Twenty-five-year old Chimwemwe Chisambo is a graduate from Mbulunji Community Skills Development Centre (CSDC) where he obtained a Level One qualification in bricklaying.
Chisambo, who comes from Gohoni Village, Traditional Authority Mwahenga in Rumphi District, has set himself new and lofty targets following a business partnership he started with former schoolmate and close friend Joseph Ngwira.
With a less lucrative employment market and very thin opportunities for businesses, the biggest preoccupation among most youths in Rumphi District is going to work in South Africa.
Most of the youth, as a result, trek down to the Rainbow Nation with a slender hope of getting a chance to work as unskilled workers before some complete any formal education or attain any professional qualification.
This trend is even more rampant in villages such as Kavali, Nzomera and Gohoni in Traditional Authority Mwahenga and many other surrounding areas in the district which lie 30 kilometers away from the Boma.
The Njakwa-Livingstonia road, currently under construction, is expected to provide a link between the district and surrounding districts with the hope of spurring a boom of extra economic activities.
But as it stands, the biggest source of hope for many youths in the area lies far and beyond the borders of the country’s territory. The very few that choose to stay home are into peasant farming which can hardly sustain their day to day life.
Chisambo says: “Seeing our peers going to South Africa sometimes becomes very tempting. I cannot stand here and say I have never thought about that idea but in the end, it is not a venture which is rewarding enough so I prefer staying.”
He says from their experience and observation, members of their generation or those before them have done nothing they can show from their sojourns in South Africa.
“Very few only manage to come home with a DVD player and a radio. Nobody has ever returned and made a real investment that one can point at. There must be more to life and their toil than that,” he says with no sense of regret.
Maybe it is for this reason that Chisambo decided to go against the tide and enrolled at the less fancied Mbulunji CSDC with the hope of achieving a bigger dream from the entrepreneurial skills taught at the institution.
The centre is one of the 12 CSDCs across the country which were designed to help increase Technical, Entrepreneurial, Vocational and Education Training Authority (Teveta) services in Malawi under the US$5 million (about K3.7 billion) intervention being funded by the World Bank.
Government, through Teveta, is implementing a Tevet Improvement Project (TIP) aimed at revamping formal and informal technical education, vocational and entrepreneurial training provision as well as quality assurance. Under this component, 4 100 youths are expected to be trained through the 12 centres across Malawi.
After their stay at the skills development institution, Chisambo and Ngwira have formed a potent business partnership which is thriving at the moment.
Ngwira says: “After our graduation we convinced ourselves that we are not going to wait for anyone to employ us. Therefore, we started assembling our own working tools. We took a gamble which is now working.”
Apart from being hired to construct school blocks in the surrounding villages, the two are also continuously engaged by individuals for their private projects such as construction of modern houses.
Principal for the CSDC Eddings Mkandawire says the impact that the lessons that are being offered at the centre cannot go unnoticed.
“These people are gaining skills in welding, tailoring, carpentry, brick-laying plus other craft disciplines. All these are skills that have a huge demand in the communities where they come from,” he says.
Teveta spokesperson Carol Magreta says under this initiative they are also providing equipment and upgrading staff capacity in selected institutions which are offering Automobile Technician Level Programmes.
Magreta says: “Sixty technicians will be trained under this initiative. We will also develop curriculum for short skills upgrading programmes in selected training institutions offering skills training in rural areas. Almost 15 curriculums will be developed and implemented.”
Other centres where skills development is being offered are Kasama in Chitipa, Sonda in Mzuzu, Manyamula in Mzimba, Nkhotakota Business Development Centre, Ngozi in Salima, Mtakataka in Dedza, Kawamba in Kasungu, Malindi in Mangochi, Sakata in Zomba, Misanjo in Mulanje and Mphungu in Chikwawa.