By Vincent Khonje:
Due to several challenges, most young people in rural settings are forced to drop out of school.
Financial constraints rate highly on why most of the rural youths do not proceed with their education despite embracing ambitions of furthering their education.
For many young people who are touted as leaders of tomorrow, their dreams fade with no hope of contributing to the socio-economic development of the country.
The case of 21 year old Request Tchoyisi, from Nkhophola village in Traditional Authority Mavwere in Mchinji lives to this revelation.
Tchoyisi as any other child wanted to complete his education and become one of the productive citizens but lack of funds made him to drop out in form three.
“After reaching form three I had no choice but to leave school because finding money to sustain my education was a very big challenge,” says Tchoyisi.
For him, his dreams of becoming someone influential in the society were dashed.
Tchoyisi’s story is not different from Ruth Kennedy, 20, also from TA Mavwere, Mchinji, who dropped out of school also because of lack of school fees.
The form three drop out also got married but the marriage did not last and she went back to stay with her parents.
Kennedy had longed to finish her education and later pick up a profession that will help sustain her in future.
However, as unavailability of resources forced her not to continue with school she also decided to just languish at home.
“Having no money meant that I could not continue with school, the best option was to withdraw from school which also resulted in getting married,” says Kennedy.
The two never carried any hope of going back to school although they had ambitions to be productive youth to help the country develop.
Hope for the two was restored, thanks to availability of a skills development centre at Kabuthu, in TA Mavwere in the district.
Through Kabuthu Skills Development Centre, Tchoyisi and Kennedy are presented with a chance to undergo skills training so that they are able to be employed in the informal sector.
The skills centre is a community training centre where various skills and vocational trainings are offered to among others out of school youth.
In order to stick to standards, Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (TEVETA) works with these informal providers who have to undergo registration to ensure adherence to prescribed standards.
Kabuthu SDC, has raised optimism in the young people in Mchinji, including Tchoyisi and Kennedy that they can go to the centre and get some trainings and become self-reliant.
Run by a centre management committee comprised of individuals from the community, a lot of young people have passed through the centre and acquired skills making them stand on their own.
From 2019 to date, 200 individuals have graduated after undergoing training in tailoring and design, and motorcycle mechanics.
According to Shadreck Yesaya they want to assist most of young people who did not have a chance of furthering their education but harbor ambitions of attaining vocational skills.
“Youths aged 18 to 35 from all over the district who can read and write, not in school, married or not are considered for the informal skills training programmes here,” says Yesaya.
Tchoyisi and Kennedy are now undergoing training at Kabuthu SDC, opting for a training tailoring and design.
Tchoyisi believes that the youths who have struggled to continue with education should not be closed out but given opportunities to gain skills in different trades.
“There are more young people who need skills development in mechanics, tailoring, carpentry and welding and they need opportunities like these centres,
“I am glad I am here and it is my hope that I will be an accomplished tailor with a shop that I intend to open,” says Tchoyisi.
In order to increase access and equity, the TEVETA strives to develop quality skills training that equip the youth and other disadvantaged groups with skills that will enable them become employable through Informal Training Programmes.
There are more young people who would need to have access to training in vocational skills but most of them lack information about how to enroll in these training centres.
According to Malawi 2063 vision, the economic empowerment of the youth can cause a significant shift in the economic transformation of the country. Despite their significant proportion, presently and as projected in future, young people are often faced with age-related challenges and barriers, such as relevant education and skill-sets, among other things.
More young people who dropped out of school and some who only got Junior Certificates of Education (JC) and Malawi Schools Certificates of Education (MSCE) are willing to gain various skills through vocational trainings.
District youth officer for Mchinji Maudling Nhlema says there are a lot of young people in Mchinji district who are willing to gain skills through community colleges and skills development centres but there are limited training centres.
“Last year a lot of youths applied for vocational trainings but we only have one community college and two skills development centres, these could not absorb all,” says Nhlema.
TEVETA public relations officer Caroline Magreta agrees that the demand for skills is very high as more Malawians need to be equipped with skills.
The youths living in the hard-to-reach areas, especially girls have limited access to skills development initiatives due to inadequacy of such opportunities within their vicinity.
“The plight of rural youth has been compounded by other social and cultural factors that disrupt their education.”
“Lack of adequate infrastructure like colleges, and skills centres hinder the impartation of these skills. The majority of existing Technical Colleges in the country do not have adequate boarding facilities,” says Magreta.
Realising this, TEVETA has conceptualized the mobile TEVET programme with an aim to ensure that no youth is left behind in accessing quality vocational skills development initiatives.
The initiative uses a transportable training centre (a mobile truck/van).
As the demand for vocational skills grows among the youth like Tchoyisi and Kennedy, there is only one solution for this and it is making sure there are more skills development centres, technical colleges and community colleges.