Many families live in financially vulnerable situations and therefore cannot afford school tuition fees and have limited access to education opportunities. According to the World Bank, 27.8% of Mongolians lived below the poverty line as of 2020. The Mongolian poverty line is defined as living off 166,580 Tugrug ($66.6 AUD) per month. A further 15.5% are vulnerable to falling into poverty due to unforeseen events.
The country has also been subject to rapid inflation, compounding the issues faced by its people. Inflation rates increased from 0.73% in 2016 to 7.26% in 2019, this was before the impact of COVID-19 hit the world. The rapid inflation places strain on vulnerable communities such as the urban poor. Urban poverty, according to the Asian Development Bank, is complex and relates to the vulnerability of the poor in urban areas on account of inadequate access to land, housing, infrastructure, education and social security.
Education and employment are an opportunity for people in need to be lifted out of poverty and vulnerable situations. The Mongolian workforce vitally needs more qualified employees in the fields of manual labour and vocational skills.
The Don Bosco Industrial Training Skills Centre (DBITSC) was first established in 2001, by the Salesian Brothers, with 30 students. The school can now cater to over 250 students a year. There are 5 major courses on offer, including auto-mechanics, welding, industrial sewing, plumbing, and office administration. All students are required to study computer literacy and English.
The DBITSC divides school activities into 2 sectors:
- Academic - students must complete a high school program. The high school program is for grades 10, 11 and 12.
- Technical – this can be in any of the available fields of study on offer (auto-mechanics, welding, industrial sewing, plumbing, and office administration).
The Salesians, seeing the needs of their community for qualified workers, established the vocational school. Most of the students of DBITSC are from a poor and low-income family, therefore, the school cannot demand high tuition fee from the students. Out of 122 students enrolled in 2022, 29 students came from families experiencing poverty.
The maximum capacity of the school is up to 350 students per year. However, this number is not maintained as the drop-out ratio in Mongolia is high during first year study. Many reasons explain this phenomena such as needing to find work to support their family, moving to the countryside, transferring schools, and some classes do not have adequate enrolment.
Extreme weather conditions
Mongolia has an extreme continental climate. Temperatures can range from 40 degrees celsius in summer to beyond minus 40 degrees celsius in winter. The winter period is very challenging with long cold temperatures. The people the most impacted by low temperatures are those living in, and are at risk of, poverty.
The acute weather changes impact the local economy through a loss in productivity during times of intense heat or cold. This results in a higher cost for resources and labourers.
Having locally skilled workers who understand how to manage their work within the environmental conditions will help overcome the challenges of working within this climate context. The knock-on effects of such work are extensive.
About the project
The school is struggling to sustain itself. They receive a small subsidy from the government and a small portion of tuition fees which is not enough to maintain the facilities and general running costs.
The facilities and equipment have not been upgraded in 20 years. Technology around the world and within the country has rapidly changed in recent years and the school has not been able to keep up.
In the coming years, it is predicted Mongolia will need at least 39,000 engineers and technicians. However, only 14,000 engineers have recently graduated around the country.
DBITSC's partnership with Catholic Mission through this project will roll out over 4 years which will cover a variety of work. Each stage will have a specific purpose. The first year (2023) of this work will focus on creating and establishing an electrical workshop, providing students with vital skills to be employed as electricians. Over the last few years staff have been sent to receive training to teach the course.
Catholic Mission will support the school in renovating the current facilities to prepare it for approval by local authorities. The following stages of the project will see the refurbishment of equipment and facilities for other subject areas.
This project aims to support the DBITSC in delivering quality education to youth across the country. By supporting this work, you will be helping future generations be lifted from poverty as their education provides them with greater employment opportunities.
Sustainable Development Goals
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. Our foundational values of communication, trust, faith, context, future, and capacity inform the way we interact with project partners and develop new relationships.
Below is a breakdown of how this project is working towards these goals:
4. Quality education. Education across vocational skills is key for the future of those in Mongolia. It will support those in need access employment at at time when economic growth creates unforeseen challenges, especially for the people in vulnerable situations.
8. Decent work and economic growth. In Mongolia, 7.8% of the labour force are unemployed. This number may seem low, however it does not count those in the country who are undocumented and have not had access to fair work or even education opportunities. The DBITSC is striving to change this.
10. Reduced inequalities. Mongolia is in a unique situation as the higher distribution of wealth lies in rural communities with 63.5% of the country's poor live in cities. Over half of the people who live on the streets in Ulaanbaatar city are aged between 18 and 45 years old. This project seeks to support people of all financial backgrounds to gain an education and employment in the future.
11. Sustainable cities and communities. The Salesians are planning to open a new 2.5-year course in electrical auto-mechanics to cater to the prevelance of electric cars. After the graduation, many students can find job in construction or corporate organisations. The current available job providers are car repair shops, construction companies, mining companies in the desert, power plants, and central heating companies.
Catholic Mission and our project partners are exploring options to increase the sustainability of the school in the future. In January 2023, a representative of Don Bosco visited the Regional Mission Development Office and several successful projects in Cambodia. These were explored as a source of inspiration to look at social enterprises in the future. One planned activity is setting up social enterprise auto-mechanics, that will employ graduates, and provide funds back into the DBITSC. This is currently in its pilot phase, if successful we hope to scale it up.