Preparing to cook up a storm
Uaets, a newcomer to Gobabis just three years ago, recognised the potential of the town's young population and the need for constructive engagement. He decided to establish Marco Polo, aiming to bridge the gap between formal education and employment by offering specialised training in culinary and service professions.
“I saw the need for something like this because when I moved to Gobabis three years ago, there were so many young people who just remained at home after dropping out of high school. So, I started Marco Polo to help young people get into and advance in the hospitality industry with careers such as chef and waitressing that will also allow for easy employment,” Uaets said.
The programme, based at the Omaheke Regional Library in Gobabis since late October 2022, offers a six-month chef training course, including an additional month for job attachment, while the waitress training course lasts for two months, with an extra attachment period for on-the-job training.
While these classes are not accredited yet, “we aspire to attain accreditation in the near future, a step that will further enhance the opportunities available to the students,” he said.
Uaets is deeply appreciative of the support from local businesses, which has been instrumental in the success of his venture. He acknowledged the contributions of businesses such as Spar, MegaSave, Foodzone, and Sandune Lodge, which have embraced the Marco Polo programme by allowing students to gain practical experience at their establishments.
Currently, Marco Polo boasts 35 enthusiastic students, and the demand for the programme continues to rise. “There are currently 46 youths on our waiting list eager to participate in the chef and waiter training classes because they receive a certificate at the end that allows them to apply for jobs.”
Wandi Kooper, a 21-year-old who dropped out of high school in grade 9 due to financial constraints, found renewed hope through Marco Polo. After participating in the programme, she envisions a brighter future. “I am so excited for what the future holds once I am done with my waitressing job attachment because I will finally be able to go study further or start my own business because they even teach us how to do that here.”
Another student, 20-year-old Ndangi Katjipuka, shared his journey from waitering to aspiring chef, saying, “I failed at my vocational school and decided to embark on a photography journey in Gobabis. It was when I came for a photoshoot that I heard about Marco Polo and I decided to stay for two months and complete the course. My dream has always been to become a chef, so after I complete my waitering course, I will be chasing that dream.”
As the demand for these training classes continues to rise, it's evident that Uaets' vision and commitment are helping to shape a brighter future for Gobabis and its promising young talent.