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Kitgum Youth Tap Life Skills Through Dance, Rap

Under the auspices of Kitgum Dance Unit [KDU], the youngsters operate from the quiet neighbourhood in Ginnery East Cell, Pandwong Division, Kitgum Municipality, from where they rehearse their vocals and choreography on a daily basis.
Kitgum Dance Unit Crew members pose for a photo at NUHC youth center in Kitgum Municipality. Photo By Julius Ocungi

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A group of youths from Kitgum district is using dance and music to earn a living and transform their lives.

Under the auspices of Kitgum Dance Unit [KDU], the youngsters operate from the quiet neighbourhood in Ginnery East Cell, Pandwong Division, Kitgum Municipality, from where they rehearse their vocals and choreography on a daily basis. 

One of the group members, Emmanuel Toolit, 18, and 15 of his friends have been visiting the Northern Uganda hip Hop Culture [NUHC] Youth and Cultural Centre for about one year. 

Toolit dropped out of school while in Senior Two in 2017 after his mother, the sole bread winner at home failed to raise money to meet his school fees requirements. He says his father eloped with another woman. At the Centre, Toolit found a home, and here, he gets coaching in dance and life counselling. 

“Right now the only thing I am doing is dancing and it is helping me because what I earn from dancing in share with my family,” Toolit told URN in an interview. 

Luo //Cue in; “An aweko kwan… 

Cue out…bene gi mina.”//  

The youth aged between 15 and 22 years are now perfecting their dancing skills ahead of a major dance competition scheduled for December 21, 2019, in Gulu.  

Toolit says his dream is to get back to school and join University. He notes that unlike other youth who end up joining bad peers after dropping out of school, his decision to engage in dance as a career has kept him away from bad company. 

Hassan Ssempijja, 22, a resident of Gang Dyang in Pandwong Division who dropped out of school in Primary five says the centre has given him a reason to smile and a second chance in life. 

"Dancing has changed my life a lot, in my neighbourhood, most of the the youth whom I should have been staying with drink alcohol and use drugs and that forced me to find a place where I can stay with youth. A friend of mine brought me to the youth centre and that’s where the journey began because it has changed me and I think I can’t use drugs anymore.” he says  

Luo // cue in; “Tic ki myel…

Cue out…pe angiyo kede.”//

 

Ssempijja who gained skills in painting murals, dancing and skateboarding over the years at the initial start of the centre now heads the training of youth dancers.  

For Welborne Okeny, 19, who sat senior four from Victoria High School last month, the centre has not just been home but also offered him a chance to study. He says he acquired a scholarship through dancing last year which has helped him to sit for O’level since his parents where financially handicapped. 

According to Okeny, the health of youth who visit the centre has greatly been boosted through physical exercises.   

//Cue in; “As a dancer…  

Cue out…like drinking.”//  

Mwaka Benson, the Chief Executive Officer of NUHC says the initiative to open the centre was to help the young generation share their ideas and become productive through creative talents. He says that a number of youths are realizing their potential in Music, dance, painting and art, among others.

//Cue in; “we are changing…   

Cue out….to their families.”//   

Mwaka says that although the centre got its initial funding for constructing its current modern office space and ongoing construction of a studio, its maintenance runs solely on his farming and music activities. 

The centre was commissioned in May this year upon completion of the first phase of its construction, which cost 70 million Shillings. 

Averagely, it hosts between 60 to 90 youth daily who engage in dancing, rap and life skills according to the centre manager Innocent Modest Lamony. Lamony says they intend to introduce volleyball, Netball and Valley ball games for the youth.