By Watipaso Mzungu:
The excitement, joy and hope that President Peter Mutharika planted in the youth with his community technical colleges (CTC) concept in 2015 are fast fading among those with disability.
Mutharika, speaking when he launched the concept at Naminjiwa CTC in Phalombe District in 2015, stressed that the colleges were meant to endow young people with different skills for them to create employment and reduce levels of unemployment in the country.
Youth with disability, just like other jobless and hopeless school-leavers, saw the CTC as an opportunity to actively participate in economic activities thereby enjoying their right to economic opportunities as enshrined in the Constitution of Malawi.
“All persons and peoples have a right to development and therefore to the enjoyment of economic, social, cultural and political development and women, children and the disabled in particular shall be given special consideration in the application of this right,” reads Chapter 30 of the Constitution.
The Constitution further says the State shall take all necessary measures for the realisation of the right to development.
Such measures include, among other things, equality of opportunity for all in their access to basic resources, education, health services, food, shelter, employment and infrastructure.
It is indisputable that the CTC concept provides a sustainable and viable means to achieve sustainable social and economic development that Malawi has, for decades, longed for.
In 2018, the Malawi Government launched the Disability Mainstreaming Strategy and Implementation Plan with a commitment to promoting rights of persons with disability.
However, the government has failed to utilise these colleges to promote social and economic inclusion.
Since the inception, the government has not enrolled even a single student with disability in these colleges to ensure they, too, participate in economic activities and, in turn, enjoy their right to economic opportunities.
This has prompted Federation of Disability Organisations in Malawi (Fedoma) to build the capacity of district disability forums (DDFs) in Nkhata Bay, Thyolo, Salima, Lilongwe and Nkhotakota for them to demand rights from duty-bearers.
The organisation, with €480,000 from the European Union (EU) through a Germany charity –Christophell Blinden Mission (CBM), believes addressing inequalities in the provision of vocational and technical skills in CTCs is key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which emphasise the need to leave no one behind.
Nkhotakota DDF chairperson William Afaki says the forum is working with various public institutions, including the CTCs in addressing social and economic inequalities in the districts.
“The right of people with disability to decent work and entrepreneurship, however, is frequently denied, with women with disabilities facing enormous attitudinal, physical and informational barriers to equal opportunities in the world of work as well as entrepreneurship,” Afaki says.
He says the forum, therefore, wants to ensure that in devising programmes for the integration or reintegration of persons with disabilities into working life and society, government takes necessary measures to address inequalities.
These measures should include, where necessary and appropriate, vocational preparation and training, modular training, training in activities of daily-living, in literacy and in other areas relevant to vocational rehabilitation, he says.
“CTCs need to ensure the integration or reintegration of persons with disabilities when enrolling students for various courses and that special support measures are taken into consideration, including the provision of aids, devices and ongoing personal services to enable persons with disabilities to secure, retain and advance in suitable employment or entrepreneurial activities,” Afaki stresses.
Mbandira CTC acting Principal, Edson Kaudzu, says, through their collaboration with Nkhotakota DDF, the college redesigned the student application form to encourage youths with disabilities to apply for various courses.
However, Kaudzu discloses that although the management of the institution is eager to ensure and promote inclusion of youth with disability in enrollment, the college does not have resources to allow for the enrolment and learning of students with disabilities.
“We may soon start enrolling students with disability and we expect that the government will recruit specialist teachers,” Kaudzu says.
Fedoma Project Coordinator responsible for this project, Cecilia Phiri, says the project wants to contribute towards a disability inclusive Malawi where people with disability enjoy improved quality of life.