Go area where serious crimes are the order of the day. ” Analysts trace the high rate of gun crimes in South Manchester to acute social deprivation in an inner city from Hulme through Mossside to Longsight”(BBCNews:14/11/08). The situation has deteriorated rapidly from my days in 1975.
In Edinburgh, I had more to do with the unemployed and the youth. My duties included community work and I was in charge of the Clovenstone Community Center in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh. The Community Center was run by a Committee elected by members- every resident interested could pay a token fee and become a member. The Community Center catered to all segments of the population- the youth, the unemployed, adults, the elderly and disabled. It included social and educational activities, youth clubs. As the Warden of the Community Center I was also supervising youths on the Manpower Services’ Programmes- the YOP and STEP which offered training to unemployed youths for a year and paid them sustenance. While in the UK in the 16-24 year age group 20% are unemployed, in Scotland the rate is higher- 25%. In an inner city area like Wester Hailes the unemployment is far higher.
Most of the unemployed were members of the Community Center and were active in the Youth Clubs and members of the Committee who supervised the Youth Clubs and other youth activities like the German Youth Exchange had  build up links with them. The unemployed though belligerent about the poverty and deprivation that surrounded their lives were at home in the Community Center. Some of them even became youth leaders. Some of them were holding places under the YOP and STEP Programmes. The training they got was not sufficient to enable them to find employment and at the end of the year they inevitably fed into the ranks of the unemployed. It sadly amounted to a  wasted year of their prime life.
In order to find employment for the unemployed youth in Wester Hailes, I  drafted a Programme to provide the youth with vocational training, where after a period of six months’ intensive training they will get involved in making items for sale and be guided by vocational specialist lecturers, members of the community and by me to understand the art of making things for sale and selling them. I suggested that this Programme should be managed by a Committee comprising lecturers of vocational training , officers of the Community Education Department and members of the community. My Paper went to the Director of Community Education and to the Education Committee of the Lothian Regional Council. I was commended for the effort and that was all. The Community Education Department could have easily worked on this Programme to make the unemployed youths to take to vocations under the watchful eye of members of the community and the lecturers, but unfortunately, that was not to be.
Today there are many vocational training courses in every College and the graduands are awarded certificates and thereafter left to search for jobs. It was Julius Nyerere, the Prime Minister of Tanzania who said that vocational education has side tracked the utilization of the knowledge and skills that was being imparted. His idea was that training programmes should make people skillful users of tools and not turn them into tools. There is no extension service to guide the trained unemployed to get involved in productive endeavour. Vocational education ends with the training imparted in the vocation. The committee of the Community Centre were very keen to guide the unemployed who happen to be living in their own communities and it was a programme that could have been very successfully implemented. The 2011 Election Manifesto of the Scottish National Party pledged support and investment in Youth Employment in Scotland with significant investment in more apprenticeship places and investment in College Bursaries and additional training.
In a few years I assumed duties as the Commonwealth Fund General Advisor to the  Ministry of Youth Development in Bangladesh. The Ministry of Youth Development trained over 40,000 youths a year on varied vocations and after training the youths were left alone. I found most of them remaining unemployed.  That is the normal pattern of vocational training all over the world and the system in Bangladesh was akin to the system in Edinburgh where Colleges attend to impart vocational training.
I argued that the creation of employment opportunities for the trained youth  should be an essential part of vocational training institutes, because otherwise the training has no meaning to the unemployed youths. I suggested that the youths in training should be guided to make items for sale and that the lecturers should attend to guide them. This was an extension of the vocational training that was already imparted.
This extension of vocational training to guide the youths in training was approved by the Hon Minister for Manpower and Labour under whom youth development functioned and I had the task of training all Lecturers and Youth Workers in basic economics so that they could guide the youths who were being trained to become productive, make something- produce eggs or milk or a chair or a table and sell it. The youths were guided in production and sales. A dedicated staff worked round the clock. The training institutes that normally closed their gates after studies at about five in the evenings were kept open till ten in the night to enable the youths that learned sewing to use the machinery to sew something for sale. Youths being trained in livestock and poultry commenced small farms in their homes managed by their brothers and sisters during the week while the youths attended lectures at the training institutes. The lecturers guided them  and this ultimately became a youth movement
We had created a stir. It was the beginning of something that neither the vocational lecturers nor the unemployed had ever thought of earlier. Patriotism was rife and the lecturers though they were not paid extra for the additional work, did contribute willingly.
We found that the sale of each garment that a youth in training did make, urged other trainees to  become productive to make something better. In fact a bank clerk who had earlier gone through vocation training in livestock and poultry gave up his job and became a youth in self employment training. Within a year he was earning double the salary that he had earned as a bank clerk.
In detail, “the training in self employment was:
1.      to understand the working of the free market economy and the working of the forces of supply and demand,
2.      to identify areas of activity within the economy where there was a potential to be self employed. Guidance was offered to the trainees to think seriously about the local economy, local resources and how these could get dove-tailed into the national economy,
3.      to understand basic economics and finance leading to their acquiring the ability to draft a project for self employment, calculate production costs and to make projections of possible production, sales and profits,
4.      to assess available resources and obtain support from family members
5.      to draft a project giving details of the activity, the financial details of investment and output phased over a feasible period during which time commercial viability could be achieved”
More details:
“Trainees were guided to draft and revise projects based on what resources they could find”¦Practical exercises were laid down for them to follow in their own villages and in their own market places where they will have to eventually sell their produce. The trainees were unknowingly being immersed within the working of the supply and demand mechanism in their own rural economy”¦”¦The Method was to intensively guide the trainees in the management of their enterprises. Every action from the planning of the projects, to the purchase of raw materials, the process of manufacture or the process of growth of cattle etc. was intensively monitored and helped immediately they failed. The failure itself was built into an educational exercise that had a lasting imprint for it not to happen again” (From  “ƒ”¹…”Success in Development:Godages, Colombo 2010)
That was the Youth Self Employment Programme of Bangladesh, which has expanded country wide and by 2010 had guided as much as 2 million youths to become commercially viable entrepreneurs. Today annually 160,000 youths are guided to become self employed.  The intake was from the unemployed youths- the drop outs of schools. They were enticed  and  taken away for vocational training and end up becoming entrepreneurs. This is the only programme in the world where guidance is offered to trained youths and it is easily the largest and most successful. This Programme  has left its imprint on the sands of time.
That was what I had in store for Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, however implemented in a slightly different design in the poverty stricken climes of Bangladesh. Edinburgh’s loss was Bangladesh’s gain.
However everything is not lost.
Mark Lazarowisz, Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North has called “for action by the UK to tackle the worrying rise  in youth unemployment so as to ensure that young people don’t leave school or university only to find themselves out of work and disillusioned”(The Edinburgh Reporter:21/9/2011)
To Mark Lazarowisz and to anyone interested my message is that there is a way ahead. There is no point in training only. Training has to be equipped with guidance to become productively employed and this is my message not only to Edinburgh but to the rest of the world. It is a beacon of hope to the unemployed everywhere, be it in the connurbations of the USA, in  Scotland or in rural habitats of the Third World.
 Self Employment has to emerge as the aim of vocational training and the earlier that self employment is tied to vocational training the better for the unemployed and the downtrodden. It will bring  life and hope to the millions of unemployed all over the world.
Garvin Karunaratne, Ph.D.(Michigan State University)
Former Commonwealth Fund Advisor to the Ministry of Labour & Manpower,  Government of Bangladesh
Author of “Success in Development“(Godages, Colombo,2010)

September 14, 2011;   E mail:

One Response to “The London Riots: A Lone battle by the drop outs of the Education System: The Answer-Self Employment Guidance to the Unemployed.”

  1. AnuD Says:

    Even Sri Lanka should introduce retraining programs which should include industry inventions, agriculture, export oriented industry, and overseas employment, all sorts of foreign contracts to employ unemployed graduates.

    Countries should restructure education so often in order to adjust to the countries need.

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