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Counting benefits of a rural project

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By Joel Chirwa:

PROGRESS—Classroom blocks are taking shape

The crowing of roosters at the crack of dawn marks the beginning of a new day for construction workers who are erecting what will become Rumphi Teacher’s Training College (TTC).

The sun sprinkles its golden rays on the eastern side amidst melodious chirps of birds to greet the new day.

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Workers clad in blue overalls, gumboots and crash helmets make their way to one of departure points on a road from Rumphi to Bolero for a lift to Phalasito, the construction site.

The site is a hive of activity with a din of construction vehicles and concrete mixtures, revs of graders, roar of bulldozers and clinking of building equipment as builders remove rough edges of concrete bricks.

Not long ago, the clearing of the site appeared like just some smokescreen activity on something that might not take place in a generation.

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But, with building structures such as lecture rooms, hostels and laboratories springing up across the site, there is acknowledgment that the development is real.

According to project manager, Mackenzie Nkhwazi, of SR Nicholas Construction Company, 50 percent of the work has been done.

“Construction work is on course despite the drawbacks we had at the start of the work in January last year, when some residents refused to leave the area, hence delaying us,” Nkhwazi says.

The project is being funded by the Malawi Government and a consortium of donors—Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, Opec Fund for International Development and Social Fund for Development.

The government is contributing $3 million (about K2.1 billion) while the consortium of donors will cough $8 million (about K5.8 billion) towards the project expected to be completed next year.

Meanwhile, structures like classrooms, hostels, laboratories and special needs learning blocks have sprung up.

The transformation of Mzuzu TTC to Mzuzu University in the 1990s meant that the Northern Region remained with Karonga TTC only.

The new TTC is expected to reduce costs people of Rumphi incur in transport when selected to study at Karonga TCC as most of them will now be selected to the new TTC closer to their homes.

“Most primary schools in rural areas do not have enough staff. We hope the establishment of Rumphi TTC will eventually assist in resolving this challenge,” a resident of Kayiwale Village, near the site, Christina Ghumbo, says.

Phalasito is about five kilometres from Rumphi Town. Despite its proximity, the area has been lacking many amenities like piped water and electricity although overhead power lines pass through the area to distant places.

Now people of Phalasito and surrounding areas are optimistic that the TTC will attract many social services to the area.

Noel Zyayuka Mkandawire, from the area of Senior Village Head Chikazinga, hopes the TTC will entice Northern Region Water Board to expand its water supply to the area.

Acting Village Head Chikazinga is also excited with progress made at the construction works where over 600 people from the area have found employment.

“We never imagined that we would have a project of this magnitude considering the remoteness of our area. People from this area are now being employed and, obviously, some will also get long-term jobs after the project has been completed,” Chikazinga says.

The project has not only provided employment to the surrounding communities but also facilitated the sprouting of small-scale entrepreneurs that are selling food stuffs to construction workers.

“As a remote area, it was difficult for us, women, to start small-scale businesses. We had to depend on our husbands to provide us with basic needs. Now things have changed. We are able to make money on our own by selling snacks to construction workers,” Florence Kaunda, of Kayiwale Village, says.

To this effect, Chikazinga believes the small-scale businesses will eventually grow into big enterprises after the TTC is opened and spur socio-economic growth of the area.

“I envision that our area will not be the same. We hope to have a fully-fledged trading centre where various goods will be being sold,” he says.— Mana

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